Monday, July 13, 2015

Just tell me where you are!

For the longest time, I've wanted to fly into Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport to watch a Cleveland Indians game and over the weekend, my youngest son -- also an Indians fan -- and I did just that.

It was a thrilling approach to a great airport. My son has put some video up on Facebook of the fantastic approach to Runway 6L and as soon as he changes the permissions, I'll provide a link (update: Here you go).

We watched Saturday night's game and wanted to stay for Sunday's but the 1:30 start time and a front moving in convinced us to try to get out of Dodge, knowing we'd have to hopscotch our way through it.

Our first planned stop was to the Sandusky County Airport and we planned to re-evaluate there and wait things out, but we ran into low cloud cover about 10 miles out and I had to do a careful 180 while my son found us another airport. We ended up watching the rain and mist in Huron County. Nice little terminal building, but the constant beep-beep-beep of some alarm behind a locked door drove us crazy.

As things lifted, we hopped 14 miles through mist to Sandusky County, rain beating the crap out of the paint job on the prop. We were right at minimums with a mile visibility and it required all of our concentration. The workload was more than manageable with two people. We were vigilant and we made a ton of radio calls along the way, and the Garmin 296 called out obstructions which we picked up. A mile visibility in an RV is good for about 20 seconds. Fly over a nice straight road -- not a problem in Ohio -- and be ready.

We spent an hour in Sandusky -- long enough to find out the Indians again had zero offense against Oakland, and then as things brightened we headed for Bowling Green (Wood County) and walked into town to find some grub.

By the time we walked back (seriously, Dunkin Donuts: What's the deal with closing at 3 p.m.?), the western skies were brightening, and the METARs were improving. We took off and we had 6 miles visibility and ceilings up around 2900, and it was a nice flight down low. Ohio has gotten a ton of rain but things were a beautiful green, if a soggy green.

As we neared our favorite stop (which I ignored because I thought the FBO would be closed by then), we heard a pilot announce he was on a "GPS 1 approach to Dekalb County" from the west. We were approaching from the East.

This is one of the things that drives me crazy about IFR pilots. When they make a position report, they report where they are in their instrument procedures, but not where they are in relation to the airport.

I quizzed him about his locations, "Well...uh... I'm on the GPS One approach," he said.

"Are you inbound for landing and how far out are you, we're eastbound just north of the field..."

"I don't have you on my TCAS, we're at 2000 descending."

I was at 1700 and we didn't have him on the ZAON unit either. A minute later, son Patrick saw him -- a Citation -- on final.

The pilot was completely UNABLE to tell us where he was and I hear this all of the time with IFR pilots. What good is making a position report if your report is unintelligible to the VFR pilot? Just tell me where you are!

Another habit we encountered is the rapid-pace at which VFR pilots make their position calls, including the most important part of the call -- the airport. I do this too at my own field and I'm going to stop doing it.

A position report isn't just a requirement to zip through; it has a purpose and we have to be sure it's doing anyone some good.

Clearly, and slowly, say the airport name, give your position, then pause a second and clearly and slowly give the airport name again.

This is especially important for those of us transitioning unfamiliar airspace. Yes, the frequency can be busy, but it's the safe thing to do and that has to be the priority.

By the way, on the flight in from Cleveland, we got great service fro Cleveland approach. At one point, what with haze being thick, we had conflicting traffic and approach told us to hit a steep right turn (which you can't hear in this audio, but trust me, it got my attention). After the conflict, I thanked the controller for helping me (which you also can't hear) and he apologized for the late warning (which you can hear).

The flight in to Burke was particularly fun as we were racing another aircraft. Guess who won?

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