Flying Journal Aggravations & Perspectives

You may ask, does this guy ever get tired of writing about the joys of flying? And I would answer, not yet, knowing full well there are aggravations to flying. In fact, I am working on a list of pet peeves about flying. We must keep a balanced view.

If you've ever gotten half-rolled by the wake of a C-130, it's not a joy - but the successful recovery is. Most pilots are addicted to the thrill of adrenaline, don't you think? I must admit on a day when we are flying the pattern between two C-130s, I have found myself watching my tax dollars waft off the runway in blue smoke and mumbling something like, "They have all those nice air bases, why do they need to practice here?" (Rationally, I know they need to practice navigating to other airports just like we do. It supports our defense.)

Likewise, those airline pilots widening their pattern to allow more space for our Cessnas are just as aggravated. I wouldn't be surprised if there are people who think our airport should only be for the airlines.

But the weight of our Pipers and Cessnas did not create the washboard texture on Runway 2, either. In total, the combined operations of airlines, military and GA might eventually justify the upgraded services of Class C Airspace.

As much as I support general aviation and fight any restrictions on our freedom, I cringe as some of the radio usage I hear and am embarrassed by the actions of some of my fellow GA pilots.

A case in point: it seems like it has been five miles visibility for a month. While practicing with a student in the pattern, I overheard a small plane struggle to get into our airspace. With no transponder, the pilot reported over a small town which the controller did not recognize. The pilot seemed to have trouble understanding the controller wanted him to make a turn for radar identification, said he had a VOR receiver but could not give a radial he was on. Finally he asked the controller for the frequency. That suggested maybe he did not have a chart. He wanted to just fly along I-44. The controller spent lots of time with him. His GPS would not pick up enough satellites. Of course, I was not in that plane and should not cast stones but some questions come to mind. If it's so hard to navigate, should you be flying VFR? If you are trying to get into SGF, wouldn't you at least dial in the VOR? Where did you learn to fly? Did your instructor not teach you VOR tracking and turning to a heading for radar identification? To his credit, the pilot did call ATC instead of just blasting through following roads.

When I sort through all the mixed feelings, the joys and the aggravations, what do I come up with? It is easy to let our egos (which seem to be pretty big on pilots anyway), get defensive behind our known list of favorite pet peeves we see in other people. Now that I get to fly almost every day, I have to remind myself what it was like to only fly once a month (note: remind me to tell more stupid stuff I have done.)

All this said, I'm going to resolve to bring my students to greater proficiency on radios, navigation and airspace. For myself, I will try to see the viewpoints of others and cooperate with pilots and controllers to keep my part of the system working smoothly. Finally, I want to remember to let my appreciation for the opportunity to keep the petty irritations in perspective.

Fly Safely and Enjoy!


[Editor's NOTE: Earl is working hard this semester at SMS to complete his degree while still teaching both at SMS and Pro Flight, so for the next four months, his column will likely be reprints of former columns. This material was originally printed in the September 1996 issue of MPA News.]

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