Sunday, September 05, 2004

Say Intentions!!!

It was a typical Florida morning on Mother’s Day 2004. The temperature was warm in the high 80s and the sky had scattered clouds around 3000 feet with a little turbulence to make the ride interesting. I had flown to Tampa North from Jacksonville Craig that morning to visit my mother and my sister’s family.

I was surprised at the airport when my 19 year old and 13 year old nephews arrived to pick me up. Since my oldest nephew, Don, had never been flying with me before, I offered to take the two young men up in my Piper Warrior II and they eagerly accepted the offer.

After a quick pre-flight, we taxied the length of runway 32 and departed on runway 14 from the single strip, no taxiway airport. I was careful to demonstrate proper radio technique for the non-towered airport and announced my intentions every step of the way. There was no one in the pattern. We completed a normal takeoff and climbed through 500 feet AGL when I began a left turn to the north and announced my intention to leave the area to the north. We remained below the Class B airspace surrounding the Tampa International Airport and after a few minutes, we reached the open spaces northeast of Brooksville.

I left the radio tuned to 123.05, the CTAF for Tampa North and a few other airports within radio range. As we departed, I heard another plane announce that he was an Aircoupe and asked for airport advisories. When no one responded, I radioed back that I had departed 5 minutes earlier and the wind was favoring 14. When the pilot of the aircoupe announced that he would be entering the left downwind for 14, I radioed back that the pattern for 14 called for right traffic. I suppose he didn’t hear me because he continued to announce a left pattern. Shortly afterwards, I heard another plane announce a flyover at 1500 followed soon by his entrance to the left downwind to 14. I guess no one reads the A/FD anymore!

We continued our flight and I demonstrated a few steep turns since I know that my nephew, Tony, likes them. I even let Don take the controls briefly and he did a fine job of making a few turns. Don was able to take us to a heading to return to the airport and even managed a fairly stable descent with a little help from his uncle.

Since we were approaching the airport from the northeast, I had planned to enter the pattern via a mid-field crosswind entry as per the ASF pattern-entry documentations. At 5 miles out, I announced my position and my intentions and asked if there was anyone in the pattern. No response at this point. When I was about 2 miles out, I saw an aircraft take off. I never heard a call announcing their departure or their intentions. As the plane neared pattern altitude, I still heard no calls, so I asked for the aircraft departing Tampa North to say her intentions. No response from this aircraft, but the Aircoupe on the ground stated that he was at the FBO and offered to wait for me to land before he taxied down the length of 32 for a 14 departure. I responded by thanking him and advised that I was entering the downwind for 14. It was at this point that I noticed that the plane that had previously departed on 14 was ahead of me on the downwind. FINALLY, she announced her position as she made her base turn! Unfortunately, she made no attempt to announce her intentions and both the aircoupe and I were left to wonder. I again announced that I was abeam the numbers and had the traffic on the base leg in sight. I extended the downwind a bit to give the other aircraft time to clear the runway.

As I turned base, a fourth aircraft entered the fray announcing his position a few miles north, his intention to land, and requested traffic info. I responded by telling him and all listeners that I was turning right base for 14 and there was another craft on short final. He then asked if the pattern was to the right for 14 and I affirmed.

When I turned final, I could see that the other aircraft had landed and was slowing. I commented to my passengers, I hope she gets her butt out of the way! Suddenly, the other craft veered to the far right side of the 50’ wide runway. Astonished, I told my nephews, “She can’t even keep the darn thing on the runway.” But, little did I know…she did this maneuver intentionally—she was turning around at mid-field and had decided to taxi back!

So there I was on short final with another plane taxiing towards me on the only available runway. After she had traveled about 500’, she finally announced her intention to taxi back and then depart via 14. So, with three other pilots waiting to use the only runway…one on short final, one waiting at the far end to taxi and another entering the pattern…she thought a full stop and a taxi back was the thing to do. Perhaps she knew that if she had actually stated her intentions, there would have been three other pilots who would have objected. I can find no other reason besides incompetence for her incredibly poor use of the radio.

FAR 91.113(g) states that "Aircraft while on final approach...have the right of way over other aircraft in flight or operating on the surface..." The exception is that they "shall not take advantage of this rule to force an aircraft off the runway surface which has already landed and is attempting to make way for an aircraft on final approach." Since this dolt did not appear to be making any attempt to make way for aircraft on final, or the aircraft waiting patiently, I believe that she was in violation of this regulation.

At this point, I had no choice. I could not land. So with as much disgust as I could muster, I announced that I was going around. My passengers loved it—more time in the air…another trip around the pattern! Throughout the pattern, I announced my position trying hard to provide a good example to the idiot on the ground. It never sunk in. She only announced when she was rolling…never announced her departure or her intentions.

The trip around the pattern was uneventful. The last aircraft made a standard crossfield entry and joined the pattern behind me. Although I had announced a full stop, the other aircraft asked me if this would be a full stop. I responded that it would and that I would taxi as rapidly as possible to get out of his way--which I did. I had forgotten about the poor fellow in the Aircoupe who was still waiting patiently this whole time!

A little while later, my brother-in-law arrived with my 3 year old nephew and 5 year old niece. Naturally, I offered to take them up as well. This time, it was just a quick trip around the pattern. I was very pleased with the landing. It is easy to make smooth landings in the Warrior, but this was like butter!

When I taxied back, I parked right next to the Aircoupe. As I was securing the plane, the Aircoupe pilot walked to his plane, so I took the opportunity to thank him for his patience. I asked him if he could hear the frustration in my voice and he said he could, but I had done all that I could do. He also said, “It’s better to wait down here than up there.” With gas costing nearly four bucks a gallon, I suppose he’s right.

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