Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Unknown Intentions

I'm flying into a big airport where I haven't been in a while. I'm given a choice of two arrivals. I don't know which will be quicker, but involves flying direct a VFR waypoint that is over a completely featureless area. The IFR fixes are all part of the database, but the VFR ones aren't, even though I'm VFR as often as not. The chart suggests no way to identify it visually, and I do not have time and head down opportunity to look it up and program into the GPS, so I request the other one.

My descent and approach checklist wants the heater off now, but I have the option of leaving it on until any time up to two minutes before shutdown on the ground. The item will recur on later checklists so I just skip it and move onto the next items. "Seat belt on?" I query, reminding myself to check my shoulder belt. I usually leave the shoulder belt on the whole flight unless it starts interfering with the headset, oxygen mask, guidance screen cable, or any of the other lines that define my Borglike existence in the cockpit.

The controllers are busy getting people in and out of here. There's a transient aircraft that appears to be sightseeing, but the pilot hasn't made his request very clear. The controller points him out to traffic by position and "unknown intentions." The pilot doesn't take the hint and the controller has to ask him specifically what he is doing. There is so much to this game of talking on the radio that is subtle and clever. When a new airplane enters the picture, you'll hear a controller pause just long enough to give an alert pilot time to report traffic in sight, or call looking, and spare the controller the obligation of describing the traffic all over again when the pilot who should be looking for it heard them call in. There are rumours about electronic controllers, but robots simply couldn't do what the humans do. The human element helps with sanity as well as safety.

An Air Canada Jazz jet is given a climb clearance and the pilot refuses it. He's flying on a ferry permit with a damaged windshield and is restricted to a maximum altitude of ten thousand feet. There's a story there. Stories everywhere. I'm cleared to land at the big airport and the controller tells me on final which taxiway to exit at. They aren't lettered neatly in order, so he helpfully adds that it's the second left. I remember to turn the heater off on final. I land full flaps and slow down for the second left, but he wants me to go to the next one. Ohhh, at the big airport the first taxiway doesn't count, because who would exit there? Only someone who is used to runways that only have one exit/entrance. I feel so bush as I add a bit of power to expedite to what I still think is the third left.

Tomorrow is an 8:30 take off, so 8:15 engine start, better make it 8:10 with how busy this place will be. Backing up with cab and flight planning and walkaround that means hotel breakfast at 6:50, so I set my alarm for 6:30. Good night.


Unknown said...

Just a question re: the Jazz RJ, wouldn't that be in his flight plan that it's limited to 10k?

Aviatrix said...

Possibly, but not necessarily. When I was a medevac pilot we sometimes had patients with altitude restrictions. We just told the controllers, didn't put it in the plan. That controller is looking at a blip that identifies his flight number, airspeed and altitude.

Wade said...

I bet the controller was a computer programmer in a past life and starts counting at zero.

Jan said...

Thanks for this post, I really enjoyed it (like most of your posts, anyway ;-) Being just a humble private pilot I always take special pride when I catch on to one of those subleties you are describing. Of course, I surely miss a lot of them, not being as "deeply in the game" as you pros are.