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Monday, January 17, 2011

Echoed in the Sounds of Silence

Today is a double G&T day, just a "not-very-good" day of flying.

Marginal VFR.  Well, it was.  Now I'm in front of my keyboard, the sun is shining through a light haze on it's way to Western horizon.  This afternoon, a burst of sun got me on my way to the airport for a few touch and goes just to keep my hand in.  When I actually got there, the clouds had rolled back in.  ATIS reported 1400 feet ceilings and 5 miles visibility.  Not so good, but good enough for a little pattern work.

Pre-flight checks complete, I lined up at the runway, only to be scolded by the controller.  It seems I TOLD him that I was going to stay in the pattern for some touch and goes, and he said I should have REQUESTED that I would stay in the pattern.  I wrote that off as him having a bad day - normally he is very cooperative and easy to work with.  A short silence, then "Roger 49C", and I received take off clearance.

After 4 or 5 circuits, I lined up on final approach with a sense of disquiet.  Touching down, I realized that I hadn't heard a radio clearance to land.  Glancing at the tower, I saw a solid red light - but I was already in take off mode and quite busy, it didn't register what that meant until I was airborne and realized my radios had failed.

As I climbed out, I pulled out the headset plugs and reinserted them, keyed the radio and heard the transmit static.  I called the tower "McKinney Tower, 49 Charlie".  "49 Charlie, McKinney Tower.  Welcome back".  "49C had radio problems, how do you read?".  "Loud and clear 49C.  You have 2 choices, you can land now or depart my airspace."

I decided to land, and told him so.  He told me on final approach that if I wished I could fix my radios on the ground and then take off again, which I did.  Once on the ground he had a conversation about what had happened.  He told me he had called me several times.  I told him I'd seen the red light but too late, he said he'd given me a green light (OK to Land - which I hadn't seen), then the red one (DO NOT TAKE OFF) on the runway, but I had seen it too late.

My problem fixed, I taxied back to the runway, and requested (this time) to remain in the pattern for some touch and goes.  On climb out, I suggested that we could both use practice at no-radio procedures, and did a few circuits using the lights (called light guns), backed up by radio calls.  I found the green hard to see from more than 3 miles way, but the red was clear as long as I was looking and expecting it.  I did another 4 or 5 and called it a day, and the controller seemed to recover his normal personality.

Still, while the actual control over the aircraft was fine, my procedures need work. My first radio failure, and what did I do?  I probably didn't land without clearance, but I did take off without clearance at least once.  How long did it take until I noticed the Sound of Silence?  Did I do it once, or twice?

Either way, Just Not Good Enough.


Toriafly said...

Yes, it was slightly sucky and embarrassing I'm sure, but a good learning experience. It sounds like it was a slow day and there was no danger, now you know what to watch out for when it could really count.

D.B. said...

Toria, thanks for your comment!

It was a slow day with fairly strong winds and low clouds, and I saw no other aircraft movements the whole time I was airborne (about 1 hour). So there was no danger. Just embarrassment. One thing I learned is that if you leave your headset plugged in for several weeks, to clean the contacts!

== T.J.== said...

Hmmm... Never had it happen to me... But wondering was there any paperwork required once u were on the ground?

D.B. said...

@TJ - no paperwork, at least not yet :)