Link to Profile Semperoper, Dresden Sieg (auf dem Siegesäule), Berlin Brandenburg Tor, Berlin Skyline, Frankfurt am Main

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Today is a Good Day to Die

Actually it wasn't that dramatic, but I couldn't say today was a good day to fly. Not if you wanted to actually see anything, with visibility somewhere around 7 kilometers and a fairly overcast sky and a few lower, scattered clouds. Cartinaly not the kind of day to go sight-seeing, rather just one to keep myself in practice.

Actually it was a little dramatic, for about thirty seconds. I was on downwind when the tower called out "traffic on four mile final." I looked but he was nowhere to be seen, so I replied "traffic not in sight."

Then he calls to the other aircraft in German and gives my bearing and tells him I don't see him. So I continue on downwind (you are essentially flying parallel to the runway and away from the airport before turning in to land into the wind ... the turn puts you on at a right angle to final, which is the path to the runway ... after a few seconds, you turn onto final and line up to land).

About a minute later, the tower asks "Are you extending your downwind?" Well, the answer to that should have been "Yes," but I had already decided to turn base. Next question please.

So now the Tower asks, "Do you see your traffic?" I'm still thinking about his last question ... actually, I'm thinking, "Was that a question or an instruction?"

Up to that point, no, I have not seen my traffic. The Tower had said four-mile final, and I guess I was thinking in kilometers, so I assumed I had passed him and that I could turn onto the Base-leg. Now that I have turned ... gee, there he is ... just to my left, in front of me and below me. A curious place since we were about 3 km out and I had already descended to 1200 feet (yes, feet, and that places me about 800 feet, and him somewhere around 500 feet, above ground).

"Affirmative. Traffic at my 11 o'clock and low, got him in sight."

Ugh! I have never done that before ... I usually wait to turn when I am abeam the other guy. It wasn't dangerously close, but it was a reminder how even in the slowest of planes things can get ahead of you if you let them.

At that point, now that I have to bleed off a lot of airspeed to keep my distance, I have time to ponder the role of the guys in the "Tower." Even at the smaller fields they "own" the airspace, but they play more of an advisory role than anything resembling the control a U.S. pilot expects from a Towered airport. For example, at my earlier takeoff he had called out my traffic turning base to final and told me it was my discretion on how to proceed. Uh huh? That's not so different from an uncontrolled field in the U.S. or, oddly enough, France.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, small civil airfields in Germany must be manned with at least two guys (one for the radio and one for the fire truck) for the field to be open. Notwithstanding the presence of a thing you might call a Tower, this is why, when you call these guys up, you call them "Such-and-such Info" and not "Such-and-such Tower." But they do collect the landing fees.

And I re-play his last question ... "Are you extending your downwind?" At a controlled airport in America, that would not have been a question, it would have been an instruction. If it hadn't been given, I would have probably done it anyway. But here I was trying to weave the aircraft between two small towns to keep it on the preferred path so that I didn't cause any noise complaints. I am still a newbie to flying at small civil airfields in German airspace, so I am balancing flying the plane against being a good German. Won't make that mistake again.

The picture here is on final ... if you look closely you will see the other guy just over the threshhold (beginning part) of the runway. At the point of my turn onto final he was a bit closer, so I dumped all the flaps, hauled the nose up to slow down and then added enough power to keep me flying ... a very slow approach to add some space between us. Despite that, when I was about 300 feet out, he was still on the runway ... I thought I would have to go around, but he finally turned off.

So I ask the Tower if I am cleared to land, and I kid you not, his words are something to the effect of "As you like." Note to self: At this field, must remember these guys are called "Info" (Just to be fair to them, they vectored me straight in earliter instead of making me go to a designated reporting point, which made my life easier and was a really nice thing to do).


Blogger J said...

I love flying, but would never want to learn to fly.

Mike, will you be coming to the Meet-Up in Bonn? I wanted to email you about this but can't seem to find your email addy on your blog.

9:54 AM, October 29, 2006  
Anonymous Hamish said...

You should have come in inverted and taken a picture of him.

Where did you fly when you were in the States?

11:27 AM, October 29, 2006  
Anonymous Maribeth said...

Hubby flew for Pan Am and he had a near miss on the corridor with another aircraft. He was in the engineers seat and was talking to a guy in the jump seat when he saw a plane bearing down. He yelled to the captain who put the Pan Am into a nose dive, thus avoiding the collision. The captain radio-ed ATC who had given both planes the same altitude, and he questioned the man. The German controller appologized and the captain said, "I'm sorry too as I will be reporting this error, dear, boy".
Someday, Mike, will need to get you and Hubby together to talk flying. I hope next summer to be over.

2:57 PM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger christina said...

Yikes! Reading that kind of freaked me out. Glad everything went all right.

8:08 PM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger Haddock said...

If it was a sunny day it could have been the case of a ME109 coming out of the sun :)

11:21 PM, October 29, 2006  
Blogger Mike B said...

J: Don't know if I can make it ... the Partnerin has invited friends over for Turkey that weekend, which means I am cooking if they don't cancel.

Hamish: Showing him the bird, so to say?

Maribeth: Your hubby was probably dealing with a real controller, which makes it all the more disturbing. I find the guys at Frankfurt Tower to be generally good ... but everybody has a bad day. I generally climb, since the natural reaction of most people (and birds for that matter) is to dive.

Christina: It really wasn't that close ... but it did have the potential for disaster if both of us had not seen one another. He must have dived like a bird ;)

Haddock: I turned in on his six with enough of him in the windscreen that I had had a couple of 50's or a cannon he would have been toast. He would have been taking me head to head and would not have had much of a shot.

12:00 AM, October 31, 2006  

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