It has been a long long time. My last flight was in December (yeah, surprised me, I thought it was in January). So today was my first flight of 2008. I needed to do some touch-and-go landings to regain my PIC currency (meaning I can carry passengers). The mowers were out at McKinney Airport so while the runway was open for operations the tower wasn’t allowing touch-and-goes.
It was interesting to see how the mowers worked. They had three guys on large commercial tractor mowers followed by a guy in a pickup truck. Then there was a street sweeper following the mowers and two guys on foot walking the runway and taxiways looking for debris. Whenever an aircraft wanted to land or take off the tower would radio out to the mowers asking them to clear the runway. The mowers (actually I think it was the guy in the truck) would radio back once they were clear. After the aircraft finished the tower would radio them the all-clear to continue.
The tower actually chided one of the mowing teams after I taxied out because while they got out of the way they didn’t respond over the radio. He didn’t give them the all clear for quite a while and when they asked he said something like ‘well if you don’t respond to me I don’t know what your intentions are’. You just don’t jack with the man in the tower!
I flew at 3000′ from McKinney to Bonham Municipal Airport and did four touch-and-go landings. I was tuned into the common traffic advisory radio frequency and it was really busy. One CTAF frequency will serve several different non-towered airports in a region so flyers will call out the airport first when they make their calls.
“Terrell Traffic, Skyhawk XXX is on left downwind for runway 17, Terrell Traffic”. etc.
There was so much radio traffic that people were constantly stepping on each other’s calls. When that happens you’ll usually hear one of the pilots but behind their voice is a loud squealing noise. Sometimes all you get is the squeal. Unfortunately, the pilot transmitting can’t tell he’s interrupting someone else. The trick is to be patient and listen and when there’s a gap jump in and do your think.
Though, it’s tricky sometimes. If you’re in the pattern to land you need to make your calls at the appropriate time and that means you have to balance being polite with being safe. If there are other planes in the pattern that I can see then I’ll opt for safe.
After the touch-and-goes I flew a little further north to follow the Red River for a while. That’s always fun for site seeing. I took along my new binoculars to see how they work in the cockpit and turns out they work great. It’s a little hard to focus on an object and fly at the same time so I think they’ll be better use for Greta when she’s riding along as passenger.