As a CFI, I recently had the opportunity to attend a Mooney Pilot Proficiency Program at KSMX, Santa Maria airport, up the coast from Los Angeles. We were told that we could do approaches—but no landings or touch and goes—at nearby Vandenberg Space Force Base (KVBG). We thought this would be a great opportunity.
Once airborne, we called Santa Barbara Approach, the controlling agency. Nope, no approaches on weekends at the Space Force Base because the tower is closed on weekends.
Well gee, my student wondered: “I hope we don’t get a Martian invasion on the weekends!”
We both laughed.
When traffic was diminished initially in the pandemic, it sure seemed different flying into New York airspace, with far fewer airplanes and fewer grumpy controllers. In fact, some were actually courteous with terms like “thank you” and such finding their way into transmissions. And then there was this exchange between New York Approach and another pilot:
GA123: “New York Approach, GA123 request.”
New York Approach: “GA 123 say request.”
GA123: “Can I request an approach to Runway 02 at XYZ with a circle to land on 15?”
New York Approach: “GA123 you can request anything you like but if you want an approach to Runway 02 at XYZ with a circle to land on Runway 15, that is approved.”
Bowling Green, Kentucky
One day while doing an Angel Flight between Santa Monica Airport and Prescott Regional Airport, I heard the following on center frequency:
Aircraft checking on: “The last controller said you were the best in the area.”
Los Angeles Center: “He’s not lying.”
Several years ago, I offered to take my young adult son and two of his friends in my Cirrus and drop them off at the beach. After the required defueling, (Ugh) we took off for the 30-minute flight. My son let one of his friends, Brian, sit in the front with me so he could try flying. But before Brian got to try his hand at flying, I naturally was on the radio, with all the passengers listening. My tail number ends in 6WG. So, after one of my radio calls, Brian pops up and says, “Whisky and Golf, two of my favorite things!”
One day I landed at Snohomish County Airport (Paine Field), Washington, after doing some practice approaches in nice actual benign IMC. After I had landed, tower kept me on their frequency as I taxied to the hangar. Just before shutting down, they asked: “N30322, when did you break out?”
To which I replied, “I don’t remember, it was when I was in my teens. Maybe when I was 13 or 14? But Clearasil worked wonders. Oh, wait, you wanted bases. Maybe 1700MSL?”
They replied without missing a beat, “Thanks for the base report and a 7.8 for the joke.”
Several years ago, not long after earning my private pilot certificate, I departed the Burlington/Alamance Regional Airport, North Carolina, where I was based. My intent was to make a circuit around the outside of the Raleigh-Durham Class C airspace and return to Burlington to land.
Unsure how to ask for flight following for such a circuitous route, once in the air, I contacted Raleigh Approach, asked for flight following, and recited the three or four waypoints that defined the route I wanted to take. The controller responded with, “Wow, that was quite a dissertation!”
He immediately gave me a frequency change, and said, “Now repeat all that to the next controller.”
Quite a few years later, I’m still not sure the best way to request flight following when my intended route is more than just Point A to Point B, but I can usually muddle through.
Durham, North Carolina