Friday, November 21, 2008

Radio Protocol

Chuck, you must have a million of these kinds of stories.  Let's hear some of them.

Two weeks ago Jessie and I took an aerial jaunt to view the fall colors on the mountains just to the east of our home.  I use the Tullahoma Regional Airport, an un-towered field with two 5,000 foot runways (18-36 and 06-24).  As is my custom, I made a couple of touch-and-goes before leaving the area.  On the second, I noticed a Cessna 172 sitting on the hold line for 36 as I turned on the downwind leg.  As I proceeded downwind he remained in place so I tried to contact him on the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency). 

“Cessna  _______ (call signs omitted to protect the innocent) holding for 36 at Tullahoma, say your intentions.”

Getting no response, I thought that perhaps he was listening to the AWOS for wind, etc. information prior to taking the runway and would be back on the CTAF in a moment.  Just then, another airplane entered the pattern downwind behind me. 

Keeping an eye on the Cessna, I turned base and then final, making announcements of each move as good protocol calls for at a small un-towered airport.  As I started down short final he was still there and still had made no response, so I figured he didn’t have a radio (and is not required to do so) and planned to be ready to execute a balked landing and go-around (as I always am) if he pulled out in front of me.

Once I had touched down and converted to takeoff mode, I put him out of my mind.  As I climbed out, I heard the pilot of the plane behind me announcing final and asking the Cessna for its intentions.  He received no response, just as I had not.

Thinking the Cessna had no radio, I called the airplane behind me and said, “Cirrus _______, I don’t know what he intends to do.  I guess he hasn’t got a radio.”

Then the Cessna piped up, “That makes three of us.”

Was he listening the whole time?  Did he have an intermittent radio?  Was he having difficulties getting his checks done?  Was he a student and just unaware of the added margins of safety that come from good radio protocol?  I’ll never know because he was a transient and was long gone by the time I returned from the autumn viewing.


At November 21, 2008 at 10:05 PM , Blogger Chuck Hudlow said...

I'll try to come up with some later, Glen. When I was a controller at Addison Airport in Dallas back in the mid 70's, I heard some funny stuff from some of the pilots in training there. Addison had three very active flying schools and it wasn't unusual to have as many as 8 aircraft in the pattern on Saturday mornings, all doing touch and goes. As you can imagine, the radio chatter was pretty constant. I wonder if anyone other than pilots would be interested in hearing some of those memories?

At November 21, 2008 at 10:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I would Chuck, even tho I know absolutely nothing about flying.


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