Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Where everyone knows your name

Solo flight to Claremont today. As I lined up at the hold short line, I saw another plane in the circuit in the downwind. Just as I was debating whether to push my luck and try and get a quick call in to ATC to sneak out in front, I noticed that they were on a really slanted approach. Before I could make sense of what I was seeing I heard them being cleared for a stop and go on 26. Light bulb moment, they must have been doing a simulated engine failure.

I waited until the “go” bit of their stop and go and then let ATC know I was there. As I got my takeoff clearance I was told to follow HZL as they were going local east also. I kept them in sight and took my climbout and crosswind a little wider to compensate for the fact that they were a little slower than me. I was amazed by the way I easily managed to keep them in sight while my hands and feet seemingly acted of their own accord to fly the plane.
As we reached downwind ATC split us, sending HZL south of the stacks and me north. This bothered me a little. I prefer the slightly less direct route to Claremont and suspected that HZL would be cutting across. I was careful to keep them in sight and ended up not being unduly concerned. 

Again though, the situational awareness is coming thick and fast now, the moment ATC told me that we were both going local east, I started thinking about our likely flight paths, the fact that they are slower, that maybe we would be taking slightly different routes and mapping out in my head how that would work.
Once I was near to Claremont I started scoping out my little space in the sky. Some radio chatter but not many people in the practice area. I heard HZL making some calls, they obviously heard me. We exchanged some radio calls; they were established at roughly the same height as me and were also doing upper air work.  HZL is one of our flying school’s C150s and I recognised the instructor’s voice. A good, solid steady guy who I’d be happy to fly with. I made a radio call confirming that I’d stay to the east of Claremont if they stayed to the west. They acknowledged this by saying “It’s Okay WMAP, we got ya!”

I dunno why this made me smile. Maybe it was the casual acknowledgement that I was out there and was Ok. That I belonged there. Or maybe I felt reassured that someone was looking out for me.
Maybe it’s just so cool that the local flying community knows my name! Hard to explain but meaningful all the same.


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