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Hangar Flying

The following is a reprint of a story first published on the Pilots-L mailing list. If you would like to subscribe, find out how at Yahoo Groups.

Are you ready to fly into Class B airspace?

NCAA Finals and Class B Airspace
By Pat John Rudolph

This was an experience that I just had on Sunday. A little background. I am a 320 hour Instrument Commercial, Multi-Engine pilot, with about 70 hours in this particular airplane. (Cessna 172RG - Same approach speed as a 172, but a bit faster cruise being a complex airplane) My first REAL experience in Class B...I apologize for the length of the message...

So, I'm in college, and for the first time since the famous Larry Bird, Indiana State University made it to the 2nd round of the NCAA finals.

Me and 3 of my fraternity brothers decided we would go support our team by flying down to Memphis (beats a 7 hour drive!) There's a city just outside of Memphis, TN, called Millington, TN (NQA), a class D airport about 30 minutes from downtown memphis, just around Memphis's Class B. Well, I called up the FBO there at Millington, and Jimmy (turns out there's two Jimmy's there - this town is small...About 2 specks on the map), told me a crew car would be available, it wouldn't be a problem.

(There's a story brewing in this, I promise!)

It was a beautiful day for flying. No clouds, 10 mile visibility, couldn't ask for better weather in March. I kept thinking, "boy, this is going to be a great day!". (I should have known that it was too good to be true...Since when have you ever gone flying, beautiful day, traveled 250 miles, and everything turn out perfectly?)

Jimmy meets me at my airplane - tells me that the "boss" wouldn't let the crew car go outside of city limits. (As I said before, Millington is a small city...You have to leave the city limits to get gas!) Great - How are we going to get there? We're this far...

Well, I made an executive decision: We're going to Memphis International (MEM). I called up Signature (I love those guys!), said no problem on the crew car, filed an IFR direct, and off we went! Now, a direct flight to MEM would be about a 190 heading, for about 15 miles...

(now's where it gets fun)

For those of you Private pilots that 1. Don't have much time, or 2. Don't have at least an instrument ticket. I DO NOT SUGGEST flying into a Class B airport on Sunday afternoon, 1:30 before the NCAA starts. I believe that I was the only single engine airplane on the field.

So, I takeoff, uneventfully, from NQA, turn to 240, climb to 2000, where I should expect 3000 5 minutes after departure, and I get switched over to Memphis Approach. This guy didn't take his finger off his PTT switch for a good solid 5 minutes, during which time my altitude clearance elapsed, and started my climb up to 3000.

Finally I was able to check on, and they vectored me west for about 20 miles. I get switched to another controller, who was running the approaches for the ILS 9. She asks me what my best forward speed is (Ha! I'm in a 180 hp Cutlass - the best I can do is about 135 KIAS, in a shallow dive!) "135" I replied. Keep in mind, I'm kinda new at this...

"23SK [that's me], maintain that speed to the threshold. Maintain visual separation from a DC -9, on 18 mile final, you're number 2 for the runway, an MD-80 will be following, number 3"

"Roger, we'll maintain 135, number 2".

"23SK, be advised, an MD-80 just reported 10 kt windshear 3 miles from the threshold. Also, caution wake turbulence."

At this point, I think I was thinking, among other expletives, about if I stayed too slow, I'd look like a bug spatter on the windshield of that MD-80 behind me. Just then...SPLAT! I hit a big juicy bug. This was turning into my perfect nightmare!

Maintaining visual separation from an airplane in front of me, 50 kts faster wasn't going to be a problem. 15 miles out, I've intercepted the localizer, the throttle's to the firewall, and I'm indicating 140!

Soon after, the glide slope comes alive. A few moments later the Locator Outer Marker starts beeping...Still full power, then the Middle Marker. I retard the throttle, get to VLO, lower the gear, pitch up, VFE lower the flaps. I can feel myself decelerate. No sooner do my wheels touch the ground than I hear:

Controller: A raise in his voice like he's nervous about something "23SK, I need you to make an immediate right turn onto the taxiway."

As soon as we exited the runway the MD80 that was at first 20 miles behind me, touched down on the runway.

Well, we got to the game, we lost...Oh well - maybe next time, and the flight back was fairly uneventful - except that the ground controller was kinda confused about my takeoff distance requirements,(had me taxi, ON THE RUNWAY, up to, but hold short of Taxiway Charlie and RWY 9, position and hold. I've never heard of a controller doing that before, but I did it! (only after reading back his entire words, and requesting a confirmation)), and one of my passengers decided to open the window...(startled the crap out of me!)

I learned a lot from this experience - but the best thing I learned is that I can do it! Flying into a Class B airport isn't as bad as it's made out to be - Just be prepared. I'd strongly suggest when you're working on your Instrument ticket, to fly into a large airport - I'm not talking about the local airport where you do all your instrument training - I'm talking about at 1 PM, on a VFR day, during rush hour. Where you MUST be on your toes at all times.

It was interesting to me how all of my training came back to me. I don't do SID's or STAR's very often (Standard Instrument Departures and Standard Terminal ARrivals), but I did it all and then some yesterday!

Well, happy flying!

Here's what John has to say about himself:
John Rudolph is a junior at Indiana State University, studying Professional Aviation Flight Technology (Pro Pilot). He is currently a 300 hour Commercial/Instrument/Multi-Engine Land Airplane pilot, working on his CFI.

reprinted with permission from the author.

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