Lesson 12 - Monday March 22nd
Santa Monica Tower
I've been grounded for TWO WEEKS! It's very annoying. The marine layer has rolled in and is hanging around. We've been trying to fly every day, but weather conditions have never been good enough. Frequently the airport has been fogbound.
Last week someone crashed trying to land at Santa Monica Airport in the fog. They were an old couple from Malibu, flying back from Mammoth lakes. I think that kind of thing makes people even less likely to go up in the fog. Still, it's only Pilot Error is going to get you, but part of pilot error might be setting off in the first place.
Anyway, I did not fly today either. The weather was even worse than yesterday. Right now it's solid overcast at 300 ft. However, Tanya suggested we take a "Tower Tour" instead, so that's what we did. I also took some photos.
That's the tower (photo from a good weather day, totally unlike today), it's on the North side of the runway. Justice is on the south side, and when I arrived, we drive around the runway in Tanya's car. The was another instructor (Holly) and a Student (Eddie?) . We had to go through a couple of security gates.
On arrival at the tower we parked and went inside. The inside has a square spiraling staircase, with a few offices at various stages up the stairs. Half way up, we stop to get security badges, probably part of the new homeland security measures.
Up top at last, my first impression is that it's small, and a little confusing. There are several people in there, and a guy who's installing tinted covers for the windows.
Timothy, on of the controllers, volunteers to give us a tour, which does not require much moving around, as really it's a pretty small room, with the staircase in the middle.
It was all very interesting. The first thing he showed us was the radar screen:
That's it hung up on the right. Tim is in the middle, the woman on the right is talking to the tower controller.
This is a close-up of the radar. The concentric circles are 2-mile intervals around SMO. You can see the coastline. Apparently Gladstone's is a common reporting point (although we always report at the Palisades). Gladstone's is where the 4-mile circle meets the coast (west of the airport).
You can see LAX, as the two sets of parallel lines in the bottom of the picture.
These are the active controllers. On the right is the ground controller. The guy with the beard on the right is the tower controller. Notice there is another small monitor with the radar picture on it. There's lots of equipment around. It all looks rather robust, and somewhat old-fashioned.
The dot matrix printer there is used to print out flight strips, I think for IFR departures.
The device at the left here is the light gun. If the radios are not working, the tower will communicate with the planes by flashing a beam of light at them, green for go, red for no. It did not seem like they had ever actually used this, which is probably a good thing.
This is the view south-west along the runway. You can see the fog bank obscuring building a couple of miles away. Normally you can se the sea from here. The sky looks blue at the top, but that's just the tinted windows.
We talked a bit about various aspects of tower procedures. Actually Holly and Tanya seemed a lot more interested in the tower procedures than we were. Probably because they get to do the more complex IFR procedures, and have done a lot more than us, the students. But they kept peppering the controllers with questions.
Then that's it we drove back around the southwest end of the runway. Very interesting trip, but no flying.
(c) 2004 Mick West