Lesson 49 - Sunday Aug 29th

Solo Practice

Since I might be going to Riverside solo tomorrow, I figured that I need a little practice flying Solo, just so I don't freak out when dealing with the more complex flight tomorrow.

So I'd originally decided to fly to Camarillo and back, but my plans were scuppered when I discovered this was the one day of the year they close the airport for the Camarillo air show.  I did not feel like flying to Van Nuys, so I decided to just fly up to the Simi Valley area and back.

Off I go, 8567C, climbs a lot quicker with just one person in it.  All seems normal.  But one thing I immediately begin to worry about is how I should lean the mixture.  I know I start the engine with the mixture rich, and then lean it "a bit", then have mixture rich for takeoff, but now I'm in the air I can't remember what I should do.  Do I lean the mixture now, or at 4500 feet?  My past memory of leaning instruction seems a bit vague.  I need to read more about it, and I've ordered the Pilot's Information Manual for the PA28-161, so I can check what the official word it. 

Anyway, I turn left at the shoreline, and head over the hills to the Thousand Oaks, area at 4500, then up the 27 freeway to Simi Valley, then make a 180, descend to 3500 feet, and head to Point Dume.

All the time while doing this I try to make a point of keeping my Altitude consistent, especially when under the Class-B airspace.  I manage to do a reasonable job of this.  I do feel a little nervous being alone, but not especially.   It's actually kind of relaxing.

At point Dume I turn left, and head towards SMO, at 3500 feet, and keeping inland.  At the palisades, I call in, and get the usual "make right traffic, runway 21".

I descend to 1400 feet, a bit too quickly, as I'm at 1400 by the time I get to the Brentwood gold course.  I'll wait a bit longer, or descend a bit quicker.  As I approach the 10, I head Tower tell someone to "turn now, as you are about to enter class-B airspace", they respond with something like "yeah, we're going to turn soon", or something equally relaxed.

He ends up telling them to turn two or three more times, and the last time tells them that they "should have turned as instructed, as they are now in Class-B airspace!".  In the middle of doing all this he tells me "Cherokee 8567C, your are number 1, cleared to land, runway 21", just before I turn downwind.  I acknowledge this.

Why am I mentioning this?  Well, it gets interesting.    I turn base, maybe a little high, so I fix it, then get a little slow, so I fix that, and I turn final, still a little high, but not really a problem.

So I'm now on short final, about 60 seconds away from landing, when I hear:

"Learjet 1234A, taxi 21, cleared for takeoff."

WTF! I see the huge Learjet on the right of the runway, near the end of the taxiway,  possibly inching forward a little.  Thoughts run rapidly through my head in the space of about three seconds, is he going to take off ahead of me?  No way, there's no time.  Am I supposed to land ahead of him while he's taxiing to the runway? No way, he's only 30 feet from the runway end, and he's been cleared for takeoff.  I've got to call, what to say? Ask if I'm clear to land? No, say I'm on final, should I start going around?  ...

Then I hear Tower talking rapidly again "Learjet 1234A, why don't you just hold short, yes, don't go onto the runway, just hold short, we've got traffic on final."  (all responses paraphrased here)

Learjet responds, "Do you know what this guys is doing on final"?
Tower: "yeah, that's what I'm talking about, just hold short, while he lands, I though I'd moved you up earlier, that's why I err, just hold short there"

He'd forgotten about me!  He must have just misplaced me while talking to the B-Buster earlier.  He had cleared me to land very early.  I can't think of anything appropriate to say, so I just land, slightly bumpy, as I'd lost a little focus with the thought of a Learjet about to roll in front of me, but not a terrible landing.

I taxi off, tower comes on and says very clearly, proving he now knows who I am, "eight five six seven Charlie, contact ground 121.9".  Nothing else.  I taxi back to Justice parking.  0.9 hours of solo flight on the book.

Now, I don't think I was in too much danger.  It's potentially serious lapse on the part of the controller to clear someone to takeoff when someone else is on short final. A "Runway Incursion" might have resulted.  Luckily he either realized his mistake, or saw me, before anything happened that would result in me doing a go-around. 

All is well, and for me it's a valuable lesson in the need to pay attention and check for traffic, and listen to the radio, despite what tower tells you, both on landing and takeoff.