Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hurry up and wait

Although this evidence could be best described as anecdotal, I am of the opinion that the closure of Hoxton Park has had the effect of making Bankstown aerodrome busier - perhaps too busy.

Wednesday morning. Dreary, overcast, occasional showers. Hop into FTU, make a note of the numerous gripes, none effecting airworthiness. The headset socket is loose, some oil drips on the front oleo strut, the flaps reluctant to spring back to zero degrees from extended, the park brakes won't lock on. FTU is quite an old bird, the register lists her rego date as December 1979. I was 7 at the time, and I'm no spring chicken myself. Having said that, I remember thinking to myself as I checked under the cowling, "damn, that is one clean engine."

Start up, grab the ATIS, taxi out to the run up bay, do some pre takeoff checks and taxi out behind a chieftain, intending to do circuits. Then I hear it.

"All aircraft taxiing for circuits report ready in the run up bay."

Bugger, followed by two other aircraft who had already done what I'd done, reporting they were finished their run ups and were already taxiing for circuits, waiting at other runways. In other words, I'm boned.

"FTU is also done with run ups and taxiing for circuits."

"FTU, is that you behind the chieftain"


"OK, report when ready on tower frequency."

And I wait. The chieftain in front of me is waiting for an IFR clearance, which isn't forthcoming from Sydney control. So I wait for her, she waits for clearance, and a session of circuits looks less and less likely for me. I hear other training aircraft reporting they are shutting down, requesting a light signal once circuits are available. There's just too many aircraft trying to fit into a fixed area of space. Perhaps until recently the controllers were prepared to accept a few too many aircraft in the circuit, but in light of recent events are keeping a tighter rein on how many aircraft are permitted to train at once. If so then I applaud their actions.

This still leaves me locked out of the circuit today, so I report that I want to depart downwind to the training area and continue waiting for the chieftains IFR clearance. The pilot repeatedly asks for an estimate on the delay, Sydney must be flat out because they can't even get an estimate. Eventually she gives up and requests a VFR departure, hoping to pick up an IFR clearance in the air away from Sydney airport. I finally get clearance to line up on the runway and wait. I do so and wait. I don't like to do this as I can't see behind me, and I am worried someone will land on top of me from behind.

I am cleared for takeoff, and do so without delay.

In the training area west of Bankstown the cloud is low and threatening. There are no showers out here yet, but they aren't far off. A cloud of green smoke hovers over the ground beyond the pipeline. Soon a column of yellow smoke joins it, a plume of red smoke does the same. RAAF detonating smoke grenades at Orchard Hills. The chieftain pilot gets her clearance over Patonga to climb to 5500 and track direct Scone. I practice an engine failure, I practice steep turns. I get bored and check out the dam, then head back.

Approaching Prospect a heavy shower passes between me and Bankstown, obscuring the landscape. Although the rain doesn't bother me, the lack of visibility does, so I turn 180, find tadpole lake (Bankstown pilots will recognise this perennial water feature) turn 180 again and head back to Bankstown.

This time there is no waiting, I put in a respectable squeaker, which I'm quite proud of, exit the runway, taxi back to the aero club and shut down.

26 hours to go until I can start my commercial training.


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