Currency vs proficiency

The other day I offered to help one of our club members to move his aircraft to another airport for its MPI/Annual. No problem, right? Except it’s a controlled airport I’ve never landed at before (at least during the day – I did a touch and go there on my night cross country but the tower was closed).

This did give me some room for pause – it’s an easy airport, 2 runways, wide runways but there are some issues. Firstly, the airspace is busy – there are a lot of flying schools on the field and a fair number of commercial GA operations. Secondly, the airport is crammed tightly against the Class B (TMA) airspace of O. R. Tambo international airport (FAOR) and they don’t take kindly to bugsmasher’s violating their territory.

Date Aircraft Route Flight Duration Total Hours
21 June 2019 ZU-IBM FASY – FAGM(Rand Airport) – FASY 1.1 149.5

The approach from the south involves flying through the Special Rules area at 6500 or 7500ft to the position RD (an NDB), then contacting the tower for joining instructions. Matthew took off 5 minutes ahead of me in the Mooney so I was expecting to find him on the ground already. However, i could hear him announcing that he was orbiting over RD waiting for inbound clearance. At this stage I was about 5nm out from RD so elected to orbit at my current position until I could get clearance inbound. I thought I’d contact the tower and let them know I was there, to my surprise they cleared me straight in to join the downwind for RWY 35. At least, that’s what I thought I heard and repeated back – without the info coming to rest in my consciousness. A few minutes later and I’m barreling toward the downwind position for 35 when I hear the controller telling someone to give way to the yellow Sling joining on a left base for 35. I took this as permission to head for the base which I then did.

It rattled me a little bit that I don’t recall being cleared for the base and I felt like the workload was suddenly quite a lot higher. Anyway, I was able to make a relatively good landing on 35 (nice to actually land into the wind for a change – the wind in this part of the world seems to blow mainly from the north at this time of year – I’ve been wrestling crosswinds all winter!)

Wintery Johannesburg skyline

The whole experience worried me a little bit – I learned to fly at a very busy towered airport and had the circuit down pat. When I moved to Tedderfield and then Baragwanath towered ops ceased – and apparently my proficiency in towered airfield operations deteriorated significantly in the interim. It was a bit of a wake up call as I felt I was very current (having just completed my PPL revalidation).

It is also really important to me to NOT be that guy who doesn’t have a clue when approaching a towered field. I messaged my flying mentor to tell him how I’d felt out of my depth – he replied, “It goes away quickly, doesn’t it?”

So I have decided to bite the bullet and make sure to regularly do a visit to a towered airfield – I’d say every 2 months (otherwise I’ll be exhausting the flying budget with landing fees) – for no other reason than maintaining proficiency in this sort of operation.

IBM mixing it up with the big boys at FALA

I also decided the next day to get right back on the horse and make a trip to my training home base, Lanseria (FALA) .

Date Aircraft Route Flight Duration Total Hours
22 June 2019 ZU-IBM FASY – FALA(Lanseria International) – FASY 1.3 150.8

Suffice it to say, I got the full Lanseria experience – wide circuit due to faster traffic on downwind, breaking off the approach due to a rapidly closing B738, and flying best speed to short final (which feels weird because the final was so long – short circuits are not flown at FALA) . Best part was having to taxi at max speed to make it to the first turnoff from the runway.

As an added bonus I got to see the Cirrus Vision Jet which had arrived the day before – the first in the country. It’s bigger than I thought it was – I’m still not sure I get what it is for – it’s no faster than a TBM and must cost a LOT more to operate – but I guess for some folk image trumps usefulness?

N118PB – SF50 G2

I have also signed up for the Cirrus Pilot Proficiency program which is being run for the first time in South Africa at Lanseria over the first weekend in August. Yes, I don’t fly Cirrus, but I’m a huge fan of the Cirrus approach to safety, Standard operating procedures and aeronautical decision making. There is also a Partner-in-Command course which I’m trying to convince my wife to attend. I’ll be the guy in the non-designer clothing in the back row!

Stay current. And proficient.

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