Tag Archives: runways

Size does not matter

There is always that innuendo when discussing the question if size matters.

But I don’t want to get into this, even though I chose that headline to get your attention – – did work if you are reading this, didn’t it?

So, here I want to show you one example where size does not matter…

Before the mighty FAA we are all created equal. Once you have your clearance, it’s yours. You might give it up to let a big guy with 300 passengers go first, as these big guys are probably burning a lot more fuel in idle that I in my single engine plane will use for a whole trip.

Two things come to mind. One was a flight instructor telling the story at the Pilot’s CoOp that he did catch a ride on a business jet once and that the crew was treated to a nice dinner when they stopped somewhere for gas. Only when he saw the bill he understood.

The other story, I was involved myself directly. It was during my primary training when my instructor put me through the paces to practice my landings. Our airport had intersecting runways. One of them – 15 – was often used for the commercial traffic. If there was one plane ready for take-off on runway 15 and another one on approach on runway 8 the departing plane had to wait. Runway 8 was very long and the length from touch down to the intersection with runway 15 was plenty enough for a little plane to stop, so they never crossed 15. So it was customary that traffic control asked the landing traffic if they were landing short of 15, meaning they had no intention to cross runway 15. If the landing traffic confirmed that, the tower could let the big iron take off on runway 15.

That was standard operating procedure, but now yours truly, student pilot, enters the picture. On approach to 8 for the fifth or so time, I confirmed that I would hold short of 15 and tower gave takeoff clearance the the Southwest 737 and it started rolling.

Just then my flight instructor, who I was so glad to have with me, made the decision that I had messed up the approach – I was too high or too slow or both, floating too far down the runway. He gabbed he yoke, pushed the throttle to the firewall, keyed the mike: “Tower, Cherokee 888 going around!!”

Now that was not good. The 737 was rolling towards the intersection and we, in our tin can were now climbing over runway 8 towards the intersection.

Tower: “Southwest 114 ABORT – Southwest 114 ABORT!”

All went well, the 737 stopped before the intersection and we sailed unscathed across the intersection. I was too busy digesting this all so I did not take a good look into the cockpit of the 737 that was sitting right there on my left side. But I could imagine that the pitch of the captains voice might not have been so low as they usually are.

We got the expected call from the tower: “Cherokee 888, Tower, contact the tower after landing!” Was I glad that I was only the student, and my instructor was legally the pilot in command. A bit after we landed and tied down, I saw my instructor on the phone with the tower – very meek and apologetic – rather different than his usual boisterous self. Fortunately for him he got off with a warning.

It was a big story at the Pilot’s CoOp and many guesses where made how much money in kerosine that had cost Southwest. I mostly had to think of the poor passengers that did not really know what was happening. The usual bit of scare at the takeoff roll and then suddenly screeching brakes – it might have convinced never to fly again.

I only had one instance of “Call the tower after landing!” but I could weasel myself out with the fact that I was going someplace further away and could truthfully tell the controller that the tower would be closed when I returned. So, he just scolded me a bit and told me to listen better next time.