Monday, June 25, 2012

This NEVER Happens

My instrument training flight last Friday was full of things that never happen. My CFI chose the route and airports he picked to demonstrate some ways to deal with what usually happens. But that didn't happen :)

We flew to Merced airport (MCE) to fly a back course localizer approach. Then it was time to circle to land. That was freaky, approaching a runway from one direction, then flying around the runway at 500' AGL and landing the other direction. Every VFR flight pattern instinct in my body was screaming at me... too low, too low! But I did it OK and landed.

We cancelled the IFR flight plan on the ground via radio, taxied back to the run up area and radioed NorCal to pick up the flight plan I had pre-filed for the return. I was prepared to copy down whatever ATC cleared me for, knowing it would not be the route I filed. My CFI was going to show me how to negotiate with ATC to get the clearance that would give us the best route for the planned approach back to RHV after getting whatever we got from ATC. I was so used to not getting what I filed I had lost the habit of actually writing down what I filed for the training flights. This time, however, because I had to file a whole route, I kept notes of the route. Good thing too! This time the clearance was very VERY simple. Cleared as filed, even at the altitude I filed. His jaw dropped.

I programmed in the route I filed and we took off. Then it was even stranger, the controller immediately cleared us direct to GILRO (the last fix I had filed for the route before starting the RNAV GPS Zulu 31R approach to RHV). That really never happens.

Even more strange.. on the way in to RHV after the GILRO fix, I hear ATC talking to a guy in a Bonanza. The Bonanza happened to be piloted by my husband. I chuckled a bit.... but I was focused on the flying and I couldn't look for him anyway. I had my foggles on. Then ATC calls out to the Bonanza a Cessna flying opposite direction about 500' below the Bonanza's position. Then ATC calls out to me a Bonanza flying opposite direction about 500' above our position. CFI and I both laugh at that. How often does ATC call out a husband and wife to each other as they fly? Not too often at all.

As we continued on the approach ATC asked me to maintain best forward speed as there was a Boeing 747 following us. (THAT happens all the time on this particular approach.) Fortunately we were descending so I was able to get the little 172 up to 120 knots. Eventually we cancelled IFR and asked for permission to fly the profile VFR. ATC was happy to let us do that because it let them get the Boeing past us.

It was a long flight and a great day.

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