Posts about pilot skills, knowledge, and judgment
"The needle's barely off the peg. Why are you turning inbound already?" asked my instructor Bill.
"I'm used to the localizer coming in pretty fast," I responded. "ATC usually vectors me pretty close to the final approach fix."
My wife Janet, my instructor Paul, and I were walking the ramp at Castle airport, a former Air Force base in California's central valley. I was a student pilot in airplanes and we'd just completed the first leg of my first cross-country flight. It had been a great experience, with lots of pilotage and dead reckoning practice. Castle made for a convenient rest stop.
One afternoon after a particularly enjoyable local glider flight I was sitting in the FBO's office with Jim, the gliderport's owner, during one of his rare, brief respites from work. Not content to let the man rest, I asked him about something I'd been struggling with: centering thermals.
"Hmm, this'll be interesting," I thought to myself. I was a solo student glider pilot on the downwind leg of the pattern abeam the usual touchdown spot. It was a gorgeous morning, my practice flight had gone well, and I had judged my pattern entry at just the right altitude. There was just one problem: the other glider parked on the runway at the approach end preparing to take off. The tow plane was nowhere in sight, however, and there were two people standing next to the glider, apparently helping the pilot. It seemed unlikely that he would clear the runway before I needed to land.