Saturday, 20 August 2011

One to learn from

click image for clarity

I am going to have to climb down and apologise to the resident GA instructor at my airfield tomorrow. I misjudged a situation, then made the wrong decision once a problem became obvious. And in the spirit of one of those blue safety thingies they enclose with the BMAA magazine, I am going to risk humiliation so that others can learn from my mistake (if ever they are stupid enough to get in the same situation).

As I approached the airfield, late evening, there didn't seem to be anyone else about. I had probably been lulled into a false sense of security by all my friends having packed up and gone home and my flight having been quiet. I did a standard over-head join at Great Oakley at 1,500', noted the absence of wind in the sock, which was pointing straight down, and decided to use the biggest runway, 27, which had been the runway in use all day. There didn't appear to be anyone else around, so I dumped 500' on the deadside of 09/27 and joined crosswind for 27 (right).

As I flew downwind I saw an aeroplane I could have sworn hadn't been there before! It transpired that it landed as I was descending, and as 27 is a right hand circuit I descended with back to 27, and therefore assumed that this aeroplane must have just landed behind me.

I concluded that he was taking off again on 27 and decided to extend downwind to give him time to get off, and then he started taxying, not running-up, so I assumed he was going to vacate on taxi-way B, so I started to turn on to a base leg (much further out than my drawing suggests). But then, instead of vacating he started to the head of 09, by which time I was on finals and realised that he wasn't using 27 but 09, that he wasn't taxying but was back-tracking ....and that he hadn't landed on 27, but on 09!!!! In descending facing the sun, I had missed him on finals.

There I was on approach, at about 500' and he had just turned around to line up. At that point a sensible man would have aborted the approach and gone around. Unfortunately, I convinced myself that since the runway in use all day had been 27, this character was the one in the I hovered there trying to decide if he was going to start rolling or if he was holding, and as I was non radio, I couldn't ask him. I braced myself to break right, flapped my wings to make myself visible and continued to drop in, then rushed to vacate via taxi-way C.

I know now that having seen him on the runway I should have known that whatever he was doing he had the right of way. I had misjudged his intentions, and that was forgiveable, because he had landed with the sun at his back while I was making my descent on the south of the airfield, but having realised on base that he wasn't taking off on 27 but had just come to a halt there and turned around after landing in the opposite direction, I should have turned left and done a left hand circuit for 09.

I feel an idiot, not least of all because I tried to argue the toss in the clubhouse afterwards. Pride got in the way, partly because I knew he'd be thinking, "Bloody microlights". But now it is worse because I have gone and given him more grounds for thinking it.

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