Air Traffic Control

2:59 PM Thursday, October 7, 2010

Up until today I have done all my training at Davenport Municipal which is a Class E airport which means it is not towered. Everything is self-announce via the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). However, today we flew over to Moline International Airport which is a Class C airport and has a tower. Tim and I worked on what we would say to ATC before we went up and I felt I had a pretty good handle on it. However, once ATC started talking, and boy do they talk fast, I quickly realized I didn't have a handle on it. I couldn't even process what they were saying, let alone write it down and say it back. I screwed it up more than once, luckily the ATC guys are pretty nice, even if they do talk extremely fast.

I should back up a little bit, once we were off the ground, we listed to the weather for Moline and called up approach for a landing. Approach gave us a squawk code (transponder code for radar contact) we put it in, and nothing, we smacked it a few times and again nothing. ATC came back with "no radar contact." This meant that we could not enter their airspace. Fortunately ATC had us as a primary on the radar but just couldn't get our transponder, we confirmed that we were in the location that they thought we were in, and they cleared us for a right base for runway 27.

Fast forward to landing, which sucked, and then the hard part, taxi instructions. My instructions were to taxi via bravo, November, and kilo crossing runway 31 to Elliot's. Seems simple enough now that I am sitting in front of my computer, but when someone says that very quickly in your ear while you are still slowing the plane and expects you to read it back, for some reason it seems much harder. What I think I actually heard when he read this set of instructions was, blah blah, blah November, blah blah, runway, blah.

Once we get to the FBO, we park the plane and discuss what just happened. Tim asks, "how do you think that went." I say, "poorly." Actually I think it wasn't that bad, I mostly got things right, I just got the taxi instructions wrong on the first try.

Next up we are ready to head back to Davenport. I need to call clearance to get cleared to depart. I ask clearance for "547ca vfr to davenport 2000ft." Then I miss everything they say back, which I later learn was, 547ca direct to davenport maintain 2000ft departure 118.2 squawk 0302. Thankfully Tim responded to them and helped me to understand everything they said. Then my dreaded contact with ground and my new taxi instructions. This time I was ready and had an idea of what they were going to say. Me: 547ca at Elliot's ready to taxi. Ground: 547ca taxi via kilo, November crossing 31 for a November/27 departure. This time I got it, and read it back correctly!!! Take off goes fine, then tower turns me over to departure and things go back downhill. I was not expecting a heading, since clearance didn't give me one on the ground. But departure gave me a heading of 290. Again, Tim saved my butt by helping me read it back.

Aw, relief, back to familiar territory of davenport airport where I can announce and not worry about the crazy speed talkers known as ATC. Next trip is to Cedar Rapids and Dubuque. We shall see how that ATC adventure goes.


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