Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The beginning of the end

The recent temperatures have made it abundantly clear: Summer will soon give way to Fall. It's readily apparent in the mornings now, when I have to put the top up on the Miata before my morning commute. No matter how much I enjoy watching the sunrise with the unfettered view from the car with the lid down, 47 degrees is simply too cold for enjoyment. The afternoons are still nice, though, and the top down drive home is still quite pleasant.

Something about the nice weather brings out the worst in Central Ohio drivers, though. I sat for twenty minutes on the highway yesterday afternoon, patiently waiting for my turn to crawl past a multi-car accident. I heard on the radio that there was another pile-up on the other side of town this afternoon, too. I myself almost T-boned a guy today as he pulled out right in front of me; he apparently was willing to bet that there wasn't any traffic coming in the lane next to the semi that was turning onto the road he was pulling out of. He almost lost. These things always come in threes, too, so I'm going to have to be on the look-out for the next two. Well, one actually, but I'll get to that in a minute.

With a clear blue sky, very light breeze, and temps in the mid-70s, it was irresistibly pretty this afternoon and the clarion call of the azure sky was screaming in my ears. I had to fly! I had no real destination in mind, but Papa was sixteen gallons short of full tanks. A refueling flight was just the ticket. I consulted AirNav to find a good price and decided the $3.79 per on offer at Fayette Co./Washington Court House looked good. I don't normally go that far just for fuel, but with such gorgeous weather on tap it was an easy decision to make. Besides, I hadn't been there since way back in the Tampico days.

The flight to the southwest was every bit as smooth and clear as I had anticipated and it seemed like no time at all before I was approaching the airport. I called the CTAF frequency and report that I was six miles northeast and inbound for left traffic to runway 5. The winds were light, but Bolton Tower had decided that runway 4 was the way to go, so it seemed that 5 would be just as suitable. Besides, landing on 5 would allow me to fly a full traffic pattern rather than make a straight-in approach to the opposite runway, 23.

Right after I made my position announcement, an airport attendant confirmed my decision by transmitting an advisory to me: "Winds 020 at 3, runway 5 favored." I keyed the mike and thanked him. Just as I was entering the left downwind, I heard him transmit again: "Cessna whatever whatever whatever, runway 5 in use, landing traffic is on left downwind." I went ahead and made my report too. As I turned left base, I again made a position report. As I was turning final, I could see the Cessna sitting on the taxiway waiting to take the runway for back taxi to departure.

"Hmmm," I thought, "that guy sounds kinda student-ish, and he hasn't acknowledged a single thing he's been told. Better keep an eye on him, particularly since fate still owes me two more close calls."

Nothing for it but to proceed, though, as Papa's hovering capabilities are abysmal. Into the flare, everything was looking well aligned for one of those calm-air greasers that I love oh so much. Just as the wheels were leaning forward to gently kiss the runway, the radio came alive with "Cessna whatever whatever whatever, taking runway 5 for back taxi."

Oh crap!

I was pretty close to the intersection he was entering from, and not sure a go-around would give me enough time to go over the top of him. And there was no way to stop. I immediately keyed the mike and, well, kinda shouted "Hold on a second, I'm in my flare." That wasn't the most descriptive or professional phraseology, but just as I thought my only hope was to wildly swerve to the right, he stopped. Amazingly, the landing was still pretty good!

I couldn't remember where the gas pumps were at the airport and couldn't see any, so I just pulled up next to the fuel truck. As the guy came out to pump the gas, he didn't mention the near miss on the runway, but did ask why I had parked so far away from the pumps. As he pointed at the big metal box that enclosed the pump, I offered to move over there but he said the hose would reach. "Then why the big fuss?" I thought to myself rather uncharitably, but I was still a little torqued over the Cessna guy. Once we got busy fueling Papa, though, we had a nice conversation.

I asked him about the nice, new FBO building. Fayette County had it built a year or so ago. I asked about the miles-long construction a few miles north of the runway. I told him that I thought it was either a road going in or railroad tracks coming out. Neither, he informed me; it's a 42" natural gas pipeline running from Colorado to New York. So, with all of this chatter going on, I guess it's at least partially my fault that he overfilled not one but both tanks, sending 100LL streaming down my wings.

That never seems to happen when I do self-service.

Tanks full and my Visa card abused to the tune of $63, I taxied out to depart on runway 5. As you can imagine, I took a good long look around before taking the runway. Nothing sucks the air out of a good justifiable pique like committing the same infraction yourself, after all.

The flight back to Bolton was just as nice as the outbound trip, and I even managed a greaser on the landing.


  1. From AirNav photo it seems there is plenty of runway to take off without back taxi. Too many pilots are trained to use every inch of runway for taking off. I can understand it if you are operating out of a 2,500' or less runway and flying a Cessna. At my home field I saw most Cessnas back taxi to use the full 5,000' instead of 4,000' to take off. On the other hand, they often don't listen to the radio. Probably they were too busy going down the checklist and taxi the airplane.

  2. Cripes, some people just don't check for traffic on the runway. Great job avoiding any incidents!

    By the way, that pipeline runs right past Stewart - they've been working on it for about a year now I think. You fly over it on short final to Runway 8. I believe the airport either had to sell some land or agree to let the pipeline company dig as it runs just North of the runway. It's been fun to see the progress and it's kinda neat to see how it stretches for miles and miles from the air.

    The pipeline is huge, about 1700 miles from Colorado to Ohio. Info here: