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STORIES FROM THE 44TH PARALLEL

Freelance Writer & Photographer in Michigan

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  • Marianne Kuzimski

Chaos in the Cockpit (Part 2)

Updated: Jan 31

Departing MBS International Airport

As the story continues, we had landed safely at Midland, Bay City, Saginaw International Airport and I would need to jump through a bunch more hoops to get out.


Before taking-off, I had to contact MBS Clearance Delivery and let them know my tail number and that I wanted to fly VFR (Visual Flight Rules) to a specific airport destination.


I also needed to tell them what altitude I wanted to fly at, and what Atis information I had listened to. Atis is the area weather and airport information frequency that is recorded and broadcast every hour, and every twelve hour cycle begins with the letter A = Alpha. I had to let them know what hour of Atis I listened to in case there were any drastic changes since last listening… like perhaps a snowstorm.


The clearance delivery person begins the take-off procedure by inputing your requested route and altitude, then verifies the departure frequency, and what transponder code to punch in to your radio. After writing down all the info given, I have to contact Ground Control and let them know I was ready to taxi for take-off.


Ground gives me taxiway instructions, and helps with navigating the airport using those lettered markers on the taxiways if requested. Of course, I want the step-by-step progressives because my brains are on complete overload. As I watch the markers zip by thinking about all the stuff I will have to do when the wheels leave the ground, I worry about remembering everything. Happily, the kind folks on the radio stick with me all the way to the run-up area, which is the last stop before take off.


After doing the plane’s run-up check list and I make sure everything is functioning fine, I switch frequencies, AGAIN, to Tower this time, and tell them that I am ready for take off.

Tower clears me for the take off, and gives last minute instructions.


It seems to take forever till I finally reach the yellow centerline at MBS because the runway is so wide. I could tell that I was moving way to slow for David while I got the airplane carefully lined up in the middle.


“Hurry,” he urged. “You need to clear out as quick as possible in case there is a plane coming in for a landing.”


That’s the kind of information that will have anyone nailing the throttle, whether the airplane is lined up perfectly or not! You DO NOT want a mammoth passenger plane landing behind you as your puny engine revs its brains out trying to gain enough speed for lift off.


After getting into the air, Tower instructs me to switch frequencies, AGAIN. This time to the Departure frequency in order to receive heading and altitude instructions.


So imagine you are in the middle of a climb out at the airport. First and foremost, you need to keep your plane flying safely. You also need to keep an eye out for other airplanes in the area, change the radio frequency, and start another conversation… which will probably end up with more note taking.


At this point, I am a mess. The heading begins to waver off course when I start paying too much attention to the altitude indicator. When David gives me a poke to correct the heading, I start to lose altitude because I’m paying too much attention to the heading.


Ahhhh!!!


Even though the guys at clearance delivery gave me some intel on what to expect before I taxied to the runway, by the time you get to take-off, a lot can happen. Being I’m not sure what other airplanes may be flying into the pattern, and which could be flying right at me, it’s really important to do exactly what departure says, so I call them up just as soon as I can get the number dialed into the radio.


Again, I tell them my tail number, what altitude I’m currently flying at, and what course altitude I am expecting. At this point, they may very well tell me to hold at my current altitude, or change my course heading completely. If nothing else, I absolutely must maintain my heading and altitude until they tell me otherwise.


I have to confess to you right here and now, I have never been much of a juggler.

One year for Christmas, my brother got a juggling set with instruction on how to hold the 3 soft balls, and how to throw each one and catch another as you throw. I tried and tried to learn how to keep all of those balls in the air, but they always ended up hitting me in the head and falling to the ground.


In an airplane it’s imperative you learn how to juggle. Imagine the amount of instruments you need to keep track of just for a safe take-off or landing. Add to that; talking on the radio, switching frequencies, holding a specific heading, maintaining altitude, and looking for other aircraft.


To really make it interesting, throw in the dude rambling like an auctioneer on the other end of the radio giving you the instructions, and a Chief Flight Instructor that is trying to explain it all.


Here you have got complete chaos in the cockpit!


My head was spinning with all that was going on at once. Talk about information overload… Wow! And I was supposed to do this ALONE on a SOLO Cross-Country?

This was going to take a bit more practice.


The Departure guy hangs with us on the radio until we are out of MBS airspace, and wished us a good day. The rest of the journey was a piece of cake, other than my brains were feeling a bit like scrambled eggs.


As the pilot in command, you can’t let a little chaos in the cockpit burn your toast. You’ve got to keep flying until the journey is over and you land safely at your home airport and taxi back to the hangar.


When I peeled myself out of the pilot’s seat on the day of my first cross-country practice run, I marveled at all that had happened trying to catalog each and every moment deep in my mind for future reference.


"Could I do it myself one day," I asked myself, "And however was I going to remember everything?!"


I would soon find out!



#pilot #airplanes #solo #crosscountry #livingthedream


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Don't miss the next installment coming up...

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