I didn’t receive a call from Tim last night regarding our class today Sunday November 20, 2011. So I thought he either forgot and would call me in the morning to cancel, or we were going ahead with the class. I checked the weather last night and the forecast for today, was sunny and clear sky with good visibility and a temperature of 23 F. I woke up early as my class was scheduled to begin at 8.00 am, and at the same time I was also prepared to expect a call from Tim for its cancellation. I left home at around 7.25 am and assumed that Tim was not going to call now, as he had called at around this time on prior occasions to cancel class.
I reached school at around 7.45 am and felt the cold breeze blowing on my face as I got out of the car. I walked through the two inches or so of snow toward the school entrance. According to the check-in person at the front desk, Tim had already arrived but he wasn’t in sight. I completed the necessary paper work and was so thankful that the aircraft I had booked was inside the hangar. I therefore wouldn’t need to do the pre-flight check in the cold weather. Once this was completed, I went back in to the school building and saw Tim was already seated in the front desk area. We greeted one another and chatted for a while as Tim grabbed some coffee. As usual Tim asked me how the plane was looking and of course, as usual, it was looking fine to fly. As we continued chatting generally, Tim said that the plane will perform really well in this cold weather, “These planes love cold weather”. I then told Tim how I was enjoying my Ground School and how I was now able to put things together i.e. the theory with the practical. He was delighted to know that I was now beginning to understand things. 😀
As we prepared to go out to the plane, Aaron the mechanic asked if he should pull the plane out of the hangar. Tim said yes and once this was done we boarded the plane and went through the usual procedures before taxiing out on to the runway for takeoff. We did a number of landings and takeoffs at Crystal airport today. According to Tim we did about 20, but I don’t know as I was more focused upon flying the Air Traffic Pattern and landing the plane. Today a number of my landings were better and I could clearly see my own progress. I can now even “feel” the plane i.e. how it flies and manages in the air as we come into land.
After my lesson was finished, Tim asked if I wanted to visit the Crystal Airport Air Traffic Control Tower and see with whom we’re communicating every time we seek permission to taxi the runway, or receive directions as to which runway to take off from etc. “Yes I would love to!” I replied. I asked if we will be walking there and he said, “No we’ll drive there”. “But it’s not that far Tim”, I said. “No it isn’t but in this weather it can become quite far” he said with a smile. So as Tim drove there, I followed in my car. When we approached the door of the Tower, Tim pressed a bell and someone from upstairs asked who we were. Tim said he had made an appointment to bring along a student to show the Air Traffic Control Tower. As Tim finished saying this, someone already had descended the tower and opened the door for us. We had to sign in as per FAA requirements and requested to switch off our cell phones.
We climbed several flights of stairs to reach the top of the tower, and once we got there, I saw what an excellent view the Flight Control crew had of the entire airport, and beyond. It was unbelievable. The tower was circular in shape and had glass windows all round i.e. the crew had a 360 degree view. There were 5 people working, and I was shown around the tower and the instruments. There were several screens which the crew used to communicate with air traffic. It was a quiet day and so I only saw a couple of planes flying and landing and these were other students like myself. This wasn’t anything new but the view of flying and landing planes from up here was most spectacular. I next saw the screens where the ATIS information is displayed and the machine upon which it is recorded in audio for pilots to hear before flying. The ATIS information is updated every 55 minutes. As I was asking questions and receiving answers, I commented about my communication abilities. How initially I was nervous but quickly adapted to speaking to Ground and Tower Control. I told them how I could ask permission or request something quite easily, but I still had difficulty in repeating back the information I received from Ground or Tower. Upon hearing this, one of the crew members said, “Well it goes both ways. When we were learning, we used to think, oh here’s an experienced pilot and I have to speak to him and give him instructions on which runway to use, or where to taxi or when to hold etc., and we used to get nervous ourselves. So don’t worry about it, we’re all learning here all the time. After all this is a school, right?” He said with a smile. That was very reassuring to hear. Just then, some other people arrived and Tim said, we’ll go now, and both Tim and I thanked the crew for showing us around, and we left.