Aviation Safety Letter 1/2004
To the Letter - Arrival at Uncontrolled Aerodromes
I always read the ASL from cover to cover, and on page 14 of issue 4/2003, the letter "He's just a trainer and were an airliner" brought to mind an incident that happened to me only a few weeks ago. A friend and I were returning to Qualicum Beach, British Columbia, after a local VFR sightseeing flight. The recommend VFR approach is to turn over French Creek at 1 200 ft ASL, fly directly overhead the runway centreline and determine wind direction and runway selection. At 5 mi. out, we called our intentions to land, and did so again over French Creek. A Piper Cub was also inbound from the north, and we determined spacing: us as number one and the Piper Cub as number two, both crossing mid-field to join downwind left for Runway 29. As I came across the runway centre, I called ahead my upcoming turn for left downwind Runway 29, and the Piper behind us called at French Creek as number two, also for left downwind Runway 29. The next voice over the radio was a Cessna 210 broadcasting his intentions to join direct downwind for Runway 29. I called the C210 and asked him for his position, which he stated as 3 mi. southwest at 1 400 ft. We began scanning the horizon for the C210, which turned out to be 200 ft above us, descending to 1 200 ft and off our right wing. I quickly called the C210 and warned him of the lack of appropriate spacing, told him he was too close to us and that there was a Piper Cub behind. I told him of the recommended VFR approach over French Creek and that he needed to execute a right turn immediately to avoid a collision with us, as well as possible circuit interference with the Piper behind us. His response was sobering as he snapped at us angrily, "I'm perfectly within my rights to join directly onto the downwind leg, I know my rights." My response was now a little more urgent, "You are in conflict with circuit traffic and unless you turn immediately, a collision is imminent, Sir!" Almost immediately he began a right turn away from us. The pilot of the Piper Cub then called his intentions and his voice was as upset as mine. I was finally able to turn downwind after I was positive the C210 had turned away. By my determination, if somehow the C210 had managed to squeeze between us in the circuit, he could have easily hit us from behind. The next day, I talked to a flight instructor at our local flight school about this pilot's arrogance and lack of concern for his safety and ours. We clearly had the right of way, but that wouldn't matter much if you were dead!
This type of attitude came from an experienced pilot in a high performance Cessna 210 RG, cutting off not one, but two aircraft already established in the circuit and in sequence for landing. He put the fear into both of us, and hopefully he will read this and learn something.
Qualicum Beach, BC
Thank you Mark, this is a HUGE and FREQUENT problem for all pilots to mull over. On the "right" to join downwind, A.I.P. RAC 4.5.2 clearly states: "Alternatively, once the pilot has ascertained without any doubt that there will be no conflict with other traffic entering the circuit or traffic established within the circuit, the pilot may also join the circuit on the downwind leg." Clearly, in the above scenario the C210 did not do this. The A.I.P. section further states: "All descents should be made on the upwind side or well clear of the circuit pattern." Pilots joining downwind should therefore be at circuit altitude well ahead of time. We've often heard of "road rage" but it sounds like we are now facing "airspace rage." It seems like there is an urgent rush for some pilots to bully their way into the circuit and land as soon as possible. We should all realize that operations at uncontrolled aerodromes require the highest degree of courtesy, airmanship and self-control. The three to five minutes saved are never worth it, and one day this reckless attitude will catch up with whomever practices it.
Finally, I must address the little note in the same section of the A.I.P. which states: "Some pilots operating under VFR at many sites prefer to give commercial IFR and larger type of aircraft priority. This practice, however, is a personal airmanship courtesy, and it should be noted that these aircraft do not establish any priority over other aircraft operating VFR at that aerodrome." I recommend you acknowledge this A.I.P. text, which ultimately requires common sense and, as we discussed earlier in this issue, professional courtesy. This does not apply to the story above, but more so to the letter referred to from page 14 of issue 4/2003. Clearly it is not good airmanship to prevail yourself of your right-of-way if you impose a significant and potentially dangerous low-level manoeuvre on a large passenger-carrying aircraft coming on a stabilized approach. Notwithstanding the provisions of circuit procedures and CAR 602.19 on Right-of-Way (also found in A.I.P. RAC 1.10), a basic principle is to consider giving way to larger and less manoeuvrable aircraft. - Ed
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