Learning to Fly – Day Fourteen (The mad controller)

Based on my experiences yesterday, I did a very thorough job planning the next cross-country. We would fly out of Winter Haven to Melbourne (Florida, not Australia). From Melbourne we would fly to Bartow and from Bartow back to Winter Haven. I made sure that all my visual references points were to the side of the aircraft so I could check when we were abeam. I used the big interstates and only the biggest and most characteristically shaped lakes. After a chat with the weather briefer who today was much more forthcoming than yesterday, I put in the winds aloft, calculated flight time and headings and we were off.  I was nervous but quite happy with how the first leg progressed. The right stuff appeared about where and when they were supposed to and suddenly we were about 12 miles from Melbourne. I had looked up all the frequencies and had noticed something strange with Melbourne: It had two tower frequencies with no explanation why. Sometimes, with big international airports, there are frequencies for traffic inbound from the east and another for the west and/or north and south. In those cases, it normally says in the directory which is which, but there was no such annotations. Well, I listened to my chosen frequency and it was very busy. I waited until it sounded like there was a pause and “Melbourne Tower, Warrior 32990”. He came back immediately: “Aircraft calling: Don’t!”  Woops.  I waited a little while and he came back: “Aircraft calling, repeat”.  “Warrior 32990, 10 miles west of Melbourne, altitude 2,500ft inbound for touch and go”.  He came angrily back: “Warrior-990, turn immediate left onto 010. You are using the wrong freq, call tower on 124.05”. I coolly replied: “Heading 010, frequency change to 124.05, Warrior-990”. Did I hell. I completely panicked. All my practice and careful planning was out the window, my Danish accent is never worse than when I feel under severe stress and man, did I feel stressed. Gerry picked up the conversation and made the calls. However, I needed to get back “on the horse” and called the tower back on 124.05. IT WAS THE SAME F……. GUY! This time he cleared me to enter downwind right for runway 27R report crossing interstate. We were now back on my practiced track and I actually managed to say: “Cleared for right downwind, runway 27 right, wilco”. I made the call crossing the interstate and he requested I reported when midfield downwind. Before I reached midfield, I got: “Warrior-990, you are cleared to land runway 27R”. I did not pick up his mistake (aha!) and instead replied: “Cleared to land, 27 right, Warrior-990”. Besides being my first venture into controlled airspace, it was also my first venture into a right hand pattern. It was not as hard as I had feared and I found myself a little high but on track for 27R. I landed (It was hard not to, the runway is huge), raised flaps, set my carburettor heat to cool, turned power off and within 10 seconds, I was airborne again. That is when the “fun” started: “WARRIOR-990 STATE YOUR INTENTIONS!”. “Departing to the west, Warrior-990” Why was I in trouble?  “WARRIOR-990, IT MIGHT BE HELPFUL NEXT TIME YOU DO A TOUCH AND GO, YOU TELL ME IN ADVANCE!” Now, I knew I had originally told him, but you NEVER argue on air with a controller, so I meekly apologised. In retrospect I spotted where it went wrong. When he cleared me to “land”, I should have corrected him and reminded him that my request had been for a touch and go. Instead, I was so eager to do “the right thing” and correctly read back the clearance, as I am required, that I forgot to actually take the whole clearance on board.  Gerry didn’t catch it either, until we were told off”. Heh, I am going back to Melbourne tomorrow for my first solo cross-country. Out of Melbourne, it was onto Bartow where the controller is very friendly. And then it came from Gerry: “Bartow is closed, divert to Wauchula.” My simulated diversion. I guestimated a heading of 210 and noted the time. I then drew a line from my present position to Wauchula, read off the correct true heading, adjusted for magnetic variance (4°W) and wind. Correct heading was actually 230 and I changed my present heading to that. I then measured the distance, 43 miles and with a ground speed of 88 knots, we would reach destination 30 minutes after I started the diversion. I calculated the expected arrival time handed the figures off to Gerry and assumed that would be it. We would return to our original flight plan to Bartow. The one that I had spent hours sweating over the night before. I had flown for nearly 1½ hour and I was tired. He had to be joking that we were actually going to Wauchula… but he was not.  I read some of the visual references from the ground to the map and I was happy with the progress. 1 minute before I had estimated, we were overhead Wauchula airport. Another diversion, this time to Miami!  “Come on, you must be joking this time!”  He was. I did, however, have to do another diversion back to Bartow from Wauchula. I found Bartow, contacted the controller, did my touch and go and was off again.  This time I could take off on a planned heading back to Winter Haven. Was I happy when I saw Winter Haven airport appear? You bet! I joined downwind and landed. Completely exhausted. At night, we were going to do patterns night flying, but the landing light on 990 is really bad so after one circuit Gerry suggested we switched to 401. I suggested we called it a day. This is very hard work.

Summary after 14 days:
Flown: 2 hour and 30 minutes.
Total flying time: 39 hours and 33 minutes.
Solo: 5 hours.
Day 1Day 12Day 13Day 14Day 15Day 16Day 23

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