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Nordo BE36 landing as I'm about to take off in KFIT


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Tonight I had the perfect weather to fly from Fitchburg, MA to Teterboro, NJ. No wind, mild temperatures, few clouds way up high. Beautiful early Fall evening.

8 pm, full fuel, preflight completed, got the ASOS weather and turned on the runway lights to taxi, announcing my intentions even though the airport was deserted.

After an uneventful runup I announce taking the active 32 for departure to the SW, dim the rwy lights down to 3 clicks, look both ways for someone in the pattern, don't see anyone, radio silent, then as I cross the threshold I see a moving light coming on what could be a fast plane on a low base to the same rwy. I stopped just inside the threshold as a Bonanza lands in front of me. Never a radio call. At night. He didn't realize the rwy lights were already on, he didn't go around as I flashed my landing light, he didn't check that his radio was in the right frequency after the event. I tried radio'ing him several times, could hear other traffic from nearby airports also on 122.7 but nothing from the guy. Had I not seen him and had I gone further on to the runway, we would have both been on the same spot at the same time, and I wouldn't be here writing this. 

All it takes is one careless person not verifying his radio, not looking, not reacting, for all to go south very quickly. This was the closest call I had in 20 years of flying. Had to vent. Venting done!

p.s. I did get his tail number after he departed to his home base and his ADSB kicked in for the first time. I'm itching to call the guy, but I'm not going to. Or should I?

 

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Glad you saw him! Hate hearing of close calls like this. Worst case scenario, if he was squaking 7600, would you know on the ground?

 

Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, alexz said:

CTAF for KFIT is 122.7. Only rwy lights controlled on 123.0

Sorry, I got that wrong being tired last night. I was on 122.7, not 123. Edited it in the  original post. 

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Very happy that you observed the landing aircraft and avoided a mishap!   

I've always thought that it would be easier for me to locate Nordo aircraft at night than during the day, but your note refutes that, so I wonder why you didn't see it.   With the tail numbers and flightaware, you should be able to determine whether the aircraft was in a standard pattern.   From the threshold of 32, there should be visibility to aircraft on downwind if their nav and strobes are functional.    Curious:  Did it have a landing light on?   

Thanks for keeping the beautiful new runway at KFIT incident free.  

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Meanwhile, over on Beechtalk there’s a Bonanza guy complaining about a Mooney who almost pulled out in front of him.  Seems the Mooney guy was on the wrong frequency, or just didn’t hear his transmissions.  

Thankfully no one was hurt.

Clarence

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Think about this.  What if it were a no radio airplane? Like a crop duster. Would he have broken any rules? Would you have called him to chew on him? The guy may not be using all available resources to create the highest level of safety, but he broke no regulations and if it had been a NORDO airplane you would have been at fault without a doubt. So what to learn here? It is your responsibility to clear the final before taking the runway. By the way, I've been cleared to line up an wait at tower airports too, and I ask, "What about that airplane on final?" where upon I get "cancel previous". ALWAYS clear the final before taking the runway, it is your real.

 

 

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1 hour ago, GeeBee said:

Think about this.  What if it were a no radio airplane? Like a crop duster. Would he have broken any rules? Would you have called him to chew on him? The guy may not be using all available resources to create the highest level of safety, but he broke no regulations and if it had been a NORDO airplane you would have been at fault without a doubt. So what to learn here? It is your responsibility to clear the final before taking the runway. By the way, I've been cleared to line up an wait at tower airports too, and I ask, "What about that airplane on final?" where upon I get "cancel previous". ALWAYS clear the final before taking the runway, it is your real.

 

 

Lessons learned from this:

-obviously, look, look, look. At all directions even if the wind favors one runway. 

-don’t assume your radio is transmitting even if it is receiving. At night when it’s harder to have a radio check on the ground, that can become an issue. I don’t know why we couldn’t hear each other that night, but one of us wasn’t transmitting. 
 

- I learned to fly in 7b2, a few miles away from kfit, and there are plenty of nordo’s in there. Thinking back, I assumed that at night, with the need for lights and an electric system, there wouldn’t be a cropduster kind of nordo. Not doing that anymore. 
 

- I wouldn’t call the pilot, that was a silly idea. I’m not the kind of guy to step out of the car in a traffic dispute either. 
 

- flying can be humbling at times. 

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Part 91, you only need nav lights, and with LED's a battery lasts a long time. Nor is there a requirement for runway lights VFR.  You can land RL out. I have ferried a lot of deaf and dumb airplanes, and I have even called the airport manager to ask him to leave the RL on since I could not call them up. Lots of possibilities. At JFK one day, tower said line up and wait. I did my usual check of final and said, "I don't think so as an A340 passed in front of my window. My usual habit pattern when I start to take the runway is to recite, "Final clear, lights on, flaps, speed brakes, trim, brake off, airplane will fly"

 

 

 

 

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Personally, I think flying without a radio the height of CB induced stupidity.  Only guys I give a pass to are those with open cockpits, and lots of them use radios.  A handheld radio is inexpensive, and most have sufficient range to make calls in the traffic pattern.  Just because the rules say you don' have to have it doesn't mean taking off without is a good idea.

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I, too, have been cleared onto a runway with an aircraft on short final, at DVT (Deer Valley, one of the busiest airports in the country).    I just waited, didn't even say anything, and very shortly afterward a different controller came on and cancelled it, which I did confirm.   I think it was a new controller in training or something like that.  Uncontrolled fields are a trip, you gotta look every direction any available runway points, as somebody might be approaching or taking off any direction or  midfield or whatever.    I'm told one of the private residential fields in AZ has a radio repeater antenna on the roof of a midfield building because the significant crown in the runway prevents aircraft lined up on each end from seeing or being able to hear each other.    Apparently a near miss incident or two led to the radio repeater installation.

 

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I flew into an uncontrolled airport a few years ago in my hometown. 
had the whole family with me.  Got on freq, made all my calls, flew over the airport at 1500’ to see the windsock and got in the standard pattern, making all my calls, then about 100yds from the threshold, a crop duster takes off, with a tail wind, coming right for me.  I was close enough to see his face as he 90deg banked away less than 50’ off the ground. I landed without incident but was enraged when I recovered on the ground. 
I called the faa, and they said the same thing geebee said. The pilot also called me after the faa got his side and tried to explain his side to me without an apology. 
My response to the FAA is that someone did something wrong, if it was me I would like to know what it was but I don’t believe that to be the case. 
when I flew over I saw the crop duster parked and not running, he had to hear me in the pattern. 
It wasn’t my first close call at an uncontrolled field...

My take away is that uncontrolled fields are the wild Wild West, and if you aren’t in the mood stay away from them. 
My suggestion would be to require all planes flying to have adsb and a radio, in this day and age, and with all the other feckless regulations, there is no excuse for an airplane to not have those basic items. 

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38 minutes ago, Schllc said:

My take away is that uncontrolled fields are the wild Wild West, and if you aren’t in the mood stay away from them. 
My suggestion would be to require all planes flying to have adsb and a radio, in this day and age, and with all the other feckless regulations, there is no excuse for an airplane to not have those basic items. 

I've always operated out of uncontrolled fields, from my first lesson in 2006. And my earliest lessons back in 1992 . . . Your radio isn't ATC and never will be. The Feds mandated ADS-B Out so that they can shut down many VORs and reduce radar coverage, transferring these equipment and operational costs to pilots. Note that there is no mandate for ADS-B In, nor provisions for any equipment--many people use phones and tablets for this. What other flight systems are legally operated on uncertified equipment in our certified planes?

If you feel so strongly, please avoid the 95% of airports in our great country that are open to anyone at any time. Oh, and the 5% that you do visit, make sure you arrive when the tower is operating, they aren't all 24 / 7 / 365 . . . .

Our friends who fly Mooney Mites, as well as Cubs, Champs and other planes without electrical systems, will not be able to comply with your ADS-B out requirement, the regulations governing it are quite strict. While many carry and use handheld radios, there is no such thing as "handheld ADS-B" or many, many people would be using it instead of paying multi-thousands of dollars to have it installed.

By the way, which FAR says to overfly the field at the jet pattern altitude? And did you then turn your back on the field with ground traffic while doing the 270° turn? Look to see where the ground traffic moved to while you were cavorting around outside the pattern, away from the field? He may have thought you were passing by. "Head on a swivel" is the rule all the time you have visibility out the windows.

P.S.--whenever I see a crop duster, I am extra vigilant!

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1 hour ago, Hank said:

I've always operated out of uncontrolled fields, from my first lesson in 2006. And my earliest lessons back in 1992 . . . Your radio isn't ATC and never will be. The Feds mandated ADS-B Out so that they can shut down many VORs and reduce radar coverage, transferring these equipment and operational costs to pilots. Note that there is no mandate for ADS-B In, nor provisions for any equipment--many people use phones and tablets for this. What other flight systems are legally operated on uncertified equipment in our certified planes?

If you feel so strongly, please avoid the 95% of airports in our great country that are open to anyone at any time. Oh, and the 5% that you do visit, make sure you arrive when the tower is operating, they aren't all 24 / 7 / 365 . . . .

Our friends who fly Mooney Mites, as well as Cubs, Champs and other planes without electrical systems, will not be able to comply with your ADS-B out requirement, the regulations governing it are quite strict. While many carry and use handheld radios, there is no such thing as "handheld ADS-B" or many, many people would be using it instead of paying multi-thousands of dollars to have it installed.

By the way, which FAR says to overfly the field at the jet pattern altitude? And did you then turn your back on the field with ground traffic while doing the 270° turn? Look to see where the ground traffic moved to while you were cavorting around outside the pattern, away from the field? He may have thought you were passing by. "Head on a swivel" is the rule all the time you have visibility out the windows.

P.S.--whenever I see a crop duster, I am extra vigilant!

My take away is that uncontrolled fields are the wild Wild West, and "if you aren’t in the mood" stay away from them.

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Vigilance is key.  When I was a student pilot, I had a communications failure (hard short caused a stuck mike, but I didn't know what exactly the problem was in the air).  I circled outside the Class D airspace around my home airport, squawking 7600, but never saw any light signals, so I flew north to a nearby untowered field.  I set up in the pattern to land on a runway consistent with the wind direction at the other airport (usually there is very little difference between these two).  I was watching pretty carefully for traffic but missed seeing another airplane taking off in the opposite direction from my landing (as it turned out, I had selected the runway appropriately, and the other guy was taking off with a tailwind).  As I turned on to the short final, I saw the other airplane climbing toward me.  I made a hard bank to the right, sidestepping and going around again in the pattern for a landing.  I noticed that he also banked right.

The other guy was probably cussing me out for not listening to my radio and not talking, and I was wondering why he was taking off with a tailwind.  Both of us should have been looking harder for traffic.  Since that scare, I always take extra care to look for traffic on the ground and in the air when I'm operating at an untowered airport.

About a year after that incident, I encountered an ultralight in the pattern at a different untowered airport.  That airport has a published pattern altitude for ultralights that is about 300 feet lower than the normal pattern, but this guy was putting along at about 50 kt at the higher altitude, flying left traffic for the runway with a tailwind.  Really hard to see, because I was flying into the sun, and he was flying away from the sun--he had probably chosen to land with a tailwind so he could see better.

In another stupid pilot trick, at the same airport, I was flying with a friend not long after I had got my PPL, and I was setting up to enter the pattern, while I heard two other pilots both announcing they were on long, straight-in finals for opposing ends of the single runway (there was a significant enough wind that the choice mattered).  I was announcing my intentions to enter the pattern, and these two guys kept talking past each other, getting closer and closer and closer.  Finally I decided to just turn around and not get mixed up in that.  Eventually their little game of chicken resolved itself with one of them going around and entering the pattern to land in the appropriate direction.

Every spring, it seems like people knock the rust off their flying skills to some degree or other, and proceed to make weird decisions.  It's best to always be vigilant.

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Expect uncontrolled airfields in NJ to be very similar to traffic circles, round-abouts, and rotaries...

Everybody is moving, all the time.... the only radio they have is playing distracting loud music...

Many are following all the rules... some barely know the rules to follow them.... expect at least one to be from out of town or off the planet....

There will always be one... who knows the rules so well.... they will short cut them as they feel.... with speed, proximity, or crossing lanes....

Call it the Wild West if you like... the alternatives aren’t much better... five-way intersections, with stop signs.... :)

Class D airports are like an intersection with stop lights... trust, but verify!
 
We are all playing on the same team...

Best regards,

-a-

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Its even more fun when there is no wind and you meet head on traffic.  And people screw up all the time by using the wrong frequency.  Just because you can't hear them, it doesn't mean they are not talking.  They might be on the wrong frequency, or you might be on the wrong one.

 

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On 9/7/2020 at 1:11 AM, Eduleo said:

I did get his tail number after he departed to his home base and his ADSB kicked in for the first time. I'm itching to call the guy, but I'm not going to. Or should I?

You're right to be rattled, but as some others note here there could be a legit explanation. If you can contact him in a nonaggressive way once you're no longer pissed, it might be a useful experience for both (or maybe just a useless confrontation - no way to know).

On 9/7/2020 at 11:27 AM, philiplane said:

You've never flown in the pattern with planes that don't have radios? 

This dismissive comment always seems to get made whenever a pilot acts discourteously and/or dangerously at a nontowered field.  A Bonanza with working radios landing at night at a nontowered field without making radio calls certainly fits that category of behavior (assuming that's what really happened here).

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2 hours ago, DXB said:

 

This dismissive comment always seems to get made whenever a pilot acts discourteously and/or dangerously at a nontowered field.  A Bonanza with working radios landing at night at a nontowered field without making radio calls certainly fits that category of behavior (assuming that's what really happened here).

It's not a dismissive comment at all. It's an admonition to always check the pattern, and final, and never ASSUME the other guy has a radio, has it on the right frequency, and cares to use it. The OP assumed there would be radio contact with other pilots in the pattern, and in doing so, nearly got hit by a landing aircraft. And he would have been in the wrong. The best person to trust with your life, is yourself.

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1 hour ago, philiplane said:

It's not a dismissive comment at all. It's an admonition to always check the pattern, and final, and never ASSUME the other guy has a radio, has it on the right frequency, and cares to use it. The OP assumed there would be radio contact with other pilots in the pattern, and in doing so, nearly got hit by a landing aircraft. And he would have been in the wrong. The best person to trust with your life, is yourself.

I'm pretty sure the OP is already familiar with the lack of a requirement for radio calls at a nontowered field, and he doesn't convey an attitude of having ASSUMED anything in his statement that  "I look both ways for someone in the pattern, don't see anyone, radio silent, then as I cross the threshold I see a moving light coming on what could be a fast plane on a low base to the same rwy."  He sounds like he was both looking and listening, and his behavior sounds entirely reasonable and safe.  Of course there's no way to know exactly what happened here.  But if taken at face value, a landing pilot choosing to assert their right of way and land on an occupied runway after having made no calls while approaching the field or made a standard entry to the pattern is clearly the primary source of danger here.  

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