There’s one thing I’ve noticed recently about my flying – I have a difficult time flying a straight line. Oh, it’s not that I can’t follow the pink line, it’s that a straight line bores me. Whether I’m flying just 38 miles like yesterday to KBAK, or 138 miles or 1380 miles, I’m all over the place! If I see a creek, I follow it. If I see smoke in the distance, I explore it. I’ve lost the ability to fly straight ahead. Absolutely anything and everything interesting on the ground sucks me in and I can’t help but depart my course and fly there. 🙂
So yesterday my flight path back home to KMQJ was a real mess, at least in the eyes’ of a Point A to Point B pilot. During my short flight I was up and down, turning and banking for miles above a crooked creek, over-flying a rock quarry, paralleling a highway, and before I knew it I ended up back at home base. I probably don’t have to tell you I loved it and that flying doesn’t get much funner than meandering where ever a whim takes you.
Which brings me to the point and left me wondering if, and for how long, my every move had been followed. It boiled down to a couple of brief exchanges on unicom that left me puzzled enough I cut short my flying.
Here’s how it came down. I departed home base, a non-controlled field on the east side of Indianapolis, Indiana where we use the fairly discrete unicom frequency, 122.975. I flew my Decathlon to a favorite, frequently visited airport restaurant, nearby Blackerby’s Hangar 5 Restaurant at KBAK. It’s a Class D airport where the controllers are relaxed enough to make even new pilots feel competent. The food is super cheap, delish, and it’s a great spot to meet flying friends – today for a late lunch. With our later arrival, we hung out past their closing time and I’m pretty sure, tip and all, they were happy to see us all head out 30+ minutes after they closed.
Returning northbound and approaching my airport, I did a mid-field crosswind for 07, left downwind approx. 800′ AGL, base, then final and landed. Oh baby, it was a nice one and when I taxied off the runway on such a nice day, it seemed like a shame to give it up already. Oh what the heck, there’s always time for more touch-and-goes! As usual, I kept ’em all tight in, reporting my position on the freq. and getting the most bang for my buck; all variations of power off at the end of the runway, left base very close in, slip-slip, land on the numbers or close as possible, then power up and around again. What a blast!
I was in my own world having as much fun as a person can have when a rather excited female voice emanates from the FBO unicom broadcasting “Any aircraft in our airspace, report!” At that time there were 3 aircraft communicating in the area on 122.975 and the other two did no respond.
Me: “Decathlon just off 07”. Unicom: “What’s your altitude?” Me: “10 feet!”
Time passes and I continue flying and shooting touch and go’s nearly forgetting about the odd exchange. My fun continued until the lady on unicom, obviously stressed out and nervous, comes back again with the comment “Um, I’m getting phone calls that um, readings from an airplane at this airport are interfering with aircraft at 37,000 feet.” What – me? 37,000′? Totally confused I responded “I’m squawking 1200 and turning “ALT” off”. No more was said and I don’t know if I was the offending party, but seemed like somebody thought I was. I’m scratching my head because most of my airtime was below pattern altitude and my tight little, repetitive patterns were only high enough for my transponder to be interrogated very briefly.Â
The whole little episode left me visualizing airline pilots screaming at Center about me — or was it Center screaming to the FBO about me?!! Yikes, that was enough for me. I taxied back to my hangar, put her up and drove to the FBO to check in. Turns out the gal on unicom received more than one call from a phone number that read “Govn”. They did not identify who they were but were clearly distressed about an aircraft communicating an incorrect altitude. Me? Or maybe one of the other aircraft transmitting nearby? I don’t know. But I’m guessing it’s time for a transponder encoder readout check.