It happened to me again. Just a few weeks ago I discovered another little rent in the fabric, another hole in my private pilot training.
I flew to Atlantic City International (KACY), an airport in Class Charlie airspace, to take in a Saturday night concert on the boardwalk. I chose ACY because I’d been told that, for a towered airport, the tower and ground personnel there were nice and there was a lot of GA traffic mixing it up with Spirit Airlines flights and the local Air National Guard. (In spite of an instrument rating and more than 500 hours in my logbook, I still say “uhhhhh” on the radio. A lot. So I tend to stay away from towered airports in general.)
So far, so good. I had my taxiway diagram ready when I landed, found the airport’s one FBO without problems and without crossing any active runways. My son and I spent a great night in Atlantic City enjoying the Steven Tyler’s ear-piercing rendition of “Dream On” (it might be one of his last before he goes off to be an “American Idol” judge, we figured).
The next day, in near-100-degree heat on the ramp, I called ground and told them I was ready to go. “Do you have your clearance?” the ground controller asked.
“Ummmm…” (I told you I do this on the radio.) “I’m departing VFR,” I said.
“Well,” the controller said kindly, “we’re a Class C facility so you need a clearance. Contact Clearance Delivery on XXX.XX.” I apologized, copied the frequency, and thought, “Now what?”
There it was—another hole in my training. I had no memory of ever learning about this, and since I don’t fly instruments much and wasn’t current, I couldn’t just file and go. So I took a deep breath, called Clearance, and confessed. “I need a VFR departure clearance but I don’t know what you need.”
Fortunately, she was as gracious as the other controllers had been, and asked for N-number, type, destination, and altitude. She assigned me a squawk code and told me to fly runway heading at or below 1,100 feet until released by the tower. Pretty soon we were on our way back to Maryland, and I had learned (or relearned) something.
This happens from time to time—a gap in knowledge. Please don’t think I lay all of this at the feet of my primary instructor. It’s quite possible we talked about this in ground school, and I forgot. But it’s also quite possible that we never talked about this. Stuff happens. Little things slip through the cracks. There are a bazillion different rules and regulations that we’re required to absorb; some of them stick and others don’t (and that’s why we have a flight review every two years whether we need one or not).
If and when this happens to you, note it, fill the hole with the required information, and move on. Better still, dig deeper and see what other holes might have developed in the fabric of your knowledge. For me, this means brushing up on my communications requirements, and maybe–just maybe–I’ll get instrument current again. The IFR ticket is a handy thing to have for more reasons than one.—Jill W. Tallman