Whenever there is a big aviation event I’m always torn between anticipation and trepidation. Great that we have lots of pilots flying into an airport – but the collision potential, both in the air and on the ground, goes up. AOPA just concluded a very successful Summit in Long Beach with 1,101 aircraft flying into LGB. There were about 2,600 operations during the three day period with no significant problems.
There were a few cases where people got lost -
Pilot: I’d like to taxi to parking.
Tower: Where are you?
Pilot: I haven’t a clue.
Tower: What direction are you facing?
Pilot: West, I think.
Tower: Describe what you see out ahead of you…..
And so it went – might sound silly but this is so much better than having a “deal” as the controllers like to call it. We can work it out, as the Beatles famously said. During an LGB runway safety evaluation years ago we actually got an LGB tower controller disoriented driving around on the surface at night. Seems that the view from 180 feet up is a little clearer than when viewed at light aircraft cockpit height.
Why is this important and who cares? It speaks well of all who participated and to our friends in ATC. LGB has one of the most complex airport layouts in the country and used to hold the dubious distinction as one of the worst locations for a runway incursion. Through a major education effort by FAA, the Air Safety Institute and special assistance from the tower we have gotten through two Expos and one Summit with NO runway incursions. It shows what can be done if people concentrate.
Air Safety Institute has a first class online course, flash cards and Safety advisors. But in the final analysis there are only a few critical things a pilot needs to know – cold: The red and white runway entrance sign, the yellow on black location sign and the black on yellow direction sign.
“Line up and wait” and “Taxi to …” are significant changes. One thing we are now recommending at non-towered airports is to actually stop at the runway entrance or prior to crossing the crosswind runway to get in the habit of stopping at the red and white sign unless cleared. It’s a technique you could live with. CFI’s – start teaching it!
But as the warm glow of LGB fades, the most important runway crossing or entrance is the next one. Think about it.