Tuesday, May 4, 2010
The Chicago Air & Water Show
Inbound to the staging airport while the air show is active
Gary Airport is 7 nm from my home field, Lansing Municipal Airport, just inside the Illinois border. I’ve been a pilot for nearly 20 years, and I’ve landed at Gary many times, but on this occasion, I did more preflight planning than I’d do on some cross-country flights. My planning started a couple of days before the show with a phone call to Gary and a chat with the guys in the tower. They informed me that they were open during the air show, but performing aircraft had priority. Initially, I had intended to fly into Gary before the start of the show, but now I decided to arrive while the show was active. The folks in the tower made it sound easy enough, so I went ahead and rented a Cessna 152.
A seven-mile direct flight from Lansing to Gary is a challenge. There’s simply not enough time to climb out of Lansing (an uncontrolled field), tune into Gary’s ATIS and contact the tower before entering Gary’s Class D airspace. Once airborne, I found myself loitering about five miles south of Gary for a chance to hear the ATIS and observe any traffic. Sure enough, I noticed a C-130 lumbering down a long final approach to runway 30. I keyed the mic: “Gary tower, Cessna 6101Q, five south at two thousand, five hundred, inbound for landing with November.”
“Cessna 01Q, Gary tower, report downwind for runway 20,” was the response. Yes, I was in! There was no looking back.
This flight was a big deal because I’d be in a flight environment that’s unusual for me. There was a nearby TFR, an active air show and a large amount of jet activity. As I reported my downwind while overflying the field, I saw nearly 20 military jets parked on the ramp. I was cleared to land for runway 20, and as I turned my base leg, I noticed a contingent of cars parked down the airport road—their drivers taking in the air show and waving at me as I flew over on final. “They’re waving at me—in a Cessna 152,” I thought to myself. I felt like I was part of the air show! With all of this precision flying going on around me, I managed to hold my own and grease one while straddling the fat centerline of runway 20 (not exactly hard to do in a 152). I was instructed to taxi to the transient parking area on the west side of the field.
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