Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Forgiving FAA

Don’t always assume you’ll be busted

My altitude was sometimes off by as much as plus or minus 400 feet, and I was afraid I'd have a phone number to call when I got on the ground. No matter. The immediate problem was to get the airplane on the ground in the first place without breaking anything.

Fortunately, my ADI seemed unaffected. The controller was understanding, but I was having extreme difficulty maintaining any semblance of the proper altitude while guessing at the proper heading, watching the whiskey compass take wild swings through 60 degrees.

Somehow, I managed to maintain a vector toward the Long Beach runway 30 final approach course. The controller advised that weather was down to 300 and one in rain and fog before she cut me loose.
The call never came. there was no message waiting at home. a week later, I was still waiting for the phone to ring with the administrator calling to suggest I turn in my license. it never happened.
I was handed off to the final controller, only to have him take me through the ILS and vector me out over the ocean for another try, this time from the less congested south side.

Finally, in desperation, after two aborts that never even reached the localizer, the controller offered me a no-gyro approach, and I accepted gratefully. I had flown a similar procedure in practice with the RCAF controllers at Goose Bay, Labrador, but I had never done an approach for real.

The controller established me on an intercept heading by commanding "start turn" and "stop turn." I had only to maintain altitude and standard rate turns on his command. He apparently handed off most of his traffic to other controllers and concentrated solely on helping me through the rough spots.

With only the pilot's artificial horizon and the altimeter to monitor, I was able to fly under a semblance of control, and within a few minutes, the controller had me approaching the ILS from the southeast, with the needles beginning to swing in the proper direction.

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