The weather that had been overcast and misty all week finally lifted on Friday. So, during my lunch break, I decided to fly to Fulton County Airport (KFTY) once again to finish up the requirement of three solo towered airport landings. I had planned to fly over at 3,500 feet or so, but clouds kept me around 2,750 or so. The flight was pretty uneventful, which is always a good thing. Shortly after departing, I called up Atlanta approach and requested flight following. I’ve been fortunate during my training to have received flight following every time I requested. I request it on all of my cross country flights, as it makes transitioning airspace much easier (to me). Less call ups and more handoffs. It seems simpler to me, and I highly recommend flight following as often as you can get it.
I noticed as I talked to approach that the radio reception seemed to be breaking up, and it was somewhat difficult to hear what the controllers were saying. As I approached KFTY, tower informed me there was a Gulfstream inbound from the north landing ahead of me. I had to ask him to repeat due to the radio issue. I was able to make out the transmission the second time and spotted the Gulfstream turning onto final approach. I had to extend my “normal” pattern just a bit to allow for the traffic to clear. Once cleared to land, I made my base and final turns, setting up to land on runway 26. The controller reminded me to watch out for wake turbulence, which I had already made a mental note of. I landed a little longer than normal to touchdown beyond the Gulfstream’s touch down point, thus avoiding the wake turbulence. The landing was a pretty good one – very similar to the last landing I’d made last time I flew, so I was feeling good. I turned off and taxied to the Hill Aircraft FBO to hop out for a moment.
As I parked a lineman walked up to the plane and said “I haven’t seen one of these in years! A classic!” The Tri-Pacer always garners a lot of attention. As I was getting out of the plane, he told me of a family that used to fly into an airport near where he lived every weekend and setup a picnic under the wing of their Tri-Pacer. Sounds like a lot of fun, and a great family activity. He asked if I needed fuel or if I wanted to pay the ramp fee. Ramp fee?? What is this ramp fee you speak of?!? Okay, just kidding. While I have heard of ramp fees, this was the first time I had incurred one. With the purchase of 5 gallons or more the ramp fee is waived. However, I had just filled up at West Georgia and had burned about 20-30 minutes of fuel max (about 4-3 gallons). Not only could I not hold the fuel, I would come out about $10 ahead by just paying the ramp fee. Hill Aviation did have a very nice FBO and the staff was very helpful and polite. If I were to need fuel (albeit a little pricey) I wouldn’t hesitate to stop in at Hill in the future.
I loaded back up in Red and prepared to contact ground. Since this was only the second time I had contacted ground for taxi clearance (my other landings were full stop taxi backs) I prepped myself a little while still in the FBO. The initial ground call went well. From Hill, the taxi instructions were very simple, so it was easy to make my way towards runway 26. There is a run up area just off to the right of the taxiway at the departure end of runway 26. There I did my runway and proceeded to the hold short line at 26, just ahead of an Elite jet. I made my radio call letting the tower know that I was ready to depart. Silence. I made the call again. Silence. Although I didn’t hear any activity on the frequency, I thought maybe the controller was busy, so I waited a few moments. During that time I tinkered with the radio volume a little. The next time I made my radio call, I got a response. Then the tower asked how I read him. “Loud and clear.” Apparently he had been responding to each of my calls, I just couldn’t hear them. Adjusting the volume knob must have resolved the issue. I was cleared to takeoff and didn’t waste any more time departing. I was instructed to make a 30 degree left turn on climb out to clear the departure path for the jet behind me, who was making a right turn during their departure.
After being cleared for a frequency change to Atlanta departure, the controller at Fulton County said “that’s a good looking little Tri-Pacer you got there.” Big Red seems to get a lot of attention wherever we go! I contacted departure, which was very busy. The radio issue was still making it difficult to understand the incoming transmissions. After several minutes the controller got back with me and provided a squawk code for flight following. I continued to work on the radio problem by tinkering with the squelch and volume on the intercom box. This seemed to greatly improve the audio, and I didn’t have any further issues with the radio during my flight.
As I was about 10 miles out from West Georgia, I contacted departure and immediately received approval for frequency change and radar services were terminate. I made the initial CTAF call about 8 miles out, switched over and grabbed the AWOS update. Winds were calm, so I decided to cross midfield and enter the left downwind for runway 35. This is usually my technique when winds are calm, since I can land in the direction of the hangar – less taxiing. Lazy, I know, but oh well. 🙂 This flight took care of my third required solo flight to a towered airport. Now all that remains (as far as minimum requirements) is another 0.9 hours of night flying. Then on to a ton of checkride prep!