A Family Adventure


Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Preflight planning

June 14, 2015
Emilie Phillips

I had my own adventures flying to and from Taunton on the day Tyson flew with Rene and Bill.

I probably started my day off on the wrong foot because I focused on the cameras and filming. I brought my brand new tripod to try out. First, I rushed to get my preflight done and positioned myself to film Tyson’s takeoff, even rehearsing panning a few times. Then he took off in a nonstandard direction so the video clip wasn’t usable.

Next I mounted a GoPro on my airplane so I could be part of the video too, but I discovered I had the wrong one. So I taxied back and picked up the correct GoPro from the house. By this time, Tyson was most of the way to Taunton. I quickly checked the radio frequencies needed to enter Boston airspace and made sure there were no temporary flight restrictions. Then I was off.

I rarely enter class B airspace, so transiting was a little adventure for me. I easily contacted ATC well in advance of entering their airspace, but I didn’t hear a clearance to enter. I listened intently while checking the distance to the edge of the airspace. Just before I needed to divert, I called again, and after brief confusion was cleared in. Transit through the airspace was short and simple. Imediately after, I descended into Taunton. I reviewed the airport facility directory – runways, altitude, weather. There had been no time in the morning to discuss our destination, so I checked Tyson’s latest position report to guess which hangar I should head toward. The winds favored landing to the north. I called in to land runway 30 as did another airplane. When I turned final, I was concerned because I could not see the other airplane on the base leg. Something was not adding up. Finally, I figured it out: the runway numbers in front of me said 12 not 30. I aborted the landing imediately.

I felt pretty incompetent at this point. I had become so disoriented that I attempted landing towards someone else. I knew the root cause; I had skipped preflight planning that morning and never formed a proper picture of the arrival in my head. When I fly to familiar airports, I already have a mental map, so I can pick runways ad-hoc. Not so with unfamiliar airports.

Then we all went flying with Rene and Bill. There is a whole other post covering that trip. Tyson dropped me back at Taunton afterwards. We were flying back to Jaffrey for lunch, but had no significant time pressure. So, I decided to improve on my mistakes of the morning. I plotted a sequence of airports between Taunton and Jaffrey for practice, most of which I had never landed at.

Return flight

Return flight

My first stop was Mansfield (1B9). I studied everything I could think of before heading out from Taunton. I set up to land on their primary runway, 32, but as I approached I heard some traffic using the turf runway 04 which had much more favorable winds. I adroitly inserted myself into the two traffic streams and landed on the shorter turf runway.

My next planned stop was Hopedale Industrial (1B6), but their description in the airport facility directory included so many restrictions I concluded they must not want visitors. Instead I decided to go to Marlboro (9B1). Again, I studied everything about the airport and the route there. This airport had a significant gotcha — it is really short, only 1,600′. I knew I could land that short, but I have no takeoff performance data for my airplane. I decided to use my takeoff from Mansfield as an experiment. If I was off by half way down runway 04 and significantly above the ground after two thirds of the runway, then I would go to Marlboro.

The takeoff passed my criteria, so next off to Marlboro. I landed without issue. Then I discovered Marlboro was a one way runway with tall trees at one end. And the hills beyond the other end were a little higher and closer than I had expected. The wind blew across the runway, not favoring either direction. I taxied all the way to the end of the runway, past the rock that said “Think,” and took off. I had no problems taking off, but I was close enough to the trees and rising hill that I decided to note it as one point on my performance curve.

Next was Gardner (GDM). I have flown into Gardner several times before, so I spent less time planning this leg. I noticed I would be passing over Sterling which has an active glider club. In flight, I spotted one glider being towed toward Mt Wachusett. At Gardner, I landed slightly long and then hurried off to Jaffrey to catch up with Tyson and Isaac and see if they left me any lunch.