June 24, 2014
By Dan Namowitz
Rumor had it that Bud wasn’t flying anymore, but that information was closely held by the instructors at the local flight school.
Bud was a kind of guardian angel watching over student pilots, instrument trainees, and other pilots on the field. His strip sat directly across the bay from the nontowered airport where flight training was intensive, and where the ramp, in summer, crowds a wondrous variety of bizjets, turboprops, and high-performance aircraft.
Months might roll by without anyone seeing Bud. Then, at sunrise—or in the midst of midday mayhem—a no-radio Taylorcraft would appear, just long enough to confirm a Bud sighting.
"Look out for Bud," was all an instructor had to say to a trainee. Bud had unknowingly become a see-and-avoid metaphor for countless aviators.
Why spoil that by confirming rumors of retirement?
Such local lore was unknown to the airport’s transient clientele, arriving and departing in high-tech IFR splendor, often with VIP passengers aboard. Some of the crews had a nice feel for the traffic mix; others didn’t like it, not one little bit. You could hear the uncertainty in their voices on the radio.
What prompts the reminiscence of Bud now is an Aviation Safety Reporting System account of a near-collision at a nontowered airport between a turboprop single circling to land from a practice instrument approach, and a Cessna single landing on another runway—and what it suggests about pilot perceptions of nontowered airports’ operations
"We made all the proper radio calls on the appropriate frequency and did not hear anyone else in the pattern," reported the instructor aboard the Pilatus PC-12, faulting the Cessna for apparently being absent from the frequency until after both aircraft went around.
On the other hand, the PC-12 had selected for landing a runway with a quartering tailwind. Perhaps it was reasonable to expect the Cessna "to land on the runway that's most aligned with the wind."
In what might be characterized as a less-is-more assertion, the instructor’s narrative offered a summary of company policy for VFR operations: "We fly VFR during passenger carrying operations in congested airspace quite often, and we make it a point to always have one pilot looking out the window when VFR. Specifically, we stress this concept when flying a particular airplane we operate that has a 'glass cockpit.'"
Never stop looking for Bud.
Bud: Heads up for the PC-12.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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