Pilots entering Castle Airport’s airspace must establish communications with the Atwater, Calif., control tower, airport manager Scott Malta reiterated this week.
Many pilots apparently remain unaware of the December 2006 shift in Castle’s status to that of Class D airspace. Others believe that they are landing at Merced Municipal Airport, which is seven miles away, he said. Malta issued the reminder to pilots because of the potential for disaster. Since the airspace’s redesignation, “we’ve had 15 pilot deviations; that’s 15 too many,” he said.
In one instance, an airplane landed in the opposite direction of other aircraft; in another, a pilot strayed into a temporary flight restriction imposed because of Air Force One’s arrival nearby; in yet another, the pilot of a low-wing airplane nearly struck a Cessna he did not know was directly below. Several pilots relied on sectional charts dated 2000 and 2001.
The errors testify to “poor preflight planning or poor pilot performance once airborne,” Malta said. “As pilots,” he added, “we cannot allow ourselves any slack when it comes to preparing for flight or while we are flying.”