“So, you are working from the big airport today,” says a member of the line crew.
Later in the day, the CFI will reverse the drill—taking a towered-airport-trained student into the world of common traffic advisory frequencies (CTAF) and “uncontrolled” airports for the first time.
In either case, the sooner the better. Regardless of whether your airport is magenta or blue on paper, make sure that an airport of the other color quickly becomes just as comfortable a place to fly from as your home aerodrome.
For the student transitioning from magenta to blue, an obvious difference to be mastered is learning how to communicate with air traffic controllers during arrivals and departures. But that’s not the whole story. Flying right-hand patterns, or partial patterns, and making position reports can be part of the unfamiliar drill: “November Six Two Zero Tango Tango, radar contact, report two-mile right base to Runway 33.”)
Don’t err by assuming that the student pilot who transitions from a blue airport to a magenta field will have an easier time of it because of the experience acquired at the busy blue base. This student must learn the procedures for selecting the proper runway to use on a calm day or with no local traffic or Unicom operator available to offer suggestions at the nontowered airport.
Also, not all magenta airports are as tranquil as the one described. Picking one’s way into a plentifully populated purple pattern can present a daunting introduction to nontowered airport arrivals and departures. So monitor CTAF traffic carefully, keeping two points in mind: Many nontowered airports in an area may use the same CTAF. And, no-radio aircraft are common members of nontowered-airport communities. This is still visual flying!
Two airports may be separated by 10 nautical miles but seem worlds apart. Paying frequent visits on your practice flights will make them both feel like home.