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Cleared to land, by following a Citabria??


rotor91
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All,

 

2 weeks ago, I was flying out of Torrance in CA. Took a buddy up, and we went around the Palos Verdes Pennisula, and went north, and back came back the same way, with the exception of shooting an approach to SMO. A great day I might ADD, you could almost touch Catalina Island(20+miles away), and the ocean was a sheet of glass.

 

Alright, I rambling....here's my scenario: I made my call, about 5 miles out, and was inbound for the company parking, with the ATIS, blah, blah. There was a Citabria on the downwind just north a beam, and I was off his left, and low. I believe I was around 900, and he was at 1700. ATC told me to follow the Citabria, and was #2 to land behind him. So, I followed the Citabria in, right on his tail, about 1/4 mile behind, and above him. ATC told me to expedite my approach, and terminate at the numbers, which I did. Held a hover, called ATC, and asked him what next? Because this guy, was a bit of an A-hole. He told me to keep the Citabria off my left(he had turned off the active, and was holding), and to expedite down the runway, which I did. Then as I passed him, he told me to continue to parking. Which is crossing over the grass to our parking. From the numbers to parking, is more than 1/2 the distance of the runway. Now there were 2 SNJ's on the west taxiway, on there way to the departure end. I say this, because I would normally make a turn inside the Citabria, and expedite to the grass, and/or taxiway.

 

So, would this be a normal approach?? In the history of flying, I have never followed a plane on final, always shot the approach to the taxiway, and/or my parking area. You think ATC did this, because of the SNJ's on the taxiway? The CFI at the school, just shrugged his shoulders, and said that ATC is a Jerk(being nice). After it was over, I wanted to call ATC(on the phone), and ask him why the approach, but never got around to it(I wasted about .2 on the Hobbs, following the Citabria). I believe in efficiency, and I think this wasn't efficient, but probably safer in the long run...I guess.

 

Thanks for listening and input in advance-

Rob

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All you have to say was the one magic word: UNABLE. That would have put the responsibilty back on him to find another acceptable way for you to land safely.

 

So HE is an a-hole because he gave you a clearance you didn't like.....and you didn't feel was safe......and you STILL followed it?????? I don't get it. Maybe if you would have said "unable" and he put you in a holding pattern for 20 minutes.

 

What's an SNJ?

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All you have to say was the one magic word: UNABLE. That would have put the responsibilty back on him to find another acceptable way for you to land safely.

 

So HE is an a-hole because he gave you a clearance you didn't like.....and you didn't feel was safe......and you STILL followed it?????? I don't get it. Maybe if you would have said "unable" and he put you in a holding pattern for 20 minutes.

 

What's an SNJ?

 

A SNJ is... ;)

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All you have to say was the one magic word: UNABLE. That would have put the responsibilty back on him to find another acceptable way for you to land safely.

 

So HE is an a-hole because he gave you a clearance you didn't like.....and you didn't feel was safe......and you STILL followed it?????? I don't get it. Maybe if you would have said "unable" and he put you in a holding pattern for 20 minutes.

 

What's an SNJ?

 

 

 

Delorean,

 

I didn't think it was safe, it seemed right as I was in the moment. I just thought it was a waste of time, BUT, because of the SNJ's(flight of 2) on the taxiway, right by my spot, I probably would have to hold on the taxiway, north of them. Plus the turnout for the active, is a diagonal turnout, and I know ATC doesn't want helicopters to overfly fixed wing(Citabria). I think either way, I would have had to suck up the extra time on the hobbs, because of the other aircraft being in the wrong place at the right time.

 

He was a-hole because of his tone in his voice(condescending)...."Great...another helicopter pilot". Funny too, cuz that's where the Robinson plant is...go figure!

 

I guess I was just curious, as if anyone has had to follow an airplane in on final? I've flown out of VNY and it's a high volume GA airport(something like 50,000 takeoff/landings per year). and I've been next to/behind/or ahead of an airplane that was on final, and I was on final for the taxiway(with no problems by ATC or fixed wing pilots). Just seemed weird. UNABLE....I learned something NEW today.

 

An SNJ is a WW2 aircraft(tail dragger).

 

Thanks for the input Delorean!

Rob

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At large airports they usually have wide runways and wide taxiways. It is SOP to keep the rotor wing flow separate from the fixed wing traffic. Often times at smaller airports the taxiways are much smaller and much closer to parked aircraft etc. so they want you to use the runway and then taxi to parking. I operate out of SNA and once in a while they will clear us to land on 19R with an exit at taxiway Hotel and then to parking. 19R is the main runway that all the 737 and 757's use for those who are not familiar. Usually it is because of conflicting traffic on the taxiway and it makes it easier for everyone. No one has to hold and wait. It sounds like the controller was trying to accommodate what he thought was the best flow for the majority and you got the short end of the stick. It also seems the real problem was the tone and way the controller conveyed the instructions, not the instructions themselves. I have flown into Torrance a few times and each time the controllers were less than enthusiastic about dealing with a helicopter. It seems that even though they have Robinson right there on the field they really don't like helicopters.

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I fly out of a busy Class D airport (KFCM - Flying Cloud, MN). We do a lot of work in the pattern, mostly to parallel runways. ATC prefers us to use the runways, and we are often #2 or #3 in the pattern with everything from Citabrias to Citations. It works just fine, as long as you are paying attention. When going from one end of the airport to the other, we are often directed down the length of the runways rather than direct - there may be taxiway traffic or aircraft landing on the parallel or maintenance vehicles or...

 

Why in your case ATC decided to take you to the runway is anybody's guess. Perhaps he was trying to reduce HIS workload at the particular time - by keeping you on the runway, he knew where you were. Who knows? Anyway, if you were put in danger, it's worth a call (being on a runway might feel weird, but it isn't necessarly dangerous). If you were merely inconvenienced or put off of a normal routine, well 0.1 of Hobbes time isn't really a reason to phone up tower.

 

Anyway, ATC folks are humans just like the rest of us, with good days and bad days. Most times it's easier just let the minor annoyances roll like water of a duck's back.

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Thanks Eagle and Flingwing!

 

I guess it may have been a simple as helping HIM out. It was just weird, in the history of flying, I've never followed a plane on final to the numbers. I have to say, I kept my speed up on final at about 70kts plus, and I bled it off, and right on the numbers! Heck, it impressed me!! :) Just chock one up to experience!

 

On my departure, I helped out the other ATC, by giving him the cloud base, but I got the OTHER guy on arrival.....naturally! :)

 

The CFI asked where I went at Santa Monica, and I told him Supermarine(air museum gone..bummer). He said they'll charge us for a landing fee, BUT I never set it down, just held a hover till a 172 took off, and I was off and running.

 

Anybody know what the landing fee's are for helicopters? I'm thinking $5-8?

 

Thanks-

Rob

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With all due respect, really, my thoughts on declaring "unable":

 

1. Why would you? You were cleared as #2 and would be at your destination soon and safety didn't seem to be an issue.

 

2. Obviously the controller thought that was the safest plan of action. Why deviate from it? And delay yourself even more.

 

3. At our local field we have excellent controllers who are VERY concerned about the pilots' safety. Imagine declaring "unable" and then ATC becomes concerned and asks if there is a problem. "umm....I AM able....I just don't want to." Not only do you look like a jerk, but you may have some problems ahead of you.

 

My advice: Don't tell ATC you're unable to do something unless you truly are UNABLE.

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Simple reason:

 

The pilot screws up, the pilot dies; the controller screws up, the pilot dies.

 

ATC is not PIC; I am PIC. If I don't like the instruction, I'm going to question it, request something different, or just say "unable" if I don't want anything to do with it.

 

Usually, on the initial call, I'll tell ATC exactly what I would like to do (how I want to transition, shoot my approach, or the path I'd like to takeoff.) 90% of the time, they'll let me do it because it was probably near what they where going to suggest.

 

But if you leave yourself open, ATC may pick something you don't like, then you have to question it. For instance, they may instruct you to fly 100-200 AGL through Class B under an approach path. In which case I'll say "UNABLE" and suggest an altitude since day 135 minimums are 300' AGL. If I ask for 300'+ AGL, and he says no, then what???

 

UNABLE is a great word to use on the radio. You don't have to explain why you are unable whether it be aerodyamically impossible, unsafe, or you're just unwilling. Say UNABLE, then make a request or wait for the next instruction.

 

And I don't really care if I p/o the controller at that point, I'm flying, not him. We had great controllers at my old airport--I knew them all quite well. Sometimes they made bad calls, sometimes I did, but in the end we were both safe and able to make it to Friday night "ground school" at Blayney's bar @ KSUS.

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Rotor91,

I am an air traffic controller at a pretty busy GA airport. Its a little hard to picture what was going on at the time from your description, but the controllers often times have other things going on than just you and the citabria that you aren't aware of. Sometimes that includes such things as airport operation restrictions like a part of a taxiway they request us to avoid overflight of for a couple minutes. That is just an example but there are countless reasons that play into our game plan when we are sequencing aircraft and the majority of these reasons you may never be aware of. Working air traffic is never the same depending on the situation. Sometimes it is better to put helos on the runway depending on the traffic picture in the air and on the ground, sometimes it is better to clear the helo directly to parking, sometimes it is better to clear the helo to a taxiway. We always try to work the flow of both air and vehicle traffic as efficiently as possible. This sometimes means expediting some aircraft or delaying some aircraft or keeping some aircraft out of the airspace altogether. There are also different frequencies up in the tower cab than just tower freq that may play into our traffic plan. As an example let me explain - as a tower controller the runways are mine but the taxiways are the ground controllers. If I send you across, or to a taxiway on my frequency I have to ask permission from ground to do so. If ground is busy and you are hovering on the runway with an aircraft behind you I have to get you going down the runway while coordinating with ground. As soon as I get it coordinated I turn you into parking. If I hold you on the runway while coordinating I have to send the aircraft behind you around (as a rule of thumb, depending on the runway size and aircraft type, only one aircraft on the runway at a time). By the aircraft going around behind you it affects the aircraft on crosswind which affects the next three aircraft on downwind which affects the IFR aircraft inbound which affects the aircraft just entering the airspace which affects the aircraft waiting at the runway to depart which affects.....well you get the picture. Or ground simply could have something going on to prevent you from going to parking where you wanted to and you were not aware of it because you were not listening to their frequency. Again this is just an example not saying this is what happend to you. The air traffic picture can be extremelly complex, and the possible solutions to getting aircraft in and out of an airport are infinite.

 

You mentioned that you felt like calling the tower to discuss the issue, I would strongly suggest that you do this if you don't understand what the controller just did and talk over the procedure they just used. (The thing you don't want to do is argue over the air, the controller may just have you exit the airspace and hold). I also strongly suggest to any pilot to make a visit to your local control tower and learn what we do up there. We are only people just like the pilots and we to have bad days.

 

As far as Delorean says

 

"UNABLE is a great word to use on the radio. You don't have to explain why you are unable whether it be aerodyamically impossible, unsafe, or you're just unwilling. Say UNABLE, then make a request or wait for the next instruction.

 

I would be careful using this word. If you are truly unable say so, but if you just want to save .2 on the hobbs or take a short cut I wouldn't suggest using it (you may get delayed more by the alternative plan). Air traffic is a two way street just as you can say unable so can we, like "unable remain clear of the class delta expect a 15 minute delay for traffic" or "unable flight following" or "unable hold you position" or "unable extend downwind expect base in 2 miles". the only difference is if you decide to enter the airspace or turn base anyway you will be the one dealing with FSDO not the controllers. But we are really here to help and work together with the pilots and not mess with them for the fun of it, although we do have excellent memories and tend to accommodate requests from pilots alot more readily if they work with us and are not "problem children".

 

And as far as writing "The pilot screws up, the pilot dies; the controller screws up, the pilot dies."

Delorean I'm sure you intent wasn't so, but it seems like you think controllers are flippant about the pilots safety. "Oh well we screwed up the aircraft crashed but were still here so anyway whats for dinner?" This couldn't be farther from the truth. Saftey is ALWAYS at the forefront of everything we do.

 

Anyway sorry for the long post, If you have any more questions shoot me an email.

 

Zenmaster

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And as far as writing "The pilot screws up, the pilot dies; the controller screws up, the pilot dies."

Delorean I'm sure you intent wasn't so, but it seems like you think controllers are flippant about the pilots safety. "Oh well we screwed up the aircraft crashed but were still here so anyway whats for dinner?" This couldn't be farther from the truth. Saftey is ALWAYS at the forefront of everything we do.

 

Regardless of Delorean's intent, or ATC's dedication to safety, the statement is correct. If the pilot screws up, the pilot dies. If the controller screws up, the pilot dies. So unless the aircraft crashes into the tower, you will not directly experience a screw up. Granted, you could be suspended or terminated, and there is the mental anguish, but your still alive.

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Regardless of Delorean's intent, or ATC's dedication to safety, the statement is correct. If the pilot screws up, the pilot dies. If the controller screws up, the pilot dies. So unless the aircraft crashes into the tower, you will not directly experience a screw up. Granted, you could be suspended or terminated, and there is the mental anguish, but your still alive.

 

Photoflyer, with all due respect, I am not debating whether the statement is correct or not. My point is, controllers are not flippant about safety and would never intentionally put a pilot in jeopardy, knowing the result is far less severe for us than the pilot.

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Photoflyer, with all due respect, I am not debating whether the statement is correct or not. My point is, controllers are not flippant about safety and would never intentionally put a pilot in jeopardy, knowing the result is far less severe for us than the pilot.

 

I don't think the intent of the statement is to portray controllers as being flippant about safety. It's intent is to illustrate to pilots that even though the controller is telling you what to do and when to do it, it is still your job as pilot in command to remain safe. It illustrates that the controller can tell you to do something unsafe (albeit, unintentionally) and if you follow those instructions you could end up dead because you didn't say something. As a pilot, up in the air, I have a much different idea of what is and isn't safe. And even if a particular action is safe, but I am uncomfortable with it, I will say "unable." There are dozens (if not hundreds) of pilots flying at any particular moment, and from the pilots point of view, his is the only aircraft that matters.

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zenmaster

 

I also strongly suggest to any pilot to make a visit to your local control tower and learn what we do up there. We are only people just like the pilots and we to have bad days.

 

Zenmaster,

 

Good post and explanation.

 

I often wonder how many pilots ever go up to talk to you boys. I have on numerous time throughtout my career of 28 years and counting, and it is always a good thing to do.

 

I still find it amazing the when we sit someone between the collective and cyclic, they instantly become the "only one of importance" landing at the airport.

 

I've always thought that because of the great flexibility we have in the helicopter, that we are/should be willing to do as directed (always within safety concerns of course) to help traffic flow as smoothly as possible.

 

Not being at this instance, it is hard to say what or how it should have gone, but in my experience, I can't remember ever been giving direction from ATC that would put me in any immediate danger. (No IFR experience, so strictly VFR we're talking here)

 

We are only one of many aircraft moving around out there, and I for one appreciate the way that I have always been treated by ATC. Usually, if there is a problem, it will be me, as I bumble around in an environment/airport that I am not always fully familiar with. :unsure:

 

Been a long time since I was in training, but it should be a mandatory part of the pilot training to go up and "walk a mile in your shoes"!!

 

The pilot screws up, the pilot dies; the controller screws up, the pilot dies.

 

What a crock.......... :angry: (If you think that is the case, you're not in control of your aircraft.)

 

All you have to say was the one magic word: UNABLE. That would have put the responsibilty back on him to find another acceptable way for you to land safely.

 

This is a TEAM, and if you think you can make it work better for YOU by saying "unable", you will be frustrated at more airports than you thought possibile.

 

To all those in ATC, keep up the good work... B)

 

I'll take my part of the flight, rather than yours,...

... mine is easier. :D :D :D

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Use your ADM if you don't feel warm and fuzzy request a different approach. Sometimes us helicopter pilots for get to add that one little word in our radio calls "Helicopter n #".Request straight up parking at your pad. By the way what were u doing flying to a runway those are for planes or are u a robbie pilot. Maybe flying for silver state.

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Zenmaster,

 

Good post and explanation.

 

I often wonder how many pilots ever go up to talk to you boys. I have on numerous time throughtout my career of 28 years and counting, and it is always a good thing to do.

 

I still find it amazing the when we sit someone between the collective and cyclic, they instantly become the "only one of importance" landing at the airport.

 

I've always thought that because of the great flexibility we have in the helicopter, that we are/should be willing to do as directed (always within safety concerns of course) to help traffic flow as smoothly as possible.

 

Not being at this instance, it is hard to say what or how it should have gone, but in my experience, I can't remember ever been giving direction from ATC that would put me in any immediate danger. (No IFR experience, so strictly VFR we're talking here)

 

We are only one of many aircraft moving around out there, and I for one appreciate the way that I have always been treated by ATC. Usually, if there is a problem, it will be me, as I bumble around in an environment/airport that I am not always fully familiar with. :unsure:

 

Been a long time since I was in training, but it should be a mandatory part of the pilot training to go up and "walk a mile in your shoes"!!

What a crock.......... :angry: (If you think that is the case, you're not in control of your aircraft.)

This is a TEAM, and if you think you can make it work better for YOU by saying "unable", you will be frustrated at more airports than you thought possibile.

 

To all those in ATC, keep up the good work... B)

 

I'll take my part of the flight, rather than yours,...

... mine is easier. :D :D :D

 

 

Skids up, thanks for the kind words, I really appreciate it :)

 

Photoflyer, you're correct in saying "unable" IF you feel the operation is unsafe or you cannot physically comply with the instruction. You're also correct, there have been accidents where the pilot complies with an atc instruction with fatal results. Example a pilot is on downwind not quite configured to land and is asked to do a short approach. The instruction in and of itself was perfectly safe but the pilot complies, and spins the plane in. The pilot should have said "unable short approach". Just be very careful not to abuse the term. Like Skids Up said It can and does cause alot of frustration. I do know where you guys are coming from though, I not only control, but hold a fixed wing and helicopter ppl and am working on my helicopter comm rating.

What it all boils down to is like Skids Up also said, we are all a team and the system works so well because there is give and take on both sides.

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I often wonder how many pilots ever go up to talk to you boys. I have on numerous time throughtout my career of 28 years and counting, and it is always a good thing to do.

 

 

Skids Up I forgot this in my last post but I have been controlling for awhile, and I have only seen a handful of pilots come and visit. 2 of the years were affected by 9-11 but come on guys and gals, come up to the towers. We get lonely up there all by ourselves. ;)

 

Zenmaster

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Happy New Year Everyone!

 

Much of what I would say has been said already.

 

I'm in agreement that tower visits are a good thing to do. I have friends who work ATC and regularly go and visit them. It gives you another perspective on things. I have every ounce of respect for ATC after going up.

 

On a similar note, I encourage pilots to be familiar with 7110.65. For those who don't know this document, it contains the 'Controllers' guidelines. Being familiar with this not only allows you to better understand the controller's position, but it also allows me to know when I am being 'messed about'.

 

I also agree that having the confidence to say 'Unable' when appropriate is important. However, I think Delorean's advice (intentionally or not) came over rather harsh and may be suggested a too casual use of that phrase in order to get things done your way. Especially as, from what I can deduce, there was nothing 'unsafe' with the controllers instruction. As has been said, that's not what 'unable' is for. Saying 'unable' may cause more problems in the long run.

 

My last observation is that there is possibly a failure in helicopter training (some schools) to intergrate training at locations, such as towered airports or airports which do not have special helicopter procedures. Likewise, sometimes a student lacks experience with operating at a busy 'helicopter' friendly airport, which just exasberates the helicopter pilots and controllers at that airport.

 

In the history of flying, I have never followed a plane on final
- Don't overcook it too much. How many hours have you got? This is actually quite a common procedure.

 

All too often, student pilots are training solely in the safety of their local (or nearby) airports where the controllers and fixed-wing pilots are used to them or where there are special procudures. They lack experience of being in the real world where in fact, 99% of the aviation world look at helicopters as bizarre marvels of engineering, and not much else!

 

As for the situation described at the beginning of this thread, I remember thinking to myself, a) it sounds like the direct path to parking would have overflown 2 taxiways and 3 aircraft, and B) there could be any number of reasons why the controller chose that course of action. It doesn't seem like that big a deal to me.

 

Because this guy, was a bit of an A-hole.
- Probably his thoughts about you too!

 

All the best for the new year!

 

Joker

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Happy New Year Everyone!

 

Much of what I would say has been said already.

 

I'm in agreement that tower visits are a good thing to do. I have friends who work ATC and regularly go and visit them. It gives you another perspective on things. I have every ounce of respect for ATC after going up.

 

On a similar note, I encourage pilots to be familiar with 7110.65. For those who don't know this document, it contains the 'Controllers' guidelines. Being familiar with this not only allows you to better understand the controller's position, but it also allows me to know when I am being 'messed about'.

 

I also agree that having the confidence to say 'Unable' when appropriate is important. However, I think Delorean's advice (intentionally or not) came over rather harsh and may be suggested a too casual use of that phrase in order to get things done your way. Especially as, from what I can deduce, there was nothing 'unsafe' with the controllers instruction. As has been said, that's not what 'unable' is for. Saying 'unable' may cause more problems in the long run.

 

My last observation is that there is possibly a failure in helicopter training (some schools) to intergrate training at locations, such as towered airports or airports which do not have special helicopter procedures. Likewise, sometimes a student lacks experience with operating at a busy 'helicopter' friendly airport, which just exasberates the helicopter pilots and controllers at that airport.

 

- Don't overcook it too much. How many hours have you got? This is actually quite a common procedure.

 

All too often, student pilots are training solely in the safety of their local (or nearby) airports where the controllers and fixed-wing pilots are used to them or where there are special procudures. They lack experience of being in the real world where in fact, 99% of the aviation world look at helicopters as bizarre marvels of engineering, and not much else!

 

As for the situation described at the beginning of this thread, I remember thinking to myself, a) it sounds like the direct path to parking would have overflown 2 taxiways, and B) there could be any number of reasons why the controller chose that course of action. It doesn't seem like that big a deal to me.

 

- Probably his thoughts about you too!

 

All the best for the new year!

 

Joker

 

 

Zenmaster-Thanks for the input, greatly appreciated! The pressure you guys go through, is absolutely amazing, you have to be on YOUR game, your whole shift! I do want to go up and see ATC, never been up there. Although one year, I brought Marie Callender pies to them(met them at the security door), boy were they happy! One night, I was coming into VNY, and there was no one on with ATC, and I asked if I could shoot an approach to the numbers on the active, and ATC said SURE. I actually had a brief 90 second conversation with him, and he was a really nice guy, and very accomodating! The ATC that I dealt with that day, has a rep. of not being well received.

 

Like I said before, I understand what ATC did. Inbound, I did not notice the SNJ's on the taxiway near my parking, til I turned final. Holding on the numbers in a hover, was a little overkill, to give the Citabria plenty of time to turn off the active. Also, Zenmaster explained that ATC is talking to Ground, coordinating the movement. Like I've said before, I've flown at the one of the busiest GA airports in the country(VNY), and I've never been sequenced behind a fixed wing. Torrance is a smaller GA airport, so space is limited.

 

No Bubba, I don't fly at SSH...I love the R22 bashing! Joker, I have 265 hours(not a lot of hours by any stretch, but a lot flights out of VNY) I will check out that document though...sounds like good information to know.

 

Cheers-

Rob

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Which tower do you work Zenmaster?

 

There's one particular controller at TOA that seems to always be in a bad mood. With the exception of this guy, the controllers I've come come across are awesome (even when I'm being a noob and messing everything up for them).

 

 

I've actually worked at a couple towers and currently work in the puget sound region in Washington state. I'd tell you exactly where I work but it's classified. I could tell ya but then I'd have to kill ya. B) .

 

P.S....keep those marie callander pies coming we always accept bribes :unsure: ....errrr I mean "gifts".

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