Thursday, June 14, 2007

Day 19-20: Almost Done With Tabletops

Getting close to the end. Today was the second-to-last day of Tabletops. Tomorrow can't come soon enough.

For problem 5, I got double-teamed by these two old codgers for instructors. Usually, you get one instructor with you, but today I got a bonus one listening in on me. Both were apparently having an extremely bad day because they let me have it. To be perfectly honest, this was my worst run of all of them. I didn't keep up enough with the traffic, made some dumb mistakes, and lost sight of who was who at some points. However, most of the instructors are pretty easy going. They will tell you "Listen, here's where you screwed up and you really need to work on A, B, and C. At the same, you're doing really well on X, Y and Z." They're usually constructive and firm, kind of like a parent - I guess they want to build you up rather than break you down. Regardless, I always tell my instructors to do what they have to do and say what they have to say - I can take it.

However, these two gave me a real talking-to the likes of which I've never experienced. I've never served in an armed force, but I think at this point I can relate to what a private feels like when he's "dressed-down" by a drill sergeant. It got so bad that at one point my regular instructor, who was overhearing the "debriefing" from across the room, had to step over and stop them.

I screwed up. There's no doubt about that. I made a couple of stupid mistakes which caused a chain reaction that had me stressed and frantic, trying to put the pieces together. However, I do not feel I deserved the talking-to I got. I've heard stories of students quitting on the spot because of these kinds of talk-downs. I now believe them. I'm pretty confident in my abilities to do this job, and after that 10 minute dressing down I can see how that door would look pretty inviting. Thankfully, instructors like them are the exception, not the rule.

Here's where I screwed myself up:
  • Ground sent me a FedEx 727... and he didn't catch that the bloody thing had an EDCT time (Expect Departure Clearance Time). So I've got this 727 who can't go anywhere for another 5 minutes, but he's blocking the entrance to runway 28R. So.... in an effort to get him out of the way, I taxied him over to Runway 28L. No big deal.

    However, by the time the clock closes in on his EDCT time, I had two touch and goes in the pattern, plus another aircraft. TnG's count as intersection departures, so when the large takes off you need to have 3 minutes between when the large/heavy goes wheels up and when the TnG crosses the threshold

    So, by putting this 727 on the left (instead of taxiing him on the runway, turning him right at Charlie, and putting him back on ground) I created a problem for myself because I now had to extend everybody who was in the pattern to create that 3 minutes.

  • The BIG one: I had a Bonanza waiting to depart from Runway 28R at taxiway Charlie. A large/heavy had just taken off, so he needs the 3 minute delay since he's taking off from an intersection. So, trying to get my traffic out without any undue delay, using taxiway Charlie I cross him on over to Runway 28L.

    I have two Touch and Goes in the pattern. One of them is already on base, another is coming up on the midfield. However, the Bonanza's a small and he's got plenty of time if he moves quickly. I went ahead and cleared him for takeoff.

    However, I said:


    ...instead of...


    I have this image burned in my mind of the instructor who was handling the departures reading back "Runway two-eight left, cleared for takeoff" and then taxiing the freaking Bonanza towards the departure end of the runway. There is a reason for this: the TSS computer simulator, if you don't give it the intersection it is taking off from, will taxi the aircraft to the runway threshold and start from there. This is why you say "...Runway Two-Eight Right at Charlie" or whatever intersection.

    However, what pissed me the hell off was that in 6 days of tabletops and dozens of times where I'd heard other students make that mistake and not give the intersection, this was the first time I'd actually seen the instructor do it. I had to send the TnG Cherokee around, I had to send to send the TnG Baron around, and I had to cancel the takeoff clearance for the Bonanza. It totally screwed my pattern because I also had some arrivals coming in that were entering the pattern from the south, and now I had spacing issues.

    I just hate the inconsistency, which is to be expected when you're working with 30 different instructors from 30 different backgrounds. On the very next run, I was working on the floor and the guy working local made the same exact mistake. So, I'm here, holding this airplane at 28L at Charlie, and I ask the floor instructor (a different guy than before) if I should taxi him to the runway end and then take him off. The instructor says "Oh, don't worry about it. Just take him off from the intersection." Gee, it would have been nice to have you on the floor last run...

    Let's just say I won't be missing any more intersection departure calls...

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