Posted by lex, on July 2, 2010

The new gig – I’ve been at it two years, and still think of it that way – is comparatively ungenerous in the article of paid time off, at least as contrasted to the Navy, which offered 30 days of leave per year and six month cruises to ensure your can’t use much of it. As a consulting gig, PTO is doubly expensive, since 1) you still get paid for it (hence the “paid” bit) and, 2) the company doesn’t get to charge on your hours worked. So it’s fifteen days a year plus federal holidays (10), but the good news is that – unlike the Navy – you only charge against the hours you actually avoid.

For example, if a naval officer wanted to take a Friday off, followed by the upcoming Monday, that’d be charged as four days of leave, since technically you’re never off duty. In the civilian world on the other hand, you’re only charged the 16 hours for Friday and Monday.

This Monday being a holiday, I decided to take Friday off and get a four-dayer. Which I spent flying. And golfing.

Pretty much perfect.

Or nearly: Used to be that clearance to taxi to a runway was implicit clearance to taxi across all other intersecting runways. In the name of safety, the FAA has amended ATC procedures (pdf) such that crossing other runways – even off-duty runways – requires explicit clearance from ATC:

On Wednesday, June 30th, new taxi procedures will take effect. The most significant change is that ATC will no longer be able to issue a taxi to clearance that implies pilots may taxi across runways necessary to reach the ‘cleared to’ point. If ATC issues you a ‘cleared to’ point that requires runway crossings, they will have to verbally specify that you are cleared to cross the runway(s).

Which might be no big deal at your single runway airport or home ‘drome, with which you are intimately familiar. But it proved a little messy for me today as I was taking Citabria 8643 out, for to practice wheel and stall landings. It’s been a while, so I was 1) pretty unused to the new procedures and, 2) thinking a lot more about control stick placement than taxi procedures.

So the red triangle is where I started from, and the orange arrow represents a King Air ahead of me on Alpha taxiway.

“Ground, Citabria 8643, taxi from the base of the tower, information Zulu.”

“Citabria 8643, Gillespie Ground, follow the King Air on Alpha, hold short of Delta.” The King Air was subsequently cleared across Runway 27 Right, and I began to wonder where they were taking me. Although I have flown out of Gillespie a half a dozen times or more, it’s nothing like a familiar airport to me. The last call from ATC was soon followed by, “Citabria 8643 cross Runway 27 Left.”

It was at this point that I started to question myself, for although the winds were dead flat, I could have sworn that the western bound parallel runways were the ones in use. But maybe it was the south runway, where the King Air was taxiing? I was too embarrassed to ask. And maybe there was some obstruction on the Delta taxiway, and they wanted me to cross the active runways to taxi east on Charlie.

So, I taxied up to Runway 27L with the full intent of holding short of 27R when – just as I was approaching the left runway – the ground controller called in an unhappy voice saying, “Citabria 8643, stop!”

I jumped on the brakes and looked right, only to see a Piper Cherokee on landing roll-out (yellow arrow).

“Do a 180 from your present position, hold short of Delta.”

Once clear of the runway – taildraggers are nothing if not efficient in turning around in their own length – I was feeling more than a little puzzled, when I was directed to taxi back to the base of the tower and make a phone call.

Being asked to make a phone call to ATC is never a good thing.

“Whaazzup?” I asked the Tower Supervisor.

“Whazzup?” he replied.

But not really.

“You should have known not to cross an active runway when cleared by a controller to do so,” the Tower Supe told me. Or words to that effect.

“Yeah, OK,” I replied.

Back on Ground freq, it was “Taxi to Runway 27L or 27R via Taxiway Alpha and Delta, cleared to cross Runway 17 at Delta.”

“Roger, what she said,” I replied. In essence.

Off to Ramona, where crosswinds made wheel landings problematical, and the feet were never allowed to sleep on the rudder pedals. Back to Gillespie, where the winds had picked up to make flying the airplane in to the chocks the option of choice. Off to Miramar, where the golf course awaited.

Pretty much a perfect day. Although those new safety procedures that the FAA has promulgated?

I’m not sure they mean what they think they mean.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Flying, SoCal

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