Read The NOTAMs!
You know what they say – READ THE NOTAMS! We always get this great advice and it really would be the wisest thing to do, but sometimes your head isn’t in the game. Let me give you an example:
I spend most my time at 500 feet AGL in a taildragger, talking to absolutely no one on the radio. Flying farm fields and AgStrips you have no reason to call anyone for any thing at any time. You get complacent to be quite honest, the grass strip you just left won’t flood (at least nothing my tundras can’t handle) and it will not have any runway incurisions blocking your way.
One sunny Saturday morning my wife and I decided to take a lovely trip to the Oregon Coast. After the addition of our baby to the family (now 5 months old) we made the leap and bought another aircraft capable of making personal and business trips (including the requisite OSH trip) and purchased a Piper Saratoga (story on that bird some other day). Today our destination was Newport KONP for just the two of us. Newport is great as they provide crew cars to access the city and local businesses for two hours (keeps someone from hogging the crew car I suppose). It was severe clear that day with clouds of 2000 feet covering some of the valley floor, a great day for a little VFR on top. My wife had never experienced VFR on top – she was a little nervous about it but it was a great time for her to see firsthand that it was a non-issue. As we crossed the Coast Range we were cruising around 4500 feet and talking to Seattle Center and they proceeded to notify me that the Newport runway was NOTAM’ed for closure on the hour. I glanced at my watch and realized I am still “a few” miles out but only had seven minutes to descend from my position, fly the pattern, and land!
I pulled out the throttle and descended cautiously while monitoring the shock cooling readings on the JPI engine monitor, just clipping the edge of the cloud later as we went by. I announced my intention to land “before the runway closure” (as though I could WILL the clock into slowing down). A Coast Guard helicopter was also enroute closely behind me up the coast line – I wasn’t sure at that point if the closure was special for them, or something else – so I kept my airspeed up and stayed infront of him. Made a very abbreviated pattern as there was no one else goofy enough to ignore the NOTAM that day. The work crew radio back that their equipment was clear of the runway.
Obviously they were prepped and ready to start at the stroke of 11am if their gear was that close to the runway. We landed and taxied back as all the taxiways were closed for painting operations. We grabbed the crew car and disappeared before any operations guys wanted to ‘have a chat’. We ended up going to Nana’s Irish Pub for a lovely lunch with truly authentic Irish food that cannot be beat here in Oregon. The runway reopened an hour later, long before we return from lunch and we made a quick getaway.
It’s so simple these days to check the NOTAMS, we all have absolutely no excuse for not doing it. Thanks to ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, or even free apps for the iPhone that are available it’s too easy not to take a few seconds to do it. Check those NOTAMS before ending up in a position like I did where even the simplest lunch plans could have been fouled. This can become the first chain in a series of events for you (what if you were low on fuel?). Don’t make this mistake! Don’t wreck your lunch plans – or worse! It’s the ‘worse’ I worry about for all of us!
So you may be asking yourself, did he make it to the ground on time? OR was he in violation of the NOTAM and got harassed by Seattle Center AND the local FSDO or the Airport Manager?
You’ll never know will you…… ?
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