Tuesday, July 1, 2008

When the Pattern is NOT a Pattern!

A few weeks back, Husband and I were returning to JYO from somewhere up north (I forget where, exactly), headed for runway 17 (based on previous traffic calls and the clear preference based on winds).

As background, JYO has a bit of a strange pattern when landing on 17- it's up against Class Bravo airspace for Dulles on the east-- as well having to pay attention where you are with regard to the ADIZ airspace. When approaching from the south or west, we usually fly the long way around, going fairly far north of the field, then using a few visual landmarks to turn back just before the approaching airspace, and come in for a very 45 entry to the downwind. Flyaway blogged about this issue here. When we come in from the north or northeast, though, we can abbreviate that approach by flying in straight over the same visual landmarks, making the 45 turn to downwind, etc. Of course- if things are really quiet, you could also then do a straight in.

On this particular day, we talked about doing a straight in, but decided to be safe, and do the normal entry from the north. No problem. Only, as we are on downwind (past midfield, getting very close to base), an aircraft calls that it is departing 35 and headed straight out to the north! Hmmm... now what. We made a quick call to confirm what we were hearing, and we also took a look at the windsock to confirm that 35 would mean a tailwind-- and it would. Because the airplane was a bigger faster one, we did some mental math and figured if we extended downwind a bit, it should be able get out first and allow us to then turn behind it and come in to land.

In retrospect, I would have made a different decision (we did have right of way given that we were in the air, and he was on the ground). In any case, we told him of our plan, and I slowed down as much as I could. Then we waited... and waited, and waited. Bod did he take his sweet time! The frustrating thing-- he only communicated if we asked him a question directly-- no sense of hey- you're waiting for me, so I'll give you a heads up of when I'm off, when I'm turning, etc. We *finally* saw him pass us when we were probably 2-3 miles past the airport again. By this point, I was worried we were going to screw up the whole ADIZ entry by accidentally leaving the ADIZ and then having to reenter it! Once he finally was past, we turned back and tried to do a straight in. Of course-- we had drifted as we flew out, and turning base to final, we had to do a series of turns to get back on course again. We did finally land uneventfully.

In the future, though, if anyone says that are departing on a runway opposite to the one I am in the pattern for landing... I'll gently remind them that I have the right of way.

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