©Hal Stoen, Stoenworks
revised April, 2012
Once a year or so my company would make a sojourn to the West Coast. Although the 421B was a long legged bird, non-stop from Minneapolis was out of the question. On the return home we could make it without a fuel stop, but not West-bound, when we were bucking the prevailing winds aloft. As a further limitation, we normally had a full passenger list of eight people on board for these operations and could not carry full fuel due to maximum gross weight limitations.
On this particular trip though, fuel was not a problem. It was the operator sitting behind the controls.
After the perfunctory fuel stop in Idaho we departed for our final destination- Portland, Oregon.
It was my first flight into Portland. The departure weather in Minneapolis had been decent, but as we got closer to the West Coast the weather was slowly deteriorating. Low ceilings and limited visibility was the order of the day. You know what Oregonians say, "In Oregon you don't tan, you rust".
The ATIS comes alive. "This is Portland International Airport, information Tango. Portland weather is 400 overcast, visibility 1 mile in light drizzle, fog. Temperature 52, dew point 48. Wind 090 degrees at 10 knots, altimeter 29.89. Landing and departing runways 10 left and right. Advise on initial contact that you have information Tango."
"Good afternoon Approach, Cessna 1557G is with you, level at 10 thousand, on an assigned heading of 290, we have Tango." Approach vectors us around to intercept the ILS localizer for runway 10 Left.
It is at this point that I make my momentous and incredibly stupid decision. I decide that I will entertain my captive audience by placing the overhead speakers on.
Up until this time I had used my headset and boom microphone for all of the radio work. Putting the audio out to the speakers would allow my passengers to hear all incoming radio transmissions.
It would surely impress them with what a hot shot pilot they had driving the corporate aircraft.
We descend into the overcast on our initial approach. It was dark, and murky out there. Rain. The radio traffic from other aircraft that Approach was working bounded out of the speakers. My passengers craned their necks to hear what was going on.
They are impressed- I just know it.
"November 1557 Golf, 5 miles from the Marker, you're cleared the ILS runway 10 Left approach. Contact the Tower at the Marker. Good day!"
"Cleared the ILS 10 Left approach, Tower at the Marker, 57 Golf. Good Day!" Oh, this was good stuff. I could tell that my captive audience was impressed with this kid that was at the controls and had their fate in his hands.
The Outer Marker begins the familiar "dah, dah, dah". This too, is piped out over the cabin speakers. The blue light marked "O.M." on the panel in front of me blinks in synchronization with the sound.
The landing gear drops down and rewards me with three green lights. Flaps are extended another notch. "Good afternoon Tower, Cessna 57 Golf is with you, Marker inbound." "Cessna 57G, cleared to land, runway 10 Left." This was it, I would break out into pretty good visibility, grease that baby onto the runway, and await the adulation from my admiring crowd....oh, ego is a terrible thing.
Portland International Airport grew from a smaller field to what it is today, but the remnants of that old airport were still there, waiting for me. The "old" airport (the old closed airport) runways are just West of the "new" East/West parallel runways. One of which I was shooting an ILS to.
The glide slope was nailed, the ILS was stuck on center..boy, am I good (aviation can be a humbling profession for cocky bucks like I was then..) The radar altimeter sings out with its audio alert. I break out and see the runway.
It mattered not that it required a 20 degree turn or so to align with it, nor that I had to reduce power and dump full flaps to set up my rather steep approach angle. Hey, I'm good.
I don't need to look back at those instruments that got me this far- I can see the runway.
The voice over the speaker was loud, and quite clear.
"Cessna 1557G you are attempting to land on a closed runway Sir! You are cleared to land on runway 10 Left!"
I look up, back-out of my tunnel vision, and see 10,000 feet or so of very brightly lit runway. You can feel the hush from my audience. Who the hell is this guy?...and why are we letting him drive our airplane?
The landing was below average. No violations were filed. I never put the radios on the speakers again. My continuing relationship with airplanes, and the system that they fly in got a big lesson in humility.
Flying has a way of reminding you now and then when you are getting out of line (no pun intended), and your head is getting a little too swelled for your shoulders.
It was kind to me that day.
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