Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Goes Around...

Last Saturday's EAA Young Eagles rally in Blackfoot, ID was a bit of a disappointment. Somebody had dropped the ball on publicity, and there were a lot of chapter members milling around and socializing because there were no kids to fly. I walked the line and visited a friend's hangar; that seemed like it was going to be the best of it. Oh, except for the cookies. A chapter member passed away suddenly last summer (not aviation related), and when our president asked people to bring cookies for the memorial service we all pulled together and brought cookies. There were far more cookies than even the large crowd could eat, so the president keeps them in her freezer and brings some to chapter events. We all miss John, especially at Young Eagles events, so the cookies are a bittersweet reminder.

Finally some kids showed up and I got to take a brother and sister on a search for their house, which we found easily. They were so excited! I took a cell phone picture and emailed it their mom after we landed. They really enjoyed the flight experience and I did, too.

But now we were back to the lots of pilots standing around scenario. I got an idea: this was a great opportunity for some IFR proficiency flying. It was easy to find an eager safety pilot and even another pilot who rode in back for the fun of it.

So I did an ILS and a hold and headed back to do the VOR approach into Blackfoot. The VOR approach into Blackfoot is a little silly, starting at Pocatello VOR and following the 016 radial for 24 -- count 'em, twenty-four! -- miles. Being that far from the VOR the obstacle area is pretty large, so the minimum descent altitude is actually above the ordinary VFR pattern altitude. Plus, you're flying away from the nav source, so the needle gets less sensitive as you get close to the airport.

Worse, the approach shuts down both Pocatello (KPIH) and Idaho Falls (KIDA), at least for a while. Pocatello is a long way from Salt Lake Center's radar antenna, so it's not clear to me that radar separation is even possible; in any event, the separation criteria are loose enough that someone on the VOR-C into Blackfoot is also taking up the airspace for the ILS into Pocatello. And the missed approach is Idaho Falls VOR at the airway MEA, so nobody's getting into IDA, either. For a long time the approach was NOTAMed out of service.

(I had a hand in designing the Pocatello ILS, but nobody asked me about Blackfoot. One of the approaches in the original draft for Pocatello had a missed approach point at an airway intersection 500' above the MEA, which was 7000 MSL. This meant that 7,000 and 8.000 were unavailable on two airways, shutting down low-altitude IFR traffic for a 60 mile radius.)

But a logged approach is a logged approach, and I was going to Blackfoot, so I flew it. At the right point I lifted the hood and entered the pattern, making the usual calls on downwind, base, and final. While we were gone, though, some kids had shown up, and there were airplanes in the runup area. No big deal. Until when we were about 100'AGL, a red Skyhawk took the runway and started his takeoff roll.

Ouch.

I went around.

Blackfoot was the site of the near gear-up landing a couple of weeks ago. I think I'll avoid it for a while...

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