Unusual Attitude

Hot fun in the summertime.


What follows here is an exchange that I never in a million years thought I would ever have. Me: Permission to buzz the tower? Tower: Permission granted! All right, I suppose I owe you a bit more of an explanation than that.

One hot afternoon in July, I was out flying with a friend. After stopping at a small airport here in North Carolina for some most excellent barbecue, we were heading for home, level at 3500 feet.

We approached a small Air Force base, which was surrounded by Class D airspace. Even though I was squawking 1200 with altitude, I checked the bases AWOS and called the tower to let them know I was going to go over the top. Before I get into the exchange, understand that the airbase is like many of the airports on the East Coast. It has three long runways laid out in a triangle as was the practice during the WW-II era. Except for the blue airport symbol and Class D ring on the chart, this Air Force base looks exactly like many of the general aviation airports in the Southeast.

With that in mind, heres an approximate rendering of the event.

N941WR would be me. Mystery AFB is the base in question, and the name will tell you that I intend to keep its precise identity to myself to prevent some air traffic controller from catching grief.

N941WR: Mystery airbase, Experimental Niner Four One Whiskey Romeo. Im 6 to the north, level at 3500, southbound. Just wanted to let you know I am going to fly over the top.

Mystery AFB: Affirmative One Whiskey Romeo, current altimeter is 30.02. Transition approved.

So far, so good. Then, after a short pause…

Mystery AFB: Uh, One Whiskey Romeo, say type Experimental.

N941WR: One Whiskey Romeo is an RV Nine.

Mystery AFB: One Whiskey Romeo, we like RVs. Could you fly by the tower so we can have a closer look at you?

By this time I am over the top of its Class D airspace and about 2 miles from the airport.

N941WR: Sure, if you clear me into your airspace.

Mystery AFB: One Whiskey Romeo is cleared into Mysterys airspace.

N941WR: Ill have to circle down out here to get low enough, if that is OK.

Mystery AFB: Cleared to descend at your discretion. No other aircraft are in the area.

N941WR: Which runway would you like One Whiskey Romeo to use?

Mystery AFB: One Whiskey Romeo is cleared to Runway 99. (Again, this was changed to protect the guilty.)

N941WR: Affirmative. Cleared to Runway 99.

At this point I was at about 1000 AGL and descending like crazy while pulling power to keep from overspeeding the Lycoming. Oh, to have a constant-speed propeller!

Mystery AFB: One Whiskey Romeo, do you have retractable gear?

N941WR: Negative.

Mystery AFB: Then I guess we don’t need to remind you put it down?

At this point we were level at 20 feet and screaming down this looooooong runway, just getting hammered by the thermals on a hot July day!

N941WR: Yall need to repave this runway. Its awfully bumpy!

Mystery AFB: What did you expect? We have been here protecting the country since 1942. One Whiskey Romeo, when departing head one-eight-zero, level at 500 feet and fly directly over the barracks so they can get a good look at you.

N941WR: Affirmative, 500 feet and heading one-eight-zero.

Mystery AFB: One Whiskey Romeo, let us know when you are clear of our airspace.

N941WR: Affirmative and thanks for all you do! Good day.

Mystery AFB: Niner Four One Whiskey Romeo, thank you!

It just goes to show you that when making a courtesy call to controllers, you never know what you are going to get. My hat is off to those men and women in our armed forces for the job they do. I was more than happy to help a few of them fight the boredom of being stuck in a control tower on a steamy afternoon with nothing better to do.

Now to arrange a return flight with the RV formation gang, smoke and all.

Bill Repucci was handed his Private Pilots certificate back in the days when the written test was taken with a Number 2 pencil. At the time, Bill was told that he now had a License to Learn. And learn he did, mostly that there was humor buried in the quirky ways of those of us who call ourselves aviators.


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