First solo XC - with a harrowing finish!

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Texan Pilot, Jan 14, 2020.

  1. Texan Pilot

    Texan Pilot Pre-Flight

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    This past weekend, I completed my first solo XC flight and I wanted to get some feedback (or criticism) from this esteemed group.

    I flew from my home towered airport (Class D with no radar services) to another non-towered airport which was 55nm each way. The flight was largely uneventful until my return to the busier Class D airspace. ATIS reported the active runway 18 and when I contacted the tower at 10 miles out, they requested that I report again when 4 miles out for runway 18. Note that the airport was straight ahead to the east of my location.

    At about 6.5 miles out, I overheard another flight report in that they were on my same flight path but to the south of me and that they had me on ADSB but no visual, but I had not heard anything from the tower. Wondering if the tower was attempting to reach me, I reported in that I was 6.5 miles out. The tower responded with instructions to “proceed straight to the numbers on runway 36”.

    I should have questioned this change in runway assignment more explicitly, but I responded back the instructions while emphasizing runway 36 and began to setup for a left base to runway 36. The tower immediately responded that I would be #1 to land and to make haste/pick up speed to stay ahead of the #2 Glasair behind me. I respond that I was “#1 to runway 36”. But no response from the tower.


    You see where this is going…


    At about 3 miles out, I heard the Glasair report their position and setup for right downwind to runway 18. So I again contacted tower to report my position and setup for left base. The tower responded “you mean right base”. So I responded that I was “3 miles out setting up for left base to runway 36”. The tower responded,” why 36, you were told runway 18”. I responded, “I heard 36 and responded 36, but I will take right downwind to 18”. The tower responded, “ok you sure as I don’t remember you saying 36. Proceed to left downwind runway 18”. I confirmed.

    A minute later, tower cleared the Glasair for a right downwind to runway 18 and contacted me with approval for landing on runway 36 with a 5 kt tailwind. Needless to say I was a bit flustered but focused on flying the airplane (“Aviate, Navigate, Communicate…”).

    Next thing I know I’ve overshot the final to 36 and requested a go-around as to this point I was not comfortable with turn from base, the tail wind, the entire approach. As I was executing my go-around, the tower said make a right turn like I’m going downwind to 36, then do a 180 and come back for a left base to runway 18. Of course all I heard was “make a right turn…”. So as I made the right turn, I asked for instructions again.

    In the end, I made it back around to land on runway 18, but the whole episode shaded the joy of my first solo XC flight. I suppose there were some lessons learned here, but I’m interested in your thoughts on what I could have done better to avoid and or manage the situation better in the future.

    Thanks in advance!

    Disclaimers:
    - my review of the ATC recordings on liveATC.net afterwards confirmed the tower did tell me 36 when the active runway was 18
    - the conversations above are not all verbatim
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
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  2. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    455 Bravo Uniform
    Hopefully you made or in the future will make use of the “student pilot” phraseology.

    And if you don’t understand something, reconfirm.

    And if you don’t like something, say “unable”.

    Also, if your airport tower is in Live ATC, you may want to go back and listen, to see who heard what and who made a mistake.

    We’ve all made plenty of mistakes, I continue to do so, and I’ve heard air traffic control make mistakes. The good thing is you are open to learning and suggestions.
     
  3. Texan Pilot

    Texan Pilot Pre-Flight

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    thanks - you're right i could have said "unable"
     
  4. danhagan

    danhagan Pattern Altitude

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    Don't let ATC fly your plane.

    Was taking my plane over to the Class C for work last week and winds were HOWLING. Controllers were paranoid as winds were 30G43 and kept flipping my runway assignment back and forth from 22 to 26 before I even came around the mountain. I asked what the trouble was, and they indicated they have 2 sensors for wind and they were conflicting ... I told them I'd take 26L ... was #2 to land behind SWA and extended landing to stay out of their wake TB. Due to winds at that point being not much off of runway, it felt like a 15 knot landing. Yes lots of crabbing, but no issues ... was sportier on the ground during taxi than in the air.
     
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  5. snglecoil

    snglecoil Pre-Flight

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    Don't let it overshadow the fact that you made a flight to another airport and back on your own...for the first time, and got back down safely! Congrats on that. As for the confusion at the end of the flight, just look at it as a good learning experience and make the most out of it. Don't let it shake your confidence, in fact, let it boost it. Communication is honestly one of the harder skills to master it seems. I think the biggest take away is that if something doesn't seem right, ask for confirmation. Very explicitly, "Tower, can you confirm runway 36?" 99 times out of 100, that should eliminate any confusion.
     
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  6. DFH65

    DFH65 Pattern Altitude

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    ^^^this.

    Back in the day on my long cross country let's just say my lack of experience at towered airports became very apparent to me and I got yelled at by the controller. I think the Student Pilot thing saved my bacon. Also gets them to talk slower.
     
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  7. danhagan

    danhagan Pattern Altitude

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    Second this ... I'm flying for fun and AM not going to get mad about leaving the pattern or delaying ...
     
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  8. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    Also to echo: don’t let it sour you. You’ll still be learning hundreds of hours from now.

    My first solo XC was from my towered home field to non-towered. I kept calling left traffic at the non-towered field for landing. It wasn’t until I got home that night that I realized I was doing right traffic. I lived to tell the tale.

    You lived and plane ain’t broke and you still have your student cert.
     
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  9. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Frankly this was simply a good lesson. Not just about your response but understanding that atc WILL make mistakes.

    As a student it may feel a little intimidating to question when you think they've got something wrong, but this is just part of becoming a good pilot by taking responsibility for your own safety.

    I'm sure next time you will question ATC when something doesn't seem right.

    In my opinion this was the best way to end your x country flight. It taught you a valuable lesson that you won't soon forget. This type of real world learning experience is not something your instructor can teach you.

    Best way to end the flight in my opinion! You learn nothing when everything works out as planned.

    And good job of being open to criticism. You're doing everything right!
     
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  10. Shawn

    Shawn En-Route

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    Take away?...this kinda crap happens all the time and ATC are not infallible Gods that should not be questioned.

    Alway confirms if something does not seem right even though you read it back...cuz in their mind they said 36 and heard 36 so it was correct....even tough it was not.

    May have been flustering but every time you re flustered you will be less flustered the next time...no harm, no foul and valuable experience that many pilots never get early enough IMO.

    Also as other said, open EVERY communication with a new controller with "Student Pilot". They will take an extra beat to be sure things are clear and understood.
     
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  11. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I really miss the feelings I had after doing my student XCs, I felt like a real pilot!

    Already been said, "student pilot" will help a lot. And good on you for keeping situational awareness. Planning ahead for the rwy based on winds gets you ready for what to expect. But be very careful with that. Sometimes what you expect is NOT what tower will tell you and you might end up hearing what you expect to hear and not what tower really says (this might have been the problem that tower had with you.)

    Having that Class D as your home airport will also help with familiarity in cases like this. At my training airport the controllers were so familiar with the tail numbers of the training aircraft they pretty much knew who was a student without having to mention it. And on an XC it was sort of funny when they were expecting to have you back after the flight.

    You did fine, and next time if you get confused ask for clarification and don't be afraid to say you'll do a few 360s to give you time to think.
     
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  12. smv

    smv Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Agree with those suggeting liberal use of "Student Pilot" upon initial contact with every ATC facility along the way. It seems to have fallen out of favor with many CFIs. Some conversations with CFIs of late seem to indicate it is somehow demeaning to the Student. I do not understand that thought process...

    o_O
     
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  13. Ryanb

    Ryanb Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    You live and learn. I'll reiterate what others have said - ATC doesn't have final authority over you. If they give you an instruction that you can't comply with or that puts you in an uneasy position, tell them. Just the other day I landed at a towered airport and they tried to exit me too quick onto a taxiway that I couldn't make. I told them 'unable' and then I suggested another taxiway that I could do or even a 180 on the runway if that worked for them. Don't get into this robotic mode of thinking that you have to talk to ATC some specific way. They're human and so are you, so communicate like it.
     
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  14. Texan Pilot

    Texan Pilot Pre-Flight

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    Thank you all for the great feedback! I think that I hadn't mentioned "Student pilot" in my communications with ATC since I've been training at this airport since day 1. I did tell them I was a student pilot on my first two supervised solos, but I suppose that I've been "comfortable" since and over the past few weeks prepping for my first solo XC. Next up is my long XC, so i'll definitely be reminding the tower that i'm still a student! Thanks again.
     
  15. Shawn

    Shawn En-Route

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    Me neither...they do not do anything different other than slow down a beat knowing you are not a 12,000 hour jet jockey that immediately understands what they are expecting at an auctioneer verbal pace. There is lot of learning what ATC means with different phraseology and why.

    And to the OP...there is nothing wrong with once the confusion was figured out saying "If winds are favoring 18, request landing 18" in plain ol english. You did not need to accept landing downwind.
     
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  16. sarangan

    sarangan Line Up and Wait

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    Sounds like you did everything correctly under the circumstances. If you can provide the liveatc link, we may be able to provide a better feedback on what might have caused the confusion.
     
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  17. Dana

    Dana Cleared for Takeoff

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    I know some private pilots who still say "student pilot" because they aren't comfortable with ATC.
     
  18. kath

    kath Cleared for Takeoff

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    When proper phraseology seems to have suddenly all leaked out of your brain (which happens!), remember that "regular English" works too.
    "What runway is that other plane landing on? 18? I'd like 18 too." May not sound all fancy, but gets the job done.

    Anytime Tower gives you a runway, but there's a different runway you prefer, just tell them. There are plenty of reasons this might happen. For instance, if you want to practice crosswinds deliberately (an evil CFI trick!), or be able to turn off really near your hangar on a light-wind day (convenience), or if the controller has a brain-fart (as happened with you). Controllers will be able to tell you right away if they can accommodate the request -- very often they can.

    I know of a case at my home field with two perpendicular runways, Tower had everyone on "the usual" runway. But it was a windy day, and a feather-light tailwheel airplane ground-looped because they just followed along with Tower's instructions and didn't *insist* on the other runway which was more wind-favorable. Just speak up!
     
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  19. Ryanb

    Ryanb Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Oh geez!
     
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  20. Sinistar

    Sinistar En-Route

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    Now you know what is like when you gut it twitching that something is wrong. Maybe next time use that que to take 30-60 seconds and slow it all down and figure out what it is. Remember its okay to talk to ATC in plain English. You could have just said "You just cleared me for landing downwind (tailwind) - did I hear that right?".

    You just experienced something that I had not experienced until almost 2yrs into flying. You basically were flying a pattern opposite to the preferred wind direction. When I did it (not intentionally) just about everything felt wrong. Taking forever on downwind - like I was adding power not pulling back - WTF. Being blown towards final while on base - weird!. And of course the ground going by much more quickly than normal. It was close to 10kt direct tailwind but a nice long runway and only one other plane out....who busted me on it....but in a nice way. I definitely won't forget how weird that pattern was. Now you know what its like.

    Think of it this way, you just knocked out another thing you were eventually going to learn. Remember the lesson but don't dwell. Get out there and knock out your longer XC as soon as you can - like in the next couple of days. It will go great :)
     
  21. smv

    smv Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Exactly this. Give them a valid reason and any accomodations you are willing to make to get what you want and unless it is a really silly request or just a bad time (ie: lots of conflicting traffic), they are likely to agree. It is not uncommon for an airport to not switch runways for favorable wind conditions if the windspeed is not that great. I have had contollers try to convince me to land (or takeoff) with a 5kt tailwind when there was nobody else within miles. Could it have been done safely? Perhaps... but why risk it when simply saying "Unable 13, how about I turn left for a right downwind to 31?" usually works out just fine.
     
  22. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

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    A valid reason isn't even necessary. If you want something ask for it, if your request can't be worked in they'll let you know.
     
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  23. Jim K

    Jim K Pre-takeoff checklist

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    My first solo xc, coming back home, I was cleared for 14L, which is the big runway, even though it was nearly a direct crosswind. I did the math and realized the crosswind component was a couple knots over my solo endorsement. I knew I should request the perpendicular runway, but was more afraid of challenging atc than attempting a crosswind landing.

    Lucky thing it was the big runway... but I learned several valuable lessons, and the airplane was still intact.... maybe minus a little rubber.

    There's a reason 'aviate' is first on the list.
     
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  24. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    I can’t count the number of times I’ve WRITTEN DOWN exactly what ATC said and later been told it wasn’t the runway or whatever they said, while I’m staring at my knee board looking at it.

    Have even had that in the training environment where both of us looked at our notes.

    Mistakes happen. If something doesn’t make sense or you have that sixth sense feeling something is going wrong, just ask. 99% of the time it can get sorted out with zero problems.

    Also don’t get me started on one particular trainee controller we ALL knew was training... everybody went on high alert when they were working Local. They were the sort that lost the sight picture at about five airplanes. It got better. Good controller now. Terrifying back when they started. Ha.

    I swear “student controller” would be nice sometimes. LOL.
     
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  25. HAPPYDAN

    HAPPYDAN Pre-Flight

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    Maybe the faster plane coming in behind caused some concern. A similar event caught me off guard as I was cleared number 1, turned left base, then got a call from ATC to make a sharp right and extend downwind. A business jet just dropped out of the clouds on a straight in approach. I'm tottering along at about 60 kts, he's better than twice that. It was too close for me, but the instructor laughed it off, saying it was a good exercise in situational awareness.
     
  26. Brad W

    Brad W Pre-takeoff checklist

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    As I was reading your story I was thinking the bit about announcing yourself as a Student Pilot, too....
    and this as well. It's very easy to get caught up in the "standard phraseology" thing since we spend sp much time learning to not "clog the airways"
    But nothing wrong with just asking....
    you cleared me to 18, now by saying 36 do you want me to land on 36 or enter the pattern at the other end of 18?
    Sometimes using the standard abbreviated language...like you did.... repeating 36.... is really just beating around the bush and might just continue the confusion....
     
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  27. Tommar98

    Tommar98 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    One of the amazing things about being a pilot is you will learn/experience something new all the time. Weather, avionics, navigation, fuel, airspace, equipment malfunction, etc. The more you fly the more experience you get. Now you have experience with ATC that didn’t seem right and next time you encounter it, you’ll be in a better (more confident) position to handle it. This is just one of many learning experiences you’ll have along the way. In the past month (I have only about 300 hrs time) I’ve had engine quit at 5500 feet (aux tank was empty-but it’s a new plane I was flying), and a gear extension problem occur. Both new situations new for me. Enjoy the journey and keep learning!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  28. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    This group is esteemed?
     
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  29. chemgeek

    chemgeek Cleared for Takeoff

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    Stuff happens. You will experience more things from left field as a pilot. These things are learning experiences. During my second student solo XC I was faced with a radio failure at a controlled airport (KITH). I got to learn light signals. The tower was very understanding and cooperative. Live and learn.
     
  30. smv

    smv Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Nothing like a little non-standard phrasology to break the brain numbing grip of expectation bias...

    o_O
     
  31. FastEddieB

    FastEddieB Final Approach

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    I think you did fine.

    I have a joke term that has some truth behind it: Mature Onset Dyslexia.

    The ATC tape confirms the controller fell victim to it. I had a controller mix up RWY 13/31 when getting vectored for an approach. So controllers are not immune.

    Then again, it happens to me on occasion. Reporting I’m west of something when I’m actually east. Found myself being told I was taxiing to 27 at HWO when the taxi clearance was to 9. That sort of thing. I hear other pilots do it regularly enough to assume it’s a thing.

    Weirdly, on a handful of occasions in the car I’ve had WAZE tell me a right turn was coming up and questioning it with Karen who then told me it had clearly said left. It’s perplexing how perception gets turned around sometimes.

    Finally, though you got a bit flustered, you “flew the plane” throughout, which is your primary responsibility. Good job!
     
  32. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

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    Can you post that liveATC.net recording?
     
  33. Brad W

    Brad W Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I actually wonder if the controller actually said what he was thinking...but in a non-standard way.
    When trying to deconflict traffic, he tells one
    "proceed straight to the numbers on runway 36"
    that doesn't necessarily amend the clearance to approach 18
    he's not necessarily saying to approach 36 to land 36
    Maybe he was "thinking" kindof along the lines of progressive taxi instructions.... if you fly pattern altitude to the numbers at 36, that'll give you enough separation angle from the traffic, then you can turn to enter crosswind, downwind, etc...
    ...so maybe he used non-standard language that caused confusion to begin with
     
  34. Texan Pilot

    Texan Pilot Pre-Flight

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    I'm unable to upload an mp3 here and i don't see a direct url link to the audio file. But you can search liveatc.net for KTME on Jan 12th, 2020 and pull the 1730-1800Z recording. First report into Houston Executive tower at 10 mi out and request from tower to report 4 mi for 18 is about 8 mins in. Then at 17:40:34 the tower instructs me to 36... the communications between me and tower last through 17:49:30... You'll have to ignore the Houston Approach audio which is overlayed onto this recording for some reason even though they're on a different frequency from the tower.
     
  35. Ravioli

    Ravioli Final Approach

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    Controllers are fallible. And some airports (ex: KFTW) do a lot of controller training.

    On more than one occasion while arriving from the South I'm told to report left downwind to 34. First time was during a checkout flight when I joined the club. I said to the CFI, "Why does he want me to go up and around like that?" He's like, huh? So I asked for confirmation. Controller says yes, left downwind 34. I said, I'm over TCU. Controller says, report abeam downtown, straight in 34.

    I think what happens is they're handing out the same instructions over and over and over...
     
  36. lancie00

    lancie00 Line Up and Wait

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    This is the BEST thing that came of your cross country. YOU are pilot in command and YOU decide when, where, and how to fly. If it doesn't feel right, make a change. AVIATE, NAVIGATE, COMMUNICATE! My only suggestion is next time you TELL the controller that you're going around, not ask. ;)
    I know it leaves a bad taste in your mouth for a first cross county but on mine I lined up to land on the wrong runway. Tower didn't say anything until I was 100' off the ground with the big runway numbers staring at me. I felt like an idiot but learned.
    You did good!!!
     
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  37. Texan Pilot

    Texan Pilot Pre-Flight

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  38. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

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    I think that boy was worn out from walking up the stairs and wasn't thinking right. You said it was your home airport, are they usually pretty good there? I think that is a Non Federal Tower. Neither an FAA or Federal Contract Tower.

    [​IMG]
     
  39. Texan Pilot

    Texan Pilot Pre-Flight

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    Haha. yes pretty good most of the time. it was a busy morning and there's only one guy (that can fit) up there most times. They're handling ground, tower, and communicating with houston center etc. It's a private airport but open to the public, but i'm not sure how it's governed by FAA...
     
  40. ktup-flyer

    ktup-flyer En-Route

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    waiting for a lifeguard to walk out
     
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