IFR Diary, Day 12:  Thursday Sept 9

Dogpatch traffic...

     Today we do only three approaches: the VOR at Tracy, the ILS at
     Livermore and the VOR-DME back to Hayward.  All are done partial

     Charles uses the VOR-A approach to Tracy to continue the drill about
     circling approaches.  Again, circling to join the recommended
     traffic pattern at Tracy is not authorized, so I pull up about a
     mile out and begin circling, trying to assess the situation.  Again,
     the best thing do seems to be to cancel IFR and join the VFR

     "OK. I agree, but only when the ceilings are substantially higher
     than the circling minimums.    There's nothing more humiliating than
     to call up and say, 'Mr. Controller, you remember that IFR I just
     canceled?  Well, I'd like to uncancel it. S'matter of fact, I'm with
     you on the missed.' In other words, before canceling IFR, be
     absolutely certain that you can execute the landing safely under

     This brought to mind a situation that I had wondered about since I
     began work on my Private: a VFR airplane flying just below the
     clouds at an non-tower airport.

     "It's a problem.  The transition zone just pushes the problem down.
     Let's assume you're a week-end pilot who goes out to the airport for
     a few touch-and-goes.  You're not worried about the ceilings (let's
     say they're 699 feet) because your airport is uncontrolled--just
     have to remain clear of clouds with one mile visibility below the
     700-foot transition area.  If a pilot on an instrument approach
     comes bombing down through his 699 foot ceiling and collides with
     the VFR aircraft, who's at fault?"

     I confessed that I didn't know.  Charles begins wryly, "Probably the
     only people who'll be interested in assigning fault will be the
     lawyers for the families of the guys who died.  My point is, all the
     rules and regulation in the world won't make this problem go away.
     The regulatory goals for uncontrolled airspace and for IFR are so
     fundamentally different that there's danger whenever the two

     This is very scary to me.  "But," he continues, "There's a lot you
     can do reduce the danger. "How many times have you been at an
     uncontrolled airport and hear the following, 'Dogpatch traffic,
     Cessna 1234's at ABNER, inbound on the NDB'?  All the IFR pilots
     will know where you are, what direction you're coming from, and how
     low you'll be going, but the VFR pilots won't have the foggiest idea
     what your report means--and they're the ones you've got to watch out

     "Your call-up to an uncontrolled airport is much more important when
     IFR than VFR.  You may break out right at the airport, so you'd like
     to know what's going on and what you're going to see.  So make the
     call up meaningful, like this:  "Dogpatch, Cessna 1234 is 8 miles to
     the northeast inbound on an instrument approach. I'll be descending
     to 640 AGL. Request airport and landing advisories at Dogpatch.'
     This kind of call-up works for everyone, and the VFR pilot at least
     knows where to look for you.  If you don't get a response, try
     again, but this time try to be less formal: 'Any aircraft at
     Dogpatch, Cessna 1234 is in the clouds 5 miles to northeast. Please
     say runway in use and if you see any traffic..."  Many times VFR
     pilots won't respond to formal sounding calls, but will chime right
     in to more personal ones."

     On the way home, I set out to intercept V195 to SUNOL intersection,
     the initial approach fix for the approaches for Hayward begin.
     Charles was distracting me with chat and banter, so I admit I was
     not paying total attention to what I was doing. I was somewhat
     cavalier about it, I had now done this dozens of times and I could
     almost find my way to SUNOL by instinct. Immediately, things didn't
     feel right. I was flying almost due north, and it was taking much
     too long to intercept the 229 radial. Casually I gave the OBS a spin
     and to my consternation found myself on about the 240 radial.

     I knew instantly what had happened.  Everything I do in life is
     influenced by a mild transposition dyslexia.  Unlike Mr. Spooner, I
     don't commit amusing conversational transliterations--I just
     sometimes mistake left for right, transpose digits, and say the
     opposite of what I mean.  It's not clear whether these are
     perceptual errors or whether they are psycho-motor.

     The most annoying and alarming manifestation of this behavior is the
     transposition of digits.  Take, for example, what I call the "double
     digit syndrome." I look at a chart and see the desired radial of 229
     degrees.  I repeat that aloud, then promptly dial in 292 degrees.
     Then there are the goofs for which there is no pattern, yet which I know
     are side effects of the same underlying phenomenon. For example, I
     will hear or read or think 220 degrees, but inexplicably dial in 210
     or 230.  Writing numbers down before acting upon them helps, so I
     always write down all heading and altitude changes on my knee-board.
     Reading back controller instructions also helps, but sometimes even
     the controllers get frustrated with me. At Salinas one day, Monterey
     Approach was trying to give me a routine clearance to an approach
     whose final course is 122 degrees.  I kept reading back "212."
     After three tries, he gave up and said, "Sir, just intercept the
     final approach course."

     I found an antidote to this error early in my training: I break the
     number down into 100's, ten's, and units as I dial it in.  For
     example, I dial up 229 in steps, saying each step to myself. "Two
     hundred" (I rotate the OBS to 200), "20" (OBS to 220), "nine" (nine
     more on the OBS). This procedure works well but today the
     distraction of chatting had caused me to revert back to my old ways. 
     Lesson learned.

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