‘What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.’ – Strother Martin (‘Captain’) ‘Cool Hand Luke’


Wheels up from DuPage. Today’s mission is a simple one, head out to DeKalb and do some touch and goes. It’s been a good month. I finally soloed a few weeks ago and am getting confident in my ability to safely pilot an airplane. It’s a real blast to be able to say “hey, I’ll be back in a couple hours, I’m going to go flying for a bit”.

Heading out I go a bit south of the airport to check out the new wind farm that is being put in. Human ingenuity has found a way to use the same principle to keep my plane up, push it forward and generate electricity. Hmm, I wonder if that’s ingenuity or lack of creativity. In any case, watching the concrete pads go in, then the masts being delivered and now the blades are mostly there and the masts vertical and waiting has been fun. You get a different perspective from the air.

Time to turn north.

“Dekalb traffic, cessna 62681 is three miles south of the field inbound for touch and goes on runway 09, Dekalb”

Winds today are unusual, coming from nearly due east. This extends my flightseeing tour to the wind farm a bit, but doesn’t present a problem. DeKalb has a runway pointed in the correct direction for this low time pilot. Flying well above the pattern altitude as I pass the approach end of the field, it’s time to descend to 1914 feet.

“DeKalb traffic, cessna 62681 is two thousand three hundred feet, one mile west of runway 09, will be entering 45 degrees downwind for 09, DeKalb”

No one else is out here today. DeKalb is pretty hit or miss. There will either be four student pilots all trying to practice returning airplanes to terra firma safely, or it will be empty. Tonight it’s empty. A bit of a surprise, it’s a beautiful day, but that’s ok. There is plenty to do without having to worry about other people so much.

“DeKalb traffic, cessna 62681 is 45 degrees downwind for runway 09, DeKalb”

Time to start thinking about landing. I’ll be making a turn at midfield, so let’s do my GMC check now.

Gas: Both
Mix: Rich
Carb heat: On

“DeKalb traffic, cessna 62681 is entering left downwind from the 45, DeKalb”

Ok, made the required call, time to turn. We make calls on the turns because with the wings tipped, it’s much easier for other pilots to see us. Turning right to the…


My left wing up for the turn flashes into view a cessna 152 already downwind and it’s getting bigger, but not moving. We’re only about 300 feet apart.

I increase my rate of turn to the right to abort joining the pattern and make a call.

“DeKalb traffic, cessna 62681 is turning hard right to avoid the plane on downwind”

Now I finally hear the first call from the other pilot. He’s clearly inexperienced with the radio. Who knows how long he’s been there. Maybe this close call has caused him to double check and realize he’s on the wrong frequency.

“Uh, DeKalb, cessna 1234f has you in site if you would like to join pattern”

At that I’m comfortable that we’re ok, level the wings and adjust for the downwind. Even though I’m a runner my heart is going about 180 after my first challenging encounter with another plane.

“DeKalb traffic, cessna 1234f is left downwind for short field landing on 09, DeKalb”

Hmm, now Mr. Silent is no longer silent. That’s good. Not sure why he’s telling everyone he’s doing a short field. This runway is quite long, so he’s clearly doing it just for practice. The fact that he’s doing one won’t cause a problem for anyone else. Whatever, better to over communicate I suppose.

I continue around the pattern and land while listening to his calls.

“DeKalb traffic, cessna 1234f is turning left base for short field landing on 09, DeKalb”
“DeKalb traffic, cessna 1234f is final for short field landing on 09, DeKalb”

I’m almost back to the hanger to stretch out a bit and unwind when I hear:

“DeKalb traffic, king air 332ka, the cessna that just landed was short of the runway and needs to check its tail for damage. You guys took out a landing light, DeKalb”

Yeah, I’m definitely going to have a coke and relax until that dude leaves the area…

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