Interceptor July 1976
“Hello RG tower, RG tower, this is Coolstone one, ovah.”
“Roger Coolstone one, this is RG tower, go ahead.”
“RG from Coolstone, how about checking ATC clearance boy, I’m standing by on the ramp.”
“Roger Coolstone, your clearance is on request.”
Coolstone was on his way to Tyndall. This was the third and final leg on a flight which originated at Geiger, and Coolstone was most impatient to get underway. His flight planning was very thorough for this flight because he had never flown the route before. He marked his maps carefully, filled out a complete route card, and paid strict attention to the weather forecast given to him over the closed circuit weather vision. He had planned his route to be direct Springfield, J-41V Memphis, Montgomery, direct Tyndall. A comfortable flight really, just a bit over 700 nautical, with favorable winds. He had asked, hopefully, for 35,000′, but he could easily make the flight at thirty.
The weather at Richards was IFR – 1500 overcast, about five miles in rain, with tops guessed to be over 25,000′. Coolstone knew he would have to make an IFR departure of one sort or another. He asked the AO what kind of a procedure he would be up against, and was told, “No sweat, we got Rap-Con.”
Coolstone filed his 175 and went out to the T-bird. The rain was something more than light, and the preflight was accompanied with a good soaking. But the thoughts of the sunny South in the winter along with oyster cocktails, tall drinks on a patio overlooking the Gulf, and long, well tanned legs, Florida-gal style, kept this YOUNG, SINGLE pilot’s spirit uncommonly high.
While in the cockpit waiting for the clearance, Coolstone casually checked the warning lights, circuit breakers, inverters, navigation equipment, etc., until he just could not find much else to check. And then he began to grow a bit impatient with ATC, for almost 25 minutes had gone by since he had requested his clearance. The inside of the canopy was fogging up quite badly, so he decided to crack it a bit. But the thirty-five degree air accented the uncomfortable darkness which he found to be a result of the soggy pre-flight. Matter of fact, Coolstone was becoming downright cold. Then…
“Hello Coolstone, RG tower has your clearance, are you ready to copy?”
“Roger, roger boy, ready to COPY.”
“Roger Coolstone, ATC clears Coolstone one to the Tyndall Airport via… read back please, over.”
“Er-ah, tower from Coolstone, are you sure you have the right aircraft, that doesn’t sound like anything I filed for.”
“Roger Coolstone, this is your clearance – do you want it repeated?”
“Roger boy, repeat please and very slowly.”
“Coolstone from tower, ATC clears Coolstone one to the Tyndall Airport via direct Butler, direct Springfield, J-41 Victor to Memphis, direct Tuscaloosa, direct Dothan, direct Tyndall, to cruise at three one thousand. You are to remain at two nine thousand or below until over Butler outbound. Contact Kansas City center on 301.4 when passing Butler. You will be given climb instructions while taxiing out.”
As the clearance was read to Coolstone, he noticed his temperature rising steadily, he was writing as fast as he could, but several of the fixes were news to Coolstone.
“Tower from Coolstone, ATC clears Coolstone one to the Tyndall Air Force Base via direct uh, Butler, direct Springfield, J-41 Victor to Memphis, direct Toolaloola – was that it? Direct Gotham, direct Tyndall, to cruise at 31,000 uh, remain at twenty-nine thousand or below until passing over Butler outbound and – oh yeah, call Kansas City center on channel six when passing Butler, Is that it over.”
“That’s direct Tuscaloosa, direct Dothan. the rest of the clearance is OK.”
“Roger, direct Tuscaloosa, direct Dotham, got it!”
“Roger Coolstone, you are cleared to runway 36, time 1703 and one-half altimeter, setting 3001.”
“Roger tower, Coolstone one.”
Coolstone began a frantic search through his navigational charts to locate the new stations on the rerouting. The crew chief, crouching under the wing, glanced up at the cockpit because the commotion inside caught his attention. While the steam on the side of the canopy restricted his vision somewhat, he could see maps, charts, and booklets moving with great rapidity. Well, what do you know, he thought, a paper explosion! It was bound to happen.
Coolstone finally found where Butler was, eyeballed the heading and noted the frequency. He figured he’d locate the other new fixes when he had to. He looked out at the crew chief, whom he saw observing him with considerable interest, and signaled for the start.
While taxiing out, Coolstone was not particularly worried about his climb instructions since the AO said RapCon would handle the climb; a nice juicy climb directly on course would be most acceptable.
“Hello Coolstone one, have your climb instructions, execute a Lamar departure, contact RapCon on 363.8 immediately after take-off, over.”
“Roger, understand tower. Lamar departure, contact approach control immediately after take-off – what was that frequency again?”
“That was 363.8 – channel 15, and you are cleared on the active and to take-off.”
Once again a minor paper explosion occurred, for Coolstone didn’t understand this Lamar jazz at all. He attempted to divide his attention between the frantic search for the Lamar departure and taxiing the plane. After almost running off the taxi-way, he stopped and devoted all of his attention to the search.
“Coolstone from RG, are you OK?”
“Roger tower, but I can’t seem to find instructions for the Lamar departure.”
“That’s on the back of your clearance Coolstone, on the back of the 175.”
“Roger, roger boy, thanks a lot.”
After a frantic search, Coolstone turned up a crumpled soggy piece of paper from his pocket. The clearance had also suffered from the wet preflight. While the printing on the back was somewhat obscured, he was able to make out some of it with the questionable aid of his 1912 Signal Corps flashlight; newly issued of course! Let’s see, he read: Lamar departure on TVOR, climb something on 200 degree radial until reaching 12,000 feet. The next three words were unreadable – then proceed inbound on 200 degree radial crossing TVOR at 20,000 feet.
Coolstone attempted to secure the 175 under his leg clip, but the tensile strength of the paper had sadly deteriorated, and it tore. It tore right in the middle of the Lamar departure. No sweat, Coolstone thought, I’ve got it right in the old head. Outbound on 200 degrees radial till 12,000 feet, inbound 200 degree radial till 20,000 feet then proceed on course. Wait a minute – boy do they make it difficult; one of these directions isn’t 200 degrees, that’s pretty obvious. Let’s see that would be outbound on 20 degrees, inbound 200 degrees – that ought to do it.
“Hello RG tower. Coolstone one, all set now, am I cleared for takeoff ?”
“Roger Coolstone, you are cleared for take-off.”
Coolstone taxied into position, gang loaded his tanks, checked no red lights, and started up his power. Coolstone held for a moment with full power; checking his engine instruments, then he released the brakes.
At about 100 kts, as he raised the nose, Coolstone found that the rain on the windshield had all but eliminated forward visibility. The runway lights were only a blur. He made up his mind that he would go on instruments as soon as he became airborne. The steam on the canopy had not dissipated to any noticeable extent, which altogether gave Coolstone the impression that he was flying this bird from a rather poorly lit coal tunnel.
After becoming airborne, with the plane cleaned up, Coolstone started the turn to 20 degrees for his departure. He called RapCon: “Hello Olathe Radar, this is Coolstone one, airborne at RG, 14 past the hour, squawking three, turning to the outbound heading for the Lamar departure.”
“Roger Coolstone, this is Olathe Radar. Understand you departed RG at 14; remain at 2500 feet until established outbound on the 200 degree radial. Give Olathe Radar a call when inbound.”
“Whoops!” said Coolstone to himself as he shot through 2500 feet, nose down, power back, they almost faked me out of position that time.
“Hello Coolstone, this is Olathe. ATC would like your Butler estimate, please.”
“Ah, uh, Butler, let’s see.” It would take him twenty odd minutes to climb, then thirty or forty miles to Butler. “Give them fifty past the hour Olathe.”
“Roger, understand, forty past the hour – is that correct Coolstone?”
“Uh – OK, forty is my estimate.” They probably know better than I do anyhow, he thought. Coolstone finally centered the omni needle and started his climb from 2500. At 7000 feet, Coolstone released his IFR take-off clutch on the stick and remarked to himself that he was quite an instrument pilot even if he did say so. Had that 20 degrees boxed and course indicator right in the middle. With the turn coming up at twelve thousand, he tried to see on the battered clearance if it was supposed to be a procedure turn, or if he should just wheel it around – the tear had taken care of the turn instructions very well. He couldn’t make it out. He decided just to wheel it on around, it would save time anyhow.
“Hello Olathe Radar, Olathe Radar.” Coolstone’s voice exuded pure confidence now. I’m inbound on the Lamar departure, how about going out on course now.”
“Coolstone from Olathe, continue on your departure until twenty thousand and squawk two please.” Coolstone changed modes, and advised radar.
“Roger Coolstone, we don’t have you on our scope, what is your heading?” “Well, (slightly indignant) my heading is 200 degrees, naturally, passing through nineteen thousand.”
“Tombstone from Olathe, did you say your heading was 200 degrees? What is your position?”
With just a bit of irritation, Coolstone answered, “That’s Coolstone, Olathe, Coolstone one, not Tombstone, and I’m northeast of the TVOR inbound on 200 degrees.”
“TOMBSTONE one from Olathe, O/./$-*$$” ‘ ‘@$-“$-&- over.”
“Olathe you were garbled, say again please!”
“TOMBSTONE one from Olathe Radar, this is to advise you that you have just worked the Lamar departure in reverse. While doing so, you climbed through Green Four, Victor 4, 12, 116 and 210, four of Kansas City’s stacks – and to top it off, you went dead center through the Airline’s ‘tunnel of love’.
Continue climb to 31,000 on a south westerly heading, and when reaching 31,000, proceed to the Grandview TVOR, then you are clear to depart on course. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? OVER!”
“Er – ah – uh. I’m awful sorry Olathe.” (very weak) “Understand climb on a southwesterly heading to 31,000, then proceed to the Grandview TVOR and depart on course.”
A very disgusted “Roger Tombstone.”
“Give us a call when you are over Grandview proceeding on course.”
Coolstone finally reached 31,000; time was passing very slowly for him now. He turned almost due East to head for Grandview TVOR. He looked at his fuel counter and saw that there were only 580 gallons of fuel remaining. He had gone exactly nowhere, and he wasn’t too sure how much the ATC routing had affected the distance to Tyndall. If it didn’t change any, he could see that he would have less than minimum fuel remaining when arriving at Tyndall…
“Hello Olathe Approach Control, this is Tombstone – er – Coolstone one; would you get me an approach time for RG please? I’m changing my destination from Tyndall to Richards-Gebaur.”