One of the things that made me nervous about starting to fly was the number of rules of airspace, and the level of control over it. I’m afraid of getting in trouble for screwing something up. And then when I got started, and learned how much there is to rules of airspace, there was ten times as much to know as I could have imagined. My school has an online ground school and the presentation on airspace is a solid two hours long. My mother in law was listening from the other room as I was watching it, and at the end said “Do you actually have to know all that?”
And yeah, there’s not really any way around it – I do have to know it.
And with my social anxieties, interactions with ATC make me far more nervous than the actual flying, for the most part. My instructor says I never had trouble with the radio work – it helped a lot that I’m used to talking to people on the phone a lot at work – not having faces to deal with makes it a lot easier, actually. And it’s not talking to them that makes me nervous, it’s the fear of screwing up something and them getting mad at me.
The first time I was in Class C airspace was on my second dual cross country, and I was definitely anxious about that. I can’t remember if my instructor made sure I was doing all the radio calls that day or not – they might have done that for me to let me focus on navigating and working out how to join the circuit without disrupting traffic. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as I was afraid of. Then a few days later, I was in terminal airspace on the solo long cross country – that was the first time in class C airspace solo, for me, and that went fine.
Aside from a short Class C Advisory north of the city for my preflight, I wasn’t in Class C airspace again at all until after I got my private license. I’m pretty good at pushing through anxiety though, and since it was something that made me nervous, I knew I had to get myself more comfortable with it. So anytime I was flying far enough to make it worthwhile climbing above 3000 feet into terminal airspace, I filed my flight plan with an altitude that would take me there.
So when Winnipeg and St Andrews Towers had a presentation and they mentioned they were inviting people to come fly over Winnipeg in the control zone, for sightseeing, I was ready to take them up on it. I took a friend with me and we flew over downtown, and North Kildonan – I got him to call my husband and tell him when we were overhead, and Nathan was able to spot us from the ground. Then we went for a touch and go at CYWG – another thing I’ve done twice before, but never solo.
The most amusing part of that flight was when we went over to Oak Hammock airpark for a touch and go on their little grass runway. I did kind of a crappy assed turn to final – it had been a few months since I’d practiced on that runway, and the turn to final on 36 there is a tad unforgiving, because you have to turn before the highway or you end up in St. Andrews airspace. Come to think of it, I may have never actually brought a 172 into Oak Hammock Airpark, though I did a half hour of circuits in a 152, and a ton in the citabria. That runway’s too short to dick around with though, and I figured fairly early in the final approach that I was going to have to do an overshoot. I did, and came around for a second try, and second time was perfect. The amusing part though was when my passenger asked why ATC had stopped responding to my radio calls.
I was suddenly reminded how much procedural stuff there was to know about flying. I couldn’t begin to explain to a passenger all the rules to the three different airspace classifications we’d passed through in the previous half hour or so. But from Winnipeg control zone (class C), we’d passed through St. Andrews control zone (class D) and into uncontrolled airspace (class G). A passenger couldn’t possibly be expected to know what it meant when St. Andrews tower addressed us, saying “November India Quebec, radar services are terminated, cleared to enroute frequencies.”
Anyway, I gave him the short version “We’re in uncontrolled airspace, there’s no tower here – radio calls are basically made ‘to whom it may concern.'” It was kind of neat though when I had Nathan with me on the flight to Gimli, Dauphin and Brandon, because he has an amateur radio licence, and he can follow a lot more of what’s happening on the radio. With the amount of exposure he’s had, just from living with someone learning to fly, he understands a lot more than the average passenger would. Hopefully I’ll get up with him again soon.