Editor’s Note: This is the latest article in our series called “I Can’t Believe I Did That,” where pilots ‘fess up about mistakes they’ve made but lived to tell about. If you have a story to tell, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
My daughter announced that she was coming to Cyprus to visit me, and that she was really looking forward to my taking her flying. Well, I’d been somewhat busy, so I decided it was high time to do some practice flying to the training area and back.
I booked the aircraft for one afternoon, and set off from home, just outside Limassol, to Larnaca. I looked at the skies and noticed some dark stuff over the Troodos mountains, but it was fine and sunny, so, no worries. I arrived at Larnaca about an hour later, and the weather report seemed OK, so I filed a flight plan, checked out the aircraft and after the usual formalities of taxi clearance and departure clearance, I was out on runway 04. Last checks, set the transponder to ALT, open the throttle, 50kts, rotate, and climb out.
A gentle left turn over the salt lake, and I head for my first waypoint, Kalo Chorio, which came up a few minutes later. At 3000′ I make a gentle left turn onto my heading for my exit point, Mosfiloti. OK, there’s the Agia Anna wind-farm on my right, and, yep, there’s the quarry by Mosfiloti. I look around and notice it’s getting a little murky, and there’s some dark clouds way over there to the west.
It’s coming time for me to get exit clearance. The Angel on my right shoulder whispers, “This is not the time for you to be doing this, look at those clouds!” but the Devil on my left shoulder says, “Aw c’mon! You’re only going for a short flight, you’ve got to be able to fly in this, what’s stopping you?” and I press the PTT switch, “Larnaca Tower, Five Lima Oscar, request exit clearance.”
“Five Lima Oscar, you are cleared to leave controlled airspace. How long to remain in the training area?”
“About one fiver minutes, will contact you fiver minutes before leaving, Five Lima Oscar.”
“Roger that, change to Lakatamia, one two one decimal two five, bye.”
“One two one decimal two five, Five Lima Oscar,” and I press the button and change frequency.
I’m approaching the entry point at Sia, so I quickly turn onto my calculated heading for my waypoint, and start my stopwatch. Sure enough, the large radio mast south of Tseri appears on time, and I’m feeling rather pleased with myself that things are going so well. The Devil on my left shoulder says, “See! What’d I tell you? Piece of cake!”
I orbit around the radio tower and decide to see if I can get to my entry point at Alampra, so I turn onto the heading, and start the stopwatch. Within a short time there’s Agia Vavara, the ‘Y’ junction in the main highway, and, there’s Alampra! I check my stop watch and think, “Wow! That was quick!” and ignored the small warning bells that were beginning to sound.
Still feeling chuffed, I decided to head back to the radio mast and do this again, so I come around to the reciprocal heading, and level off. It seems to take forever to get back to the radio mast, and, to further complicate matters, it’s now getting rather dark. I still don’t appreciate what’s happening.
I loop around the radio mast, and just as I do I find myself scudding through really dark clouds, and the rain is lashing at the windscreen! Time I wasn’t here! I’m coming onto the heading for Alampra, so I make a run for it. The turbulence is really throwing me around such that I’m having to fight the aircraft just to stay level. I can’t even reach the radio button to change the frequency. Yet another hole in the air, and I drop 300′. I’m close to panic at this point, I can’t see a thing, the rain is lashing at the windscreen, and I’m being thrown around. Then I seem to hear my instructor’s voice, “Adrian! Don’t ever panic! Fly the damn plane, you’ve got plenty of fuel, you know how to maintain straight and level, don’t chase airspeed or altitude.” and I calm down.
There is a lull in the turbulence and I quickly press the button to change frequency, and call ATC, “Larnaca Tower, Five Bravo Charlie Lima Oscar, Alampra at three thousand, request immediate entry to controlled airspace and return to Larnaca, experiencing severe turbulence and heavy rain, Five Bravo Charlie Lima Oscar.”
“Five Lima Oscar, you are cleared to enter controlled airspace. Standard VFR route, maintain three thousand. Can you see the ground?”
“Not very well, Five Lima Oscar.”
“Five Lima Oscar, next report, Mosfiloti.”
“Report at Mosfiloti, Five Lima Oscar.”
I’m at 3000′, and in heavy rain, and it’s really dark. I’m frantically scanning what little ground I can see looking for the village, but I can’t really see a thing, when ATC calls, “Five Lima Oscar, report position.”
“Five Lima Oscar, Mosfiloti at three thousand.”
“Negative, radar has you five miles south of Mosfiloti. Can you see the ground?”
“Negative. Five Lima Oscar.”
“Five Lima Oscar, maintain present heading, and report passing the coastline.”
“Maintaining present heading, will report over the coast, Five Lima Oscar.”
It’s really murky, and I realise now that I’m far from where I thought I was.
The storm starts to abate, and it begins to clear. I think I’m well to the north east of the airport, and suddenly, there’s the coastline in front of me. You can imagine my relief!
“Larnaca Tower, Five Lima Oscar, now over the coast line.”
“Five Lima Oscar turn left onto heading zero four zero, and report field in sight.”
Now that’s a surprise! I was convinced I would have to turn right to head for the field.
“Ah, Tower, confirm left hand turn? Five Lima Oscar.”
“Affirm, turn left now onto heading zero four zero.”
“Roger that, Five Lima Oscar.”
I start a gentle left hand turn onto the requested heading. The clouds have cleared, the rain has stopped, and the sun is shining, and there, in the distance, is the welcome sight of Larnaca airport. Feeling very chastened, I obtain clearance for a straight in approach to runway zero four, and make a normal landing.
I learned a lot from that, especially to really listen to the voice of the Angel on my right shoulder!