In the waning days of 1987, fellow pilot Bill and I went out to shoot a few practice approaches at Oxford Airport (KOXC) in central Connecticut. Bill was safety pilot as I flew the ILS 36 and NDB 18 approaches. In no rush, we cruised on down to the Long Island Sound shoreline to shoot the VOR-A approach into Griswold Airport (now closed).
Griswold was private, but nothing said we couldn’t shoot a low approach. On completion of the procedure, not seeing anyone around, I landed anyway because I couldn’t resist the challenge of landing on only 1863 feet of runway.
Local scuttlebutt alleged that a Griswold family owned the airport and that they were “crazy.” I resolved to make a U-turn on the runway and depart before anyone noticed.
Too late! Just after turning around, two men brandishing shotguns came running toward us, yelling that we shouldn’t have landed, and that the airport was NOTAM-closed. I pushed up the throttle, and we departed straightaway.
Back at our home airport, we did some research and found it was indeed closed. I felt ashamed for not having checked it out first even though we had no plan to fly there.
I learned an unforgettable lesson to read and fully understand NOTAMs for every flight, no matter how benign or routine. Flying with an FAA inspector many years later, he refused to land at an airport we had not briefed. He called Flight Service, who assured him there were no pertinent NOTAMS. I’m sure he learned that habit without facing the barrel of a gun.
Editor’s Note: This article is from 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: [email protected]