A few days ago, the national media covered an incident by Harrison Ford, when he landed on a taxiway at a commercial airport.
Immediately, the pundits and “experts” expressed all kinds of negative opinions about Han Solo’s abilities as a pilot, whether he should be flying alone at his “advanced age”, and other utterly stupid comments.
It is unfortunate that some people feel they have the right to express an opinion even if, by doing so, they are displaying their complete ignorance of the subject. I’m not talking about Trump here.
Landing is a very complex endeavor, and requires a lot of concentration and focus. Landing on the wrong surface is not new. Indiana Jones was not the first, and will not be the last, to land where he was not intending to land.
Years ago, an airliner made a beautiful smooth landing at Council Bluffs municipal airport (KCBF). The problem was, he was supposed to have landed in Omaha. The pilot had to apply very heavy braking to avoid going off the runway, but he made it. The problem was, the airliner would not have been able to take-off empty, not to mention full of passengers and fuel. The runway was not long enough. The airline had to send a crew to remove all the seats and some of the interior fixtures in order to reduce the weight to a value that allowed for a safe take-off from KCBF.
A few years, later, it happened again. Different airline, hopefully different pilot.
More recently, an airliner landed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, when the intended destination was Rapid City Regional (KRAP).
My point is, landing at the wrong surface is not uncommon.
Many years ago, when I was a fairly new pilot, my good friend Alphonse V. needed to go from KDUG, where he was the airport manager, to P33 (Cochise County), and back. Being pilots and enjoying great Arizona weather, we decided to fly. On the return trip I was flying.
When I was a student pilot, our chief flight instructor was always adamant about procedures. We were only allowed to fly into an airport following the proper approach procedures: descent, 45° entry to downwind, downwind, base, final.
So, that glorious day, trying to exercise the little “rebel” in me, as soon as I had runway 18 in sight, in no-wind conditions, I decided to start my descent and do a “straight-in” approach. My friend Alphonse is a very good pilot, and is also very respectful of the “pilot-in-command” when he’s the passenger. He silently observed what I was doing. As soon as I was at pattern altitude I announced my intentions on the KDUG frequency: “BDI traffic, Cessna 12345, five miles out, straight-in runway 18”.
A few minutes later, being in awe of myself at the beautiful, stabilized approach I was flying, I pressed the mic button again and said: “BDI traffic, Cessna 12345, short final, straight-in, runway 18”.
Alphonse, in a very calm, business-like tone of voice, asked: “Why are you landing at Tribal Air?”.
I applied full power, retracted flaps, climbed to pattern altitude, flew 9 more miles to the south, entered the pattern properly and landed at KDUG. A personal rule of mine is never to do straight-in approaches.
Thanks, Alphonse. Your short question taught me a very big lesson.