LITH035 11/6/03

SNAKE IN THE HOLE Well, not a lot new going on these days in The Hole. But the Farmington (FMN) VORTAC has been changed to the Rattlesnake (RSK) VORTAC. You can thank Scotty for that one. Now we need to change Cortez (CEZ) VOR to something else, say, Mesa Verde VOR? I like it. Reason for changing VOR names? There was a big push years ago to not have airports and VORs have the same name unless they are co-located. For some reason FMN and CEZ weren’t changed at that time. Durango VOR is located at Durango airport, so that won’t change. I’m sure there’s others around the country that are in the same situation.

TRAINING TAKING ITS TOLL One of our loyal readers said there should be lots more postings as I had been training someone on the D-side (handoff position, not the radar person). It’s just not the same sitting back there and watching, not working the airplanes. Now, there are two other radar trainees, one on each side of my shifts, that is blocking me from working The Hole. Where’s the justice?

LITH034: 7/5/03

CATCHING UP: “DREAMTEAM”, HOLE STYLE Yep, it doesn’t happen often, Scotty and I working The Hole together. But it hapenned recently, twice in a couple days! FMN Tower didn’t know what to make of it, hearing our alternating voices and all. It’s that rare. At first I had Scotty sit with me just so he could take it from me, didn’t really need the help. But then it exploded, rock & roll as they say.

TOWER FILLS A VOID Apparently FMN Tower has found a replacement for its departing controller. They let me know that they’ll train the ex-PATCO guy appropriately, including my crack on french fry making.

RARE PLANE ALMOST MAKES TYPE EVEN RARER Our buds down in FMN had to wipe off some sweat and clean some underwear after a fairly rare airplane about dumped it on landing, and then again on takeoff. There’s only 4 left of this type they say, darn near 3. I won’t get into the specifics of what kind it was, but I’d never seen one before in person or on freq.

HOLE SURVEYED FROM ABOVE BY…WELL, ME In a recent trip, I had to fly through large parts of The Hole, got a new perspective on it. The first leg was at night between Grand Junction and Page. You don’t know how appropriate the name is until you fly it at night. The darkest darkness I’d ever seen. Those little flickering lights at Cal Black might as well been ships on an empty sea. On the way back, during the day, I flew over Kayenta, Four Corners monument, and landed at Durango. Met some great guys there at Starbase, an FBO in Durango. I’d been to Farmington already, I actually wanted to buy gas I could afford, so going there was out of the question – good restaurant or not.

MEETING OUR CUSTOMERS, PT DEUX First it was Sedona Scott, now one of our oldest (not in age) and more regular customers, Payson Bob, flew into BJC lately and we met up. Yep, that plane is as nice as he described, if not better. One of these days I was going to fly down his way (escape from in-laws), but now they moved away from where he lives. Mixed feelings on that, no excuse to head that way anymore, but now they’re further away! (..that comment’s gonna cost me)

HOLE MOVING RUMORS Well, I know before I said The Hole was supposed to be closed and swallowed up into the area in which it resides. Now the story is, and it’s in writing apparently, that another area altogether will get the two sectors that make up The Hole. That’s right, people who’ve never worked that airspace will assume it. While it can be an occasional shade tree, it sure ain’t for beginners, which this new area would be chock full of. Considering I’d probably follow The Hole to that area, I should amend that. These guys are true professionals and should make for an easy transition. It would be my (in reality, their) honor to work with them (me). Seriously though, that area works the mountain airports north of The Hole. Fairly complicated low altitude stuff, no wonder they lead the nation (ok, the facility) in errors. Sounds right up my alley, I’d love to work that airspace. Low altitude? I’ll take it all. My request to transfer will be done before the ink is dry on the official approval of the moving of The Hole.

LITH033: 6/3/03

FMN TOWER HAS AN OPENING TA reminded me it’s been a long time since this site’s been updated. Oddly enough, the updates have slowed down because of the previously mentioned shift changes that put me and Scotty on the same team (see MORE RIFF-RAFF POSSIBLE 1/26/2003). So now, Scotty’s a campin’ back there and yours truly is mostly banished to the real control room. But hey, he’s on vacation or something right now and I’m living it up. TA told me that JL is leaving the tower and they are interviewing for the position as, ahem, air traffic controller. Yep, that’s right, you too can be one of the few, the proud, the rare job where you can say “cleared to land” and “would you like fries with that” in the same shift.

LITH031: 2/2/03

ONE OF THOSE DAYS I’m sure this title will become a recurring theme, those odd and strange days that happen too often in The Hole. Check this out…

UNREACHABLE CHARTS Had a Twin Otter today going to Farmington, then changed to Grand Canyon. Rides were rough, up and, mostly, downdrafts galore. It got so bad for this guy his charts slid backward to the point he couldn’t retrieve them. He then needed to know the upcoming terrain as he was below my Minimum IFR Altitudes (VFR) and wasn’t familiar with the lay of the land ahead.

UNREACHABLE ELT Around the same time I had a C210 that got rocked so good that his ELT (Emergency Locater Transmitter) was set off and transmitting on 121.5! Same problem as guy above, couldn’t reach it to turn it off. Had to go all the way to Las Vegas with it activated, so much for that ELT battery.

UNMAINTABLE ALTITUDES Think I broke a record for block altitudes at one time today. Holding altitude was nearly impossible, at one point this Dakota was less than the speed limit for cars on the ground, never mind holding any altitude. I just started offering blocks at random. Funny, everyone was a taker.

‘CITATION STEVE’ SAVES THE DAY Hopefully this guy becomes a regular as he went way beyond the call of duty to help out a fellow pilot. Had a Lancair (in a block, of course) above and in front of a Citation both going into Farmington. The Lancair is NORDO, the Citation is slowly overtaking and descending, setting up for the ILS. I let the Citation know of the situation and that the second I see the Lancair descend, the ILS clearance is cancelled. He not only understands, but offers to help out as he hears the Lancair coming in weak trying to call me. In most cases, and was about to happen in this one, the NORDO aircraft would be pulled out and made second, or usually last. The Citation, by what he heard, felt this other aircraft needed possible assistance and volunteered to be pulled out of sequence and help get this Lancair down and safe. He relayed to the other pilot for me until I could talk to him, and we both got him down and turned around onto the ILS. He landed safely with the Citation right behind him. I couldn’t thank him enough and he said what I’ve said and thought all along: “we’re all on the same team”. Amen brother. I told the tower to buy him lunch on me at Senor Peppers. He also was asked to call the Center for an atta-boy.