I'll admit to having a love-hate relationship with control towers. I love them when they sort out a hairball on the runway when departures and arrivals otherwise step all over each other. I hate it when a quiet airport that was doing just fine with a CTAF gets a tower and all of sudden you need federal assistance to find the runway.
But from the this-is-just-puzzling file comes something that happened to me on Friday. I'll use it as an opportunity for you to test your knowledge of ATC procedures and FARs.
I was flying with U.S. Aviation, which has a busy flight school in Denton, Texas. As we tried to depart, a Seneca had blown a tire on the runway and bollixed up everything. In a Remos G3, we were able to launch in front of the disabled airplane and go about our business. Returning 40 minutes later, the Seneca was gone, but the mess wasn't, so the tower controller pointed us west of the field and asked us to hold for awhile. He also gave us an altitude not to exceed. (This is technically a directive, not a clearance, since he isn't providing anything but runway separation.)
The pilot I was flying with pointed out that this directive would give us some terrain clearance issues because of high buildings west of the airport so we would need to do something else. The tower controller immediately replied with something like this: "No it won't. I can clear you. That's the good thing about being in Class D airspace."
Using all the power of the Web, you make the call. Was the controller right or wrong? Could he legally do what he did?
This is Progress?
For this trip, I flew out of DFW, one of my least favorite airports. I've been going back and forth on using the electronic boarding passes you can put into a smartphone. These are supposed to save time.
They don't. At least not always. On the trip out, the gate agent couldn't get the scanner to see the smartphone QR tag of the guy in front of me. Six or seven tries later, it finally worked. My paper pass scanned fine. On the return trip, I used the smartphone boarding pass myself.
At Dallas, it appears that TSA is using some kind of new scanner to scan the tag. Heretofore, in my experience, the agents just looked at the tag, looked at my ID and passed me through in an exercise of appropriate human technology. Wasn't that good enough? Oh, noooooo.
This new scanner gives the word kludge a bad name. It's about the size of a small copying machine and has some kind of rotatable head on it. It looks like something out of a Soviet design bureau. The phone has to be placed face down on the thing and, of course, it promptly goes dark so the scanner can't see the tag. It took three or four tries to make it work.
I think I'll go back to paper. At least it doesn't need batteries and it never asks me if I'm sure when I want to throw it away.