Pattern PITAs: Just ... Shut Up
I can't put a date on it exactly, but about 15 years ago I decided it was neither productive nor professional to get into snippy arguments and wise-ass comments on the Unicom frequency. Nothing useful ever comes of it and after the frequency quiets down, you feel like you need a shower.
Over the weekend, however, I found myself on the verge of a backslide. I was flying with my instrument student, logging some approaches on a lovely Florida day. The wind was out the southwest but variable, a 45-degree crosswind on both runway 23 and 13. Airplanes were using both, but we picked 13 because it's a closer taxi and the taxiways are all ripped up to get to 23, requiring a back taxi. (That will play a role here.)
Fifteen minutes into our exercise, a light sport came putting in from the south, quite obviously flown by an older pilot who was clearly confused that airplanes were using two runways. After a brief exchange with another pilot about this, he slipped into a pedantic tone informing all on the frequency that there could only be one "active runway." He got a little insistent about it and that got him as good as he was giving. Someone snapped back in an even more pedantic tone, "No. At a non-towered airport, there is no active runway." This was obviously uttered by someone who knew his way around the ACs, something I suspect our LSA pilot hadn't cracked in a while. When he persisted, the other pilot got yet more strident, but with the same words: No active runway at an a non-towered airport, meaning no single runway limit and the pilots figure this out on the fly. Meanwhile, the PTT was just starting to dent my thumb, but at the last second, I snapped to my senses and recalled my pledge of yore.
I thought it was over. But, no. Not yet. The pilot landed, tanked up at the self serve then called the FBO wondering how he was supposed to get back to the runway with the taxiways all torn up like they were. Now, another lecture from the FBO lady, who was actually quite polite and patient in explaining that if he had read the ^%$#*& airport NOTAMS, he'd know that the taxiways were under construction, requiring back taxi to get to some runways. She explained how to get from A to B, literally.
The pilot somehow found his way to the intersection of the closed runway and runway 23. (He also ignored the AWOS item about no intersection departures, but I digress.) And now it was my turn. At the time, we had just reported we were in the right downwind for 13—that runway has right traffic. Our LSA friend announced that he was departing runway 23, that the wind favored this runway and so we should be using it, too, rejoined by a comment that suggested, "What are your intentions? I'm using 23." What I wanted to say was this: "Look Sparky, if you want to be an air traffic controller, take the civil service exam and apply to Oke City. Otherwise, put your compass on S and shine on." What I actually said, was "Yes, and we're using 13. You go right ahead and we'll take care of the separation." He did and we did. The compass on S part worked out, too.
I make two observations about all this: One, if you're going to barge into someone else's pattern and start offering advice, at least know what the hell you're talking about or be prepared to get spanked in detail and in multiples. A little courtesy and humor might help.
Second, I couldn't help but imagine some hapless instructor motoring around with a starry-eyed Discovery Flight candidate and trying to explain this bitchy little bit of Unicom Kabuki. "Ah, well you see…ah…it's complicated." No wonder people don't want to learn to fly.