Short Final: Reduce Speed


Recently my wife and I flew to Harris Ranch (California) for breakfast. On the return flight, I dropped my wife off at Sierra Sky Park Airport before flying to Madera Municipal Airport, our home base.

Madera Municipal is about 20 miles north of Sierra Sky Park. In winter we usually have ground fog in the morning in the San Joaquin Valley. It just so happened that on this particular day the visibility was better than 10 miles with no fog except in the Madera area. The Madera weather was 700 overcast and 2 miles visibility.

After departing Sierra Sky Park, I called Fresno Approach for an IFR clearance and an RNAV 30 approach into Madera.

Fresno Approach advised me that I would be number two to follow a Mooney for the same approach.

As the Mooney approached the FAF, approach cleared him for a frequency change to the Madera CTAF and instructed the pilot to contact Approach after the aircraft landed.

I was then cleared to GEVRY, an IF, for the RNAV 30 approach. I was also advised that I would not be cleared for the approach until the Mooney reported on the ground at Madera.

As I approached the GEVRY IF, in my Cessna 172M, I was given the one request all Cessna 172 pilot/owners yearn to hear:

Fresno Approach: “N12345 reduce speed, number two to follow traffic ahead on the RNAV 30 approach to Madera.”

N12345: “N12345 can do, slowing to 80 knots.”

I was cleared for the approach one mile before the FAF of HATXI. Thanks to Fresno Approach and the Mooney I got the one call all Cessna pilot/owners yearn to hear, “… reduce speed, number two to follow traffic …”

Jim Shamp

Fresno, CA

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  1. I guess I don’t get it. What’s funny, and why do Cessna 172 pilots want to be told to slow down and follow traffic ahead? Is it because Cessna 172s are usually the slowest plane that everyone else has to slow down for?

    I learned to fly in Cessnas, almost a quarter century ago, but I don’t understand why this was a notable or humorous occurrence.

  2. Maybe there’s more to the story that wasn’t printed. Maybe he was coming in with no flaps and full throttle

  3. As a pilot of a 172, I found it funny. True, it’s not unique to the 172. It’s really for the pilot of any airplane that routinely cruises at less than 120 knots or comes down final at less than 70. We almost never get asked to slow down for other traffic. Certainly not for a Mooney.

    • As a Mooniac, I found it funny also. Irony is often funny when it’s not tragic.

      I’ve been asked to slow for jets, and unless the freq is very busy, generally reply by saying something akin to, “ MOONEY will be happy to slow for the JET on final.” (Caps for emphasis).

      One time I slowed for an SWA 737 doing the slowest, sloppiest final I’ve ever seen. I went from smug about my fast little plane to afraid for the passengers in a short span of time. Everything worked out though.

  4. In my training days at KPIE, we were usually asked to keep the speed up. Flying approaches at 120kts in an Archer was normal. (And fun, yanking on the flap handle over the numbers to slow down…)