Now that I have flown both the Fisk Arrival into Oshkosh during Airventure and the Lake Parker Arrival into Lakeland during Sun ‘n Fun, I have had time to reflect on the two.
Both arrivals are well documented in a published NOTAM, ahead of time, and available so pilots can plan, and prepare for the arrival. In the case of the Fisk Arrival, there are numerous videos available on the EAA Airventure website. Flying the arrival for the first time last year, I read and re-read the NOTAM, watched all the videos, fretted and felt excited, and eagerly awaited the experience.
Despite our expectation to arrive in Oshkosh on Thursday evening, we did not get there till Saturday morning. Executing the Fisk Arrival ended up being a lot easier, than what I imagined or prepared for. There are far fewer aircraft arrivals towards the end of Airventure. Further, the number of arrivals early in the morning are far fewer than what one would expect in the evening in the middle of the week. Still there was enough excitement and nervousness to keep me alert.
When the air traffic controller spoke to me as I approached Fisk, I knew exactly when he was talking to me. As he cleared me to proceed and when I transferred to Oshkosh Tower clearance, again I exactly knew when ATC was talking to me. Enough that I could recognize my ATC clearances on liveatc.net
The Lake Parker Arrival, on the other hand, was a whole different matter. Arriving during the middle of the week, in the evening, meant, there were hordes of other pilots doing exactly that! Even as we departed Leesburg International Airport (KLEE) around 6:00pm, our Traffic Advisory System started to pick up innumerable aircraft, all headed in the same general heading, and, at the same general altitude.
Since it is almost difficult to identify traffic visually most times by looking out the window, our chances here were even slimmer. A few miles from Lake Parker, one by one the aircraft disappeared from our display, as did we, likely from there’s, when we got within 3nm of Lake Parker. We were in the blind.
There is a VFR fix called VPKER over Lake Parker. A stranger (pilot of course) we ran into at Berkeley County (KMKS) earlier in the afternoon had stopped by to speak to us and give us some tips when he heard we were headed in that direction which was an extremely useful clue to making the Lake Parker Arrival. Next useful clue came from Conor from our Flight school, as we briefed the procedure at KLEE. He indicated, he would angle more east and approach the lake from the east, giving him a view of the aircraft over Lake Parker.
In the the end that is what we did. And it proved that is what ATC expected.
ATC communications were a lot less easy to follow at Lakeland. I think I rocked my wings a lot more times than I was asked to. Frankly how do you know you are not the high wing ATC is talking to? Considering there might be 4, 5, 6 or more at the same time?
I use flight following routinely for most of my cross-country flying. When ATC advices me of traffic, I rarely even locate it visually, before I am told “Traffic not a factor!”
Imagine now, that I am one of the hundreds of aircraft, all converging on KLAL for a landing. Frankly, once I identify who I think, I am following, I follow him as best as I can. Occasionally I see others, but it is hard to know if they belong to my hold loop or not…
But I let ATC worry about that. They seem to excel at what they do… Can you imagine monitoring hundreds of aircraft, different types, different speeds, and talking to them saying “Champ do this”, “High Wing do that”, “Mooney put your gear down” etc?
Ultimately, it all worked out well. I followed my lead aircraft, all the way to the runway. There was a brief moment when we forget what the procedure was to follow after all the holding. Luckily, I chose to worry less of the NOTAM and procedure, but followed the lead aircraft. There was a brief moment, when I let my guard down and almost stalled. But we fixed it and made it down safely.
All kudos go to the ATC who support Sun ‘n Fun and Airventure and make it a safe, fun and easy to arrive at, during a congested flyin event!
I know Airventure is a whole lot busier, especially during the evening, and during the week!
If curious about ATC communications during Sun ‘n Fun check here. Pick a date between April 1st and 6th morning or evening (Usually available for only 3 months after the date)