The school needed someone to pickup some supplies at Dupage so Sandy asked me if I would like to make that trip instead of flying our scheduled lesson. It would be a chance to get some practice at a different controlled airport as well as doing some pilotage. It sounded like a nice change of pace to me. Besides, they would knock off some of the price of the flight.
In the pre-flight briefing, we went over the route and looked at airport diagrams so I could get an idea of what to expect when we arrived. We wanted to avoid the lowest sections of the O’Hare class B airspace so, instead of going direct; we would fly more westerly before turning south. My landmarks would be Campbell Airport, Lake In The Hills Airport, and then the Fox River which we would follow all the way to KDPA. That would give us a ceiling of 3,600 feet under the class B. Simple right? Actually the flight did go just as planed. Sandy spotted the first two airports before I did but, I wasn’t far behind. Then, it was just stay on the west bank of the river.
About 15 miles out, we tuned in the ATIS and learned that 3 runways were in use. At 10 miles, I called the tower, told them where we were going on the field and asked for runway 33, the closest one to our destination. The controller told us to report two miles out on a right downwind wind for 33. He cleared us to land before I got to the reporting point so it was a pretty simple arrival. The landing wasn’t too bad. I did my usual ballooning trick but not so much that I had to add power. We cleared the runway, contacted ground and taxied to the ramp.
Sandy called the distributor who said he would bring our supplies over in a few minutes. In the mean time, she arranged for someone from an avionics shop on the field to look at our autopilot. It had been placarded as inoperative for some time. The tech who looked at it couldn’t find any problem. He removed the inop sticker and suggested we test it on the flight back. The distributor arrived; we loaded three boxes of books, charts, etc. into the airplane and did a quick preflight before departure.
When we called ground, they told us the wind had shifted to 070 at 13 knots. The controller gave us the choice of taking off on close by 33 or taxing to either runway 10 or 02R. We decided to take runway 10. Dupage has a more complicated system of runways and taxiways than Waukegan does. “Cessna 079, taxi to runway 10 hold short of runway 33…079 stay to the right as you turn onto E (there was another aircraft taxiing the other way)…079, cross 33 hold short of runway 02R…079, cross 02R taxi to runway 10.” I had to listen closely to catch my call sign and get the rapid fire instruction. With Sandy looking at the taxi diagram and giving me directions, I was able to at least look like I knew where I was going.
We had an odd situation occur after we got to the hold line. An airplane in front of us was told to position and hold by a female voice from the tower. I don’t remember the full tail number but, it ended with 686. After a few seconds, a male voice came on and said: “Cherokee 68L cleared for takeoff” – no response…“Cherokee 68L cleared for takeoff on runway 10” – still no response…“Cessna 079 tower, radio check.” Sandy had been about to call anyway so she answered that we could hear him loud and clear and, that the call sign of the aircraft on the runway was 686 not 68L. His next call, to 686, finally did get a response. I hope that when the time comes that I setting on the runway waiting for takeoff clearance and I hear a call sign that is just one character off, I will realize what is going on and question the controller. I do that a lot anyway. I have no problem saying; “Tower was that for Cessna 079?” They never get upset with me for asking.
On the way back to Waukegan, we played with the autopilot a little to make sure it was working (I learned that I like autopilots) and did some more pilotage. The approach was a long straight in for runway 5 where – surprise – I ballooned on the landing. This wasn’t the lesson we had scheduled, but it was a valuable learning experience none-the-less.
Skill Aviation/Waukegan Wings was sponsoring an FAA presentation titled “Ace Your Check ride! Private/Commercial Pilot Practical Test Clinic”. I left long enough to get something to eat and then went back for the lecture. It was given by a designated examiner who is also a United Airlines captain. I thought it was a very worthwhile insight into how examiners think about the exam.