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Ground station insisting on traffic pattern upon landing

Yesterday I took some of my customers flying near Hamburg, where I’m on a project engagement. They had been asking about this for months and finally, we managed to find an evening that worked for all of us. I was going to fly with 3 passengers, but ended up leaving one on the ground (socially less than ideal but unfortunately, the previous pilot had left so much fuel in the tanks that we would have been 30 kg above MTOW with four people. This is the first time this occurred to me. Major nuisance with chartering vs. ownership).

The whole thing kept me on high adrenaline levels at all time: More or less unfamiliar airfield and aircraft and hence, unfamiliar local procedures (I had done the check-flight with an instructor here two weeks ago). Everything took a little longer than “at home”, so in the end, I had to also shorten the planned flight around Hamburg and through the CTR to a bit of a local tour along the river Elbe to be back to base before nightfall (and before the airfield closes).

Now this is going to be a bit of a rant because it annoyed me. EDHE Uetersen is known for brief but professional radio service (It’s an “INFO” station). I disagree – what others found brief, I found rude. On the way back, we were coming in from the north west for a landing on Rwy 09. The published traffic pattern is southerly, i.e. it’s a right pattern.

I called Utersen Info about 7 minutes out. Usually, I’d expect a dialogue along the lines of this (all of this occurred in German):

“Utersen Info, D-EXXX
“D-XX, Utersen”
“D-XX 7 minutes north west at 2000ft, inbound for landing”
“Roger, rwy in use is still 09”

Instead, after “Utersen Info, D-EXXX”, I just got a (grumpy?) info that the rwy was still 09. I gave them a position report anyway, also potentially for other traffic – but I’m left with the feeling that (frequent?) position reports aren’t highly appreciated here.

My next report was when I was on a long final for 09 (after I had successfully identified the grass runway in twilight, which wasn’t so easy) because I didn’t see the point in flying a huge circle to enter the southerly traffic pattern. I also had a passenger who needed to use the toilet really bad.

The response I got was an annoyed: “I’m telling you AGAIN, Utersen does not have a long final. Enter via right base runway 09”. First of all, I’m not sure when he told me the first time. He might have and I might have missed it. I’m not perfect. But I don’t see how the INFO station can issue pseudo-clearances like that. It was a waste of time and fuel to fly the circle. I’m also unsure what “Utersen doesn’t have a long final” is supposed to mean. I know this has been debated before, but traffic patterns/circuits IMHO are not legally binding. They are ways to better organize traffic. It doesn’t per se rule out a direct approach.. does it.

I asked (maybe I shouldn’t even have?) if, since already established on final, if I should just proceed now. The guy got even MORE agitated, barking: “NEGATIVE! Enter via right base runway 09!” – which I then did. I’m not gonna go arguing back-and-forth while airborne.

What annoys me is not the extra 5 minutes of flying time wasted (while darkness was moving in – though we could have fitted in a touch&go or two). What annoys me is the attitude of the man on the ground who has no perception of how life in the air can be and who thinks his role is more of a “police man” than an aid to the pilots.

No question here, really. Just wanted to get this off my chest.

Ok, to test the image drag and drop, here’s the Skydemon path. The first couple of turns were when I was trying to get a visual on the airfield. The bit marked in red is the turn to right base which was the object of our debate.

Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

It is also my experience that AFIS stations are often more directive than their authority warrants. They are supposed to inform you about relevant traffic, runway in use, runway conditions, runway occupation and meteorological information.

That said there may very well be German legislation that forbids direct finals VFR (just like in France where you are supposed to overfly the airfield before entering the pattern on downwind). There may also be noise sensitive areas on the approach path to 09… In your place I would review the VAC to see if there are any reasons for the controller’s insistence, then I might want to talk to the AFIS agent to understand his point of view.

LFPT, LFPN

I would have continued. A few years back I had the same thing going on elsewhere. I just reported long final direct to a airfield in Germany.
The response was ‘negative have an UL, please fly the Platzrunde’. ONE microlight just taking off, while I was about 5 miles to touch down. There was also loads of traffic.
I went to the ‘Tower’ to have a discussion with the occupant. He got the landing fee and I told him that I fly the plane and he can fly his tower, but as his call sign is INFO he can give me instruction when he upgrades to TOWER, or there is imminent danger only.

EGBE - Coventry

In your place I would review the VAC to see if there are any reasons for the controller’s insistence

I did that. There are several noise-sensitive villages in the area but they are not on the “long final”, I would not have overflown them.

then I might want to talk to the AFIS agent to understand his point of view.

By the time I had put the aircraft in the hangar and walked back to the tower, lights were off, airport closed, agent gone home. Maybe another time…

Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

On the Website of EDHE their “Benutzungsordnung” is published (/www.edhe.de/download/Benutzungsordnung_Stand_2_2011.pdf). Paragraph 2.2, sentence (2) reads “Die Luftfahrzeugführer sind an die Weisungen der Beauftragten für Luftaufsicht oder der Flugleiter gebunden.” which quickly translated means “pilots have to follow the directions given by the person in charge.” Their airfield, their rules. If you don’t like them fly somewhere where the rules are better.

EDDS - Stuttgart

As I read it, the Flugleiter (which is a confusing term indeed, as it suggest authority that isn’t really there) was reminding you of the general procedures – at non-controlled fields, one HAS to fly the circuit, at least from the beginning of downwind. The Flugleiter has indeed no authority to give you instructions, but neither can she/he grant you exemptions from the general rules in effect.

And I must say I can somewhat sympathise with the Flugleiter – “cheese us, for how long has this guy had a pilot’s license and he still doesn’t know how to join the circuit” … Allow me to suggest you spend a sunny weekend afternoon at the side of the radio operator of any small field, you’d be surprised at the amount of tomfoolery that can occur.

If she/he insisted on strict circuit rules adherence, it may well be because of the local NIMBY’s, as at my field, or perhaps they recently had a visit from the DFS and got serious warnings to respect the rules that be.

And, as already pointed out, you should understand the distinction between rules_of_the_air (which, in my schooling, insist upon flying the circuit from the beginning of downwind, at least, but it may be different in DE), and the rules_of_use_of_the_aerodrome (the Benutzungsordnung mentioned above)- both must be complied with.

Fazit: I can imagine your annoyance, but don’t think it was really justified.

Last Edited by at 16 Sep 13:34
EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

The website has several references to the noise abatement instructions, including "Der Überflug über die umliegenden Ortschaften unter 2000 ft ist zu vermeiden. Die Anwohner danken für rücksichtsvolle Piloten, und die Flugplatz-Crew für weniger Stress mit den Bürgerinnen und Bürgern. " Looking at the map on Google Earth, it seems there is a place underneath long final 09, only 1km from the airfield: the town of Heist.

I don’t know what aircraft you’re flying, but to overfly Heist at 2000ft and after passing the 431 road, descend to land, requires a pretty draggy airframe. A quick calculation gives me about a 30 degree glide slope. Even if you and your plane are up to that, it might not be the best for passenger comfort.

So if I were to plan a flight to this airfield, I would not have considered joining via a long final. Maybe via a curved long final or a direct right base, to avoid Heist, but more likely via the regular circuit. Especially not on a nice evening like yesterday – probably one of the last evenings this year where you can sit comfortably outside until sunset.

Oh, and I don’t know about you, but I found that in general passengers don’t appreciate touch & goes. If you don’t need them for currency, you’re just showing off while making your passengers uncomfortable. And if you do need them for currency, you should not be flying with passengers in the first place.

Last Edited by BackPacker at 16 Sep 14:09

The fact remains that an AFIS agent should not exerce authority on the conduct of a flight. He is there to provide information, not give clearances or instructions. If a pilot infringes any rules or regulations, that can be dealt with after the conclusion of the flight.

LFPT, LFPN

Agreed. Still, I can imagine those who would announce a straight in, and fly it, and when eventually questioned about it they would reply with a straight face that they duly announced their act and nobody protested. Incorrect, but it might score its effect, it just might. I cannot blame the Flugleiter for staying on the safe side. Would these conversations be recorded?

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

Maybe. But then the Flugleiter not only has to deal with the rogue pilot, but also with possibly dozens or hundreds of complaints from the neighbours – who may actually be able to find their way to the authorities as well. So by letting the situation develop, it may not just be the pilot, but also the airfield that gets into trouble over this.

By giving the pilot a gentle, and then a not-so-gentle reminder that he’s doing something wrong, plus the solution on how to do things the right way, he can avoid all that. Is he overstepping his authority? Maybe. But then a priest saying “Thou shalt not steal” is also overstepping his authority.

Last Edited by BackPacker at 16 Sep 14:42
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