Thu Oct 01, 2020 9:27 am
This happened to me this week, on Tuesday! While my story was never actually a real risk, it shows how things have the potential to go wrong...
I was landing on 24 at Deanland and had a lovely nailed-on approach, perfectly on speed, lined up nicely. However, there was quite a lot of glare from the ground and visibility was quite poor with a lot of evening haze around.
On final, I noticed another aircraft lined up on the runway, so I called 'G-ABCD Final to land, 24, visual with traffic lined up', thinking it a bit odd that someone else was lined up and wanting to make them aware that I'm aware of them.
As I got closer, I started thinking 'what the hell? get a wriggle on' and prepared for a go-around in plenty of time. In my head though, I expected them to put the power on and depart.
In the end, they didn't move, so I initiated a go-around in plenty of time, nice and controlled and climbed away. As I climbed over the runway, the next thought that ran through my head was: maybe they don't have a radio and so what if they are climbing underneath me? Cue a little bit of waggling to check, but in the end the other aircraft made a call that they were taking off while I was just turning downwind - and my FI was the passenger. I then completed my second circuit and did a smooth uneventful landing.
While downwind on that second circuit, that was when it dawned on me: the other aircraft wasn't on the runway at all; they were at the hold on the adjacent taxiway. In the glare of the sun, I couldn't distingtush between the runway and taxiway and must have been perfectly lined up to land on the taxiway.
In practice, it was never that dramatic: I had sight of the aircraft from a long way out, set expectations of a go-around also from a long way, and would have definitely noticed on short-final that I was in the wrong place. But, the point is, from further out on final, I didn't. I had a lovely approach, just offset by 20 metres.
I'm not sure there was much of a lesson learned, other than just how 'reflective' grass can be and how much the visibility can be impacted by a low evening sun in the Autumn.
On the drive home my FI called; he was in the aircraft taking off and I suppose wanted to ask why I went around quite early - I doubt from the angle he was at and the distance I was away that he would have been able to tell I was lined up with the taxiway. After I told him we both had a laugh and reflected that the fact that he was at the hold was probably a good thing, as the reflection from their aircraft was the thing that was visible from far out and had he not been there I would have likely proceeded further on final before noticing the issue.