Dick’s Follies – Ground Taxi

Have you ever flown with a pilot that set your teeth on edge? You know the kind I’m talking about — the pilot that seems to think the regulations are out there to stop them from flying, rather than to keep them within the boundaries of safe flight? I had a few rides with just such a pilot and, to be honest, he left me wondering whether I should ever fly with him again.

EXAMPLE: We were flying out to Moline. I needed to pick up my airplane from some expensive … er, extensive … maintenance and my friend Dick was kind enough to give me a ride. Dick’s plane of choice was an old, but hopped-up, Cessna 172. The older version had no back window, but this aircraft had been modified with a 180-horsepower engine and a constant speed prop. When you considered the power added by those mods, along with the STOL kit that had been added to the plane, you had a plane with both get-up-and-go as well as speed.

As we approached the ARSA, or Airport Radar Service Area at Moline, I noticed that the chart in Dick’s plane was way out of date. Worse yet, the part of the chart that Moline was on was no longer attached … or in the airplane. Since the ATIS frequency was on the part of the chart that was missing, Dick started to dial in all the ATIS frequencies that he could think of. After what seemed like twenty tries, we finally heard the dulcet tones of Moline’s ATIS — which, thankfully, included the correct Approach frequencies.

We were closing in to the airport fast at this point and, based on my experience, I would have called in to Approach within twenty miles. Dick had a different approach, and preferred to wait until he was in closer, since we were under the shelf at the time. Legally, Dick was within his rights, but having flight following when you have commuter planes going in and out of an airport is never a bad idea.

As we listened to Approach, I heard them alert an inbound commuter plane to VFR traffic at our altitude, which, coincidentally, happened to be in our general area. I suggested that Dick call in, but he said it wasn’t us and not to worry. I watched as the commuter passed around two miles away off our right side, and pointed it out to Dick, who finally called in.

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful — we were given a straight in approach to Runway 27, which Dick executed with a feather-soft touchdown on the first third of the 10,000-foot runway. Unfortunately, our destination lay all the way down on the other end of the runway. The Tower directed Dick to taxi to the appropriate taxiway, and then turn off to our destination.

Imagine my surprise when Dick dialed in the power, lifted the plane to around three feet off the runway and flew to within fifty feet of the taxiway. Then, he chopped the power, dropped the plane onto the runway, and made the turn.

…and issued an instruction that I had never heard before or since. “Cessna, GROUND TAXI remainder to distance to the FBO,” came the obviously irritated comment from the tower controller. We taxied on the ground to the FBO, where I departed Dick’s company and left him to make his way back home, alone.


The Tower gave Dick a direction, and Dick “interpreted” it in the way he wanted to in order to save time. Moline has several runways that cross, so who can say why the direction was given. One thing is for sure, the controller wasn’t happy with Dick’s choice of taxi methods.

When ATC directs you to taxi, then taxi you should — on the ground. Dick wasn’t cleared for takeoff, and since his wheels left the ground in his flying taxi, he could have been cited for a violation! Not having the correct charts on board is another FAR bust that could be cited if Dick had been the unlucky recipient of an FAA Ramp Check.

(I could have said it another way.) Per the regulations, you must carry the right charts with you when you fly. Unless you have declared an emergency, you must also follow the instructions that are given to you by ATC to avoid getting written up! The regulations are there to protect both yourself and other pilots. While there may be a time where they need to be bruised, inconvenience is not an acceptable excuse. Bear this in mind the next time you fly, and you will be safer for the thought. We’re all in this together.