Dangerous beginnings – An expensive radio lesson (2/2)

Treasures From The Pioneer Era, reported by Ernie Tanner:

In fine weather, with a full tank and renewed courage, we took off from Lausanne towards Geneva. Navigation wasn’t a problem this time, as I needed only to fly along the shore of Lake Geneva. We enjoyed the magnificent scenery below us. My companion, who had done the same course as me in aeronautical radio training, switched on the frequency for the control tower in Geneva – but there was literally radio silence. 

We tried all the frequencies listed. Everywhere was deadly silent. I cast one eye onto our radio-set beside me to help my companion find the right frequency, and with the other I followed the shoreline until, with horror, I saw that not only had I entered controlled airspace, but the runway was right ahead! I veered hard to the left in the direction of the lake, and again to my horror saw a four-engine passenger plane rushing in with its landing flaps and landing gear extended. I must have swerved at the last second, otherwise the aviation security service would have ordered the passenger plane to overshoot and change course. That would have meant disaster for me, the absolute novice. Luckily, the pilot of the passenger plane hadn’t seen me or he would certainly have overshot.

I flew low along the shore back towards Lausanne, sneaking out of controlled airspace, and landed near a farmhouse. From there, I phoned the control tower. “This is the pilot of HB-XDK. Please forgive my misconduct, but my radio is out of order.” The reply was instant. 

“OK, it was you! Did you see the passenger jet on its final approach?” “Yes, sir.” I tried to sound apologetic. “Can you direct me with light signals?” I asked. He gave me permission and cautioned me to approach on the route prescribed for helicopters, which I did. He made me circle a few times with the red light and then finally gave me the green light to approach from the side. I landed in front of a large hangar and looked for a technician to check my radio and repair it if necessary. However, that wasn’t necessary. He saw at once that we had turned the “squelch” too far back. The squelch reduces the sound level, and we had switched it right off. That was an expensive lesson!