Turboprop makes repeated low passes; nonplussed runway apparently rejects them
But what caught my attention and wouldn't let go was a Beech King Air turboprop that seemed to be flying a racetrack pattern at low altitude above the northwest side Chicago neighborhoods I run through. It was white and blue, didn't appear to have any airline or government designation, and no, I didn't get the tail number of the truck, officer. But it was flying strange. Here's what I mean:
- Planes don't loiter over this part of town. I live within 3 miles of O'Hare under a surface-to-10,000 feet column of tightly controlled airspace. Usually you only see commercial airliners on their way in or out of town and nothing else. As a pilot, I can tell you that this particular column is no man's land for anyone looking to futz around and sightsee. You're likely to end up with an F-16 or two as wingmen here if you don't have a reservation.
- This guy was clearly on some mission, and appeared to be flying in an oval or circular track pattern. Again, no one does that here. They take off, they land. That's it. This close to O'Hare, no other flight operation normally makes sense.
- Finally, I noticed he was shooting approaches to runway 22L. Repeatedly. This is a runway that doesn't see too many landings from the northeast each year, although a Lufthansa 747 did blot out the sun over my house once when it used this runway one Sunday afternoon.
He made at least five passes that looked like approaches to 22L from the northeast, except that each one he made was just above treetop level. WAY too low to be a standard instrument approach, or even a visual approach. His gear were down every time.
I'd like to know what gives. Is this a standard test procedure of some kind for an ILS localizer suspected of faults? Anyone care to hazard an informed theory or two?