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Subject:Home!
Time:05:39 pm
I'm home! I sent a text message to my ride just before we pulled into the gate. From there, we parked the plane, I hopped off, went through immigration, waited for my luggage, went through customs, waited for my ride, went across the bay bridge, and headed upstairs into my loft. I set my suitcase down precisely one hour after I sent the text message... not bad!

Flights are supposed to be uneventful, and mine almost was. I like listening to ATC during takeoff and landing, and it's especially interesting in very busy airports. Heathrow is especially cool because you hear all sorts of different accents. Our landing today was looking pretty uneventful, until I heard a controller tell someone, "go ahead and cross the runway, but quickly... there's someone on short final." A few seconds later, just as we're about to touch down, I hear, "United 931 heavy, go around." The engines roar, and the plane starts climbing again.

Charming, Mr. Controller, charming. You probably burned a thousand bucks worth of jet fuel with that little maneuver.

As we were turning onto base, the controller gave us instructions to do something (turn left, blah blah blah, then clear to land) and our pilot responded with, "This all sounds vaguely familiar." And as the controller was handing us off to the next guy, he snarked, "United 931, hope this is the last time I talk to you."

I ran into the pilot at the baggage carousel, and he was not the least bit amused by the whole thing.
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songmonk
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Time:2007-11-27 02:16 am (UTC)
How does one listen to ATC?

When you say the pilot was not the least bit amused, do you mean you talked to him about it? Did he have anything else to say?

The controller sure has some nerve to lash back after he was the one who made the error in judgment. I guess some people are like that.
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whipartist
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Time:2007-11-27 02:19 am (UTC)
On United, they always play the ATC conversation on channel 9.

I talked to the pilot briefly, 'cause I wanted to compliment him on his snarky comment. "That was my partner. I was kinda busy at the time." And then he grumbled something about the controller error costing the airline a lot of money.

That wasn't the controller lashing back, it was the pilot. Sorry I was unclear.
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evwhore
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Time:2007-11-27 05:34 am (UTC)
It's clear to people who are used to listening in, but a clarification might not have gone amiss :-)

Now that I fly Southwest almost exclusively, listening in on tower traffic is the thing I miss most. I think I would have made a good ATC :-)

"go ahead and cross the runway, but quickly" -- I'm surprised "expedite" and/or "immediate" weren't used. Maybe those are US "special" words?
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whipartist
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Time:2007-11-27 05:44 am (UTC)
I was paraphrasing... I only half heard it until I heard the part about someone else being on short final. We were the only aircraft on short final, so I tried to remember what had come before that.
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evwhore
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Time:2007-11-27 06:16 am (UTC)
Ah.

One of my memorable listening-in experiences was after we had landed and were on our way to the terminal. The instructions to our plane went along the lines of "cross runway ## left immediate, hold short runway ## right." We then sat there for a minute while two planes landed on either side of us. Then "cross runway ## right and proceed blah blah blah to terminal."

Which is perfectly fine, I suppose (I'm sure they wouldn't ask you to do that if there weren't ample clearance on both sides), but still mildly off-putting while amusing at the same time since I had a fairly good idea from the first instruction what was about to happen.
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whipartist
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Time:2007-11-27 06:22 am (UTC)
I enjoy ATC more in small planes. One day we got, "Four Seven Hotel, is that really a Lance?"

"Four Seven Hotel, it's a Lance."

"Wow. I didn't know they could move that fast."

If you ever hear the controller politely and out of the blue inform a pilot, "Such and such barometer (reading)", that's their way of saying, "Dude, get your ass back to the right altitude."

I think I also remember a pilot being told "You're number three to land. Follow the big ugly yellow thing."
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stevecohen
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Time:2007-11-27 03:30 pm (UTC)
Yeah - pretty major screw-up on the part of the controller there, though some blame could go to the pilot of the crossing plane for not going quickly enough. The controller want to maximize the traffic the airport can handle to avoid delays, etc., and a HUGE part of doing that is the judgment calls in ground control.

I've gotten some pretty interesting clearances...

"Cessna 66789er, your clear to land number three behind a pair of Shorts" was probably my all-time favorite. I was third in line behind an Allegheny Airlines Short 330 and, I believe, a Northwest Airlines Short 330. I chuckled "Right - third to land behind the two Shorts" and the controller came back, with obvious background uproarious laughter in the tower cab: "Roger that - number three to land after the two Shorts".

Another great one - "Cessna 66789 your option, turn base and tuck in now in front of the big old C-130, or take a looooooooong final behind his six friends following him".
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rmd
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Time:2007-11-27 03:48 am (UTC)
i love listening to the ATC/plane traffic. it's so reassuring, because i'm not just randomly in a big metal cylinder in midair -- i can hear that i'm in the care of hard core aviation nerds who are doing their job very well and everything is all routine.
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heronymus_waat
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Time:2007-11-27 02:04 pm (UTC)
The good news, for both you and the pilot, is that at least in the US, is that any ATC who did that in the states would get "dinged". A Ding, or a deal, is an Event in the career of an ATC; they're allowed 3 in 10 years. Most of the ATC's out there go their whole careers without having an event.

My favourite ATC story is the conversation where, while dealing with an obstreperous American Airlines pilot, the controller commented:

"OK, enough out of you. Let me talk to Beavis."
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bldrnrpdx
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Time:2007-11-28 01:46 am (UTC)
I like listening to ATC during takeoff and landing, and it's especially interesting in very busy airports. Heathrow is especially cool because you hear all sorts of different accents.

My mom used ATC chatter for her dissertation, specifically looking at different "Englishes" used by airline employees from different countries. I got to hear a little of her recordings while she was working on it - very cool stuff. She also was part of a team who worked on developing the coursework for teaching English to employees of airlines who had to meet a "basic minimum" of English as required by the FAA of airlines having employees on US soil or in US airspace. Unfortunately, as a grad student, she doesn't get her name on the curriculum.
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