On The Air: March 2020


I was a new controller and just assigned to my first duty station, Falcon Field in Mesa Arizona. I had a pretty good working relationship with my crew mate. It was slow and we had the frequencies on the speaker so we could use handsets instead of wearing headsets.

Out of nowhere we get a report of birds on the north side of the field flying south. So as is required of us, my crew mate starts making a cautionary statement for birds INVOF the airport. As he is doing this I scream as loud as I can, “CAW CAW CAW.”

He starts laughing in the middle of this cautionary statement but finishes it and we both start laughing in the tower cab.

After a few moments of silence on the frequency we hear over the loud speaker, “Uh tower, it sounds like those birds may be attacking the tower. Everything okay down there?”

We couldn’t stop laughing and the frequency blew up with pilots making bird noises and bird jokes. Good times…

Joe Forti

Las Vegas, NV

Approaching Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport, the traffic advisories from Approach were scant until after a bit, Approach said, “Archer 44939, traffic at your 11 o’clock, slow-moving, type and altitude unknown, I’m not talking to him.”

Me: “939 looking.”

Approach: “You spot him yet?”

Me: “Negative.”

Approach: “Might be a train on the mountain.”

Sure enough, there it was. I decided to have some fun and deadpanned, “Traffic in sight.”

Not missing a beat, he replied, “Traffic no factor. Tower now, good day.”

Aviation is serious business, but best not taken too seriously!

Fred Simonds

Juno Beach, FL

On a nice fall afternoon, I was returning to my home airport after a Missouri Pilots Association board meeting. Another member was about 10 minutes ahead of me, and we were both on flight following with Kansas City Center. I heard Center give my friend a traffic advisory as we were nearing Kansas City.

Center: “Warrior 1234, be advised numerous targets maneuvering 12 o’clock, 15 miles.”

Warrior: “Roger. Could those be migratory waterfowl?”

Center: “No, ma’am, not unless they’re equipped with transponders.”

Chris St. Germain

Kansas City, MO

I occasionally fly a friend’s airplane for my business trips out of Switzerland. Although GA in Europe is not as common as in the U.S., flying there is a very rewarding experience. However, one has to get used to the many accents and slow pronunciation on the radio. On the air from Germany to Switzerland, I checked into approach on a low IFR day with the usual U.S. phraseology and talking fast from a Swiss registered (HB) aircraft. Zurich approach came back: “HB-ABC, not so fast, and, first we say ‘grüezi’.”

Grüezi is Swiss German for welcome. So I repeated myself, this time slowly and with a “grüezi” in the beginning. The skies can indeed still be a friendly place, even at a busy Class B airport and in low IFR.

Chris Stern,

Raleigh, NC

My dad gets your magazine and ever since I was a kid my favorite thing was to sit down and read On the Air. Now I’m a private pilot of 450 hours, about to start my IFR training, and decided I should contribute. So here ya go.

My Story:

Two years ago my fiancee and I were chaperoning my 94-year-old grandparents on a Delta Airline flight to a vacation destination. Grandma walks just fine, but my World War II Marine veteran grandpa had to use a wheel chair around the terminal and an aisle chair (skinny little wheel chair that fits in the aisle between airplane seats) to get to his seat.

There was a hefty crosswind at the destination and we landed rather hard (just like I always do in my Tri-Pacer). As we were heading down the aisle to exit, the Captain took a look at my grandpa in his wheel chair and said, “Boy, I hope that wasn’t because of my landing!”

Jeff Muehl

Detroit, MI

These are new, but we’re always running right on the edge. Don’t want returns? Send us your cleverest or most embarrassing moment on the radio—or your favorite fix names or airport names—with a subject of “OTA,” to [email protected]. Be sure to include your full name and location.


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