We were inbound for a practice ILS at Portland, Maine, on a seriously windy day. The controller was a trainee we’d heard before, and she must have been having a bit of trouble with the wind—as were we, bouncing along in our minimally equipped 1976 Skyhawk:
Portland Approach: “Cessna Seven Three Eight Two Seven, fly heading 350.”
Us: “350, Eight Two Seven.”
Approach (a couple minutes later): “Cessna Eight Two Seven, fly heading 330.”
Us: “330, Eight Two Seven.”
Approach (a minute or two later): “Cessna Eight Two Seven, what are the winds aloft at your altitude?”
I probably could have figured that out between my panel full of steam gauges and the portable GPS, but my instructor saved me the trouble:
Instructor: “Ma’am, we don’t have that kind of technology. How about, ‘Really strong from the northwest?’ “
Approach (laughing): “Roger that. Thanks.”
It was a local fly-in of Pipers: simple J-3 Cubs, bigger Supercubs, and Supercruisers (like a Supercub but with a wider backseat that can legally accommodate two people). They were all announcing themselves on frequency by their type and a non-Piper aircraft unlucky enough to bumble into the pattern that day got a bit confused:
Supercruiser 34M: “Windsock traffic, Supercruiser Three Four Mike, final 15.”
Supercub 996: “Windsock, Supercub Nine Nine Six, left base 15. Windsock.”
Supercub GE9: “Windsock traffic, Supercub Golf Echo Niner, left downwind. Looks like number four for landing. Windsock.”
Cessna 238: “Windsock, Cessna Two Three Eight on downwind. Number three for landing behind the, uh, Supercruiser on base.”
Supercub 996: “Hey, I’m a Supercub on base, not a Supercruiser. What are you trying to tell me? That this paint job makes my butt look fat?”
Overheard with Miami Center:
Miami Center: “American Five Oh Two, traffic four o’clock, 10 miles, flight of four F-16s, block altitude FL230 to 250.”
American 502: “American Five Oh Two, looking.”
Center (a minute later): “American Five Oh Two, do you have the four F-16s in sight?”
American 502: “American Five Oh Two, I’ve got, mmm, three but not the fourth.”
Center: “Well they’re either sneaky, stealth, or we were given the wrong number.”
American 502: “Ya, they always did manage to shoot me down when I went up against them.”
Center (laughter heard): “Roger that.”
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
I was flying IFR from Dallas-Addison to Boulder, Colo., on a day when there was a lot of turbulence at pretty much every level. Around Liberal, Kan., we heard this conversation between an airliner and mildly snarky Kansas City Center:
American 283: “Center, American Two Eighty-Three, we are experiencing continuous light-to-moderate turbulence. Is there an altitude that’s better?”
Kansas City Center: “It’s pretty much like that all the way to FL410.”
American 283: “From sea level?”
Center: “Albuquerque is not exactly at sea level.”
A few minutes later:
United 965: “Center, United Niner Six Five. How long can we expect this turbulence to last?”
Center: “Pretty much all the way to Denver.”
United 965: “Looking forward to that!”
Your article “Height Above What?” (March 2012 IFR) reminded me of the controllers having to use “tree” instead of “three.” When I first heard it, I was sure he had a speech impediment. My nephew, who flies for Alaska, told me they were required to use “tree” and he added this:
3 = tree.
33 = dirty tree.
33 1/3 = dirty tree and a turd.
I guess you can’t print that.
Lago Vista, Texas