On the Air: September 2021


In my Air Force, then airline career I have dealt with many accents speaking English. Most are fairly easy to “decode” but one day flying into Boston, I was defeated.

With my copilot flying, I was handling the radio. Handed off to Boston Approach, I was greeted by a female voice with a pronounced Boston accent. In addition she spoke very fast in a Hi‑C pitch which could have shattered glass. Now, Bostonians can pronounce Rs, they just put them where they don’t belong and omit them from where they do belong.

Trying my best to understand directions, I was still forced to often ask, “Say again, please?”

She finally came back, “Delter 123 can’t you hea me?”

Frustrated, I answered, “I can hear you loud and shrill, I just can’t understand you.”

A voice chimed in, “I can understand her most of the time ‘cause she sounds just like my mother‑in‑law.”

Another voice said, “My kid sister talked like that till my parents sent her to speech therapy!”

A new voice broke in, “Alright guys this is Boston Approach. Can you all understand me?”

Everything ran smoothly thereafter.

Jerry Farquhar Okeechobee, FL

During the peak of last summer’s pandemic there was not a lot of air traffic or radio traffic with commercial travel being at a near standstill. I was flying into Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was talking with

Albuquerque Center when I heard another pilot call in.

Pilot: “Albuquerque Center, N1234. It looks like my clearance is going to take me over Area 51. Is that okay?”

Albuquerque Center: “Don’t you want to see the aliens?”

There was a pause, and then:

Pilot: “Sure … I guess.”

Albuquerque Center (laughing): “N1234, that’s okay. Denver Center will clear up your routing—no need to worry about an alien intercept.”

Kevin Browne San Antonio, TX

Austin‑Bergstrom International Airport (KAUS) serving Austin, TX, has several approaches that encompass some interesting waypoints. The main campus of the University of Texas is located in Austin. (UTEEE is a fix on the RNAV (GPS) Y RWY 18L). On that approach, we can also find the 36th President of the U.S.: ELLBJ, while his wife, Lady BIIRD Johnson resides on the opposite approach: RNAV (GPS) Y RWY36L.

But those mischievous TERPSters had some more fun. On the RNAV (GPS) Y RWY 18L approach, how can we possibly forget HOUKM Horns— the chant and hand gesture of UT! And if that is not enough of the gesture, the Missed Approach Fix is HOOKK for Hook ‘em Horns, or simply Hook ‘Em, referring to the costumed longhorn UT mascot.

However, what is interesting is that we also have JEDYE of Star Wars fame along with RRTOO DDTOO, the lovable astromech droid who maintains and repairs starships and related technology. Perhaps that’s to acknowledge Austin as a prominent technology center in the Southwest?

Luca Bencini‑Tibo Weston, FL

We were flying into Watsonville, a non‑towered airport on California’s Monterey Bay coast recently, on an unexpectedly clear summer evening. When we tuned into the common traffic advisory frequency, we heard a Citation announce, “Clearing the active.”

Wanting to know which runway was being used at Watsonville, I asked, “Watsonville traffic, Citation clearing the active, which runway did you land on?”

The Citation replied, “We landed on Runway 20. The Skyhawk waiting to take off will be using Runway 20 also.”

The next transmission that we heard was, “Watsonville traffic, Cessna 1234 taking Runway 20. Staying in the pattern. Watsonville.”

The Citation had taken a better look at the departing airplane and realized that it was a Cessna 182 not a Cessna 172, and so said, “I apologize. Cessna 1234 is a 182 not a 172. A Skylane, not a Skyhawk.”

The Cessna pilot was gracious about the mistake. “No problem,” he said. “I’ve been called much, much worse; I’m an umpire. Cessna 1234 turning left crosswind. Staying in the pattern. Watsonville.”

Sal Cruz Watsonville, CA


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