On The Air September 2023


While I was flying into Boeing Field to pick up my Angel Flight passengers, I was on the ILS for 32L, which is a long (10,000 feet) runway. I was meeting my passengers at an FBO off the north end of 32R, which is a much shorter runway (3700 feet) roughly aligned at the north end of the field with the north end of 32L.

So while a few miles out on final in severe-clear-VMC, I asked tower if it was okay if I sidestepped to 32R because it would be a much shorter taxi once I landed. They said unable since there was no procedure to do so. No problem, I continued, landed on 32L, and off the runway called ground. They cleared me to taxi to the FBO, but gave me a phone number to call.

Ummm…what? Yikes! What did I do wrong? No pilot ever wants to be given a phone number to call on landing. I taxied to the FBO, shut down, picked up the phone and dialed. The first thing the tower controller said: “You’re not in trouble—just not something I could explain on a congested frequency.”


But what was the issue?

Of course: I was on an instrument approach, and an instrument approach terminates at the runway or with a missed approach. If I had cancelled IFR (it was perfect VMC, after all), I could have sidestepped with no problem.

If 32R had any instrument approaches, I could (presumably) have switched to one of those approaches, but it doesn’t so I couldn’t.

And I didn’t ask this: Suppose 32R had an approach with a circling minimum. Could I have stayed on the ILS for 32L and circled to 32R absent an explicit prohibition otherwise? [Yes—Editor] It’s just one of those interesting corners of the regs I hadn’t thought about in advance.

I’ve always assumed it’s fine to ask if something is doable; no harm in receiving “no” for an answer (as long as you respect that “no”). The “please call this number” on landing was a bit unnerving, but the controller was super nice about wanting to explain why he had said “no,” and I appreciated the insight.

Eric Berman
Woodinville, Washington

I work at a TRACON with a busy satellite airport nearby. Over the years it’s gotten rather tedious to get asked for higher so often. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to remain low after departing that airport due to the surrounding flow of traffic.

A specific King Air I got to recognize would check in: “Departure, King Air XXX, 3000 for 5000, looking for higher.”

One day she checked in again “looking for higher” so I tried a different tactic other than trying to explain why I obviously can’t climb her (again). My reply was “King Air XXX Denver departure, radar contact. If you’re looking for HIRE, check out USAJOBS.GOV as I believe we are in need of more air traffic controllers. We’ll hire you! Turn left heading 080!”

She never asked for higher again.

Aaron Grijalva
Castle Pines, Colorado

Tooling along from Florida to Massachusetts one sunny afternoon, apparently ATC had some sort of computer hiccup.

Atlanta Center: “American 123, Atlanta Center; our system is having some problems, can you confirm your route?”

American 123: “ABC VOR, XYZ intersection, so-and-so arrival.”

Atlanta Center: “Thanks.”

Unidentified Voice: “A Delta pilot would’ve responded, ‘Destination direct.’”

Multiple double clicks were heard on the radio.

Charlie Tillett
Wayland, Massachusetts

On a recent trip from the West Coast to the Midwest, I’d just checked in with Center after a couple sectors in NorCal. A few minutes later, the controller gave us a climb to our final altitude, FL230. Then, after another few minutes:

Center: “Uh, 40N, did I give you FL230? I know I thought about it, but I don’t remember if I actually gave it to you.”

Me: “Well, as it turns out, you thought about it so hard, I heard you. 40N is already climbing FL230.”

Sal Cruz
Watsonville, California


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