On The Air: October 2018


Last week my wife and I departed Deer Valley Airport, in Phoenix in our Cessna 177RG. Before departing we received a complicated taxi clearance to what looked like a parking lot at the end the active runway. Deer Valley calls itself “the busiest general aviation airport in the country” with lots of flight training. The “parking lot” was just a run-up area, able to handle lots of planes.

There weren’t that many planes when we were departing but for my wife and me it was like “The Twilight Zone” in that the tower would clear an airplane we could see ahead of us to the active runway with either a “line up and wait” or “cleared for takeoff” using a different number other than the plane’s N number. It was confusing.

After we took off, I couldn’t help myself and asked the tower what was going on? He didn’t understand my request at first, so I repeated. He came back laughing and said that they have an agreement with the local flight school that since so many of their tail numbers are so similar; they’ve assigned special numbers to avoid confusion. Well, so much for “The Twilight Zone.”

Brian Gately
Brooklyn, NY

I recently heard this cute exchange take place on a rather quiet frequency, and it about made my otherwise long, boring flight.

Aircraft (after check in): “Radio check, please. The last controller said I sounded scratchy.” This was said in a professional manner by a very polite, sweet-sounding female voice.

ATC (male controller responding with an obvious put-on flirt in his voice and a bit of a lilt): “Well, to me, you sound just W-O-N-d-e-r-f-u-l!”

Aircraft (responding in kind, with an over-the-top coquettish tone): “Oh, my! Well, thank you kind sir!”

Sal Cruz
Watsonville, CA

I was approaching Gainesville, Florida the week after the Florida Gators were destroyed by the Nebraska Cornhuskers in a bowl game and I listened to the ATIS. The code was Gator.

So when I called the tower I thought I would be cute so I said I had Cornhusker.

The tower controller got me real good as he told me to turn 180 degrees and proceed 20 miles and prepare to hold for 2 1/2 hours.

I got a good laugh out of his instructions. I called back and said I was able to get Gator, so he allowed me to proceed to the airport and land.

Bill Hinsley Jr.
Stuart, FL

We have a home in the Bahamas and fly into Eleuthera.

On one of our flights, we heard the following on the CTAF as we were about 25 miles out from our destination.

“Rock Sound Traffic, Rock Sound Traffic. Bahamas Air flight 12345 going around. Horse on the runway.”

William Coates
Cocoa, FL

Since the well is dry, I offer this true story from 15 years and 4000 hours dual given ago:

The hardest question on my CFI oral: “Who is the controlling agency over aviation?” After many wrong guesses, the examiner told me the answer: “The insurance companies.” He wasn’t wrong.

John Templeton
Washington, UT

Somewhere over Florida early in the morning in the middle of summer, with pop up storms everywhere, I heard:

Jacksonville Center: “Citation you’ve got Convective Sigmet 4 Central?”

Citation (cheerily): “That’s the one they issue in spring, runs through fall?”

Jacksonville Center: “Pretty much.”

Citation (equally cheerily): “Nah, we just fly by Braille.”

Jacksonville Center (slightly offended): “I’m just trying to help.”

Sharon Knight
Hammond, LA

Around 1998, there was a fire in the control tower at San Antonio International. An acquaintance of mine was at the end of the runway awaiting clearance for take-off.

Tower: “Piper 5555F, do you see smoke coming from the tower?”

Piper 5555F: “Clear me for take-off and I’ll tell you!”

Patrick Andrews
Neosho, MO

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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