On The Air: October 2014


At the U.S. Army Aviation Center for Excellence (at Fort Rucker, Alabama), U.S. Army flight students perform their “supervised solo” flight at 20.2 hours of (helicopter) flight time, consisting of three traffic patterns to a hover with the student’s “stick-buddy” in the left seat. When winds picked up, the tower safety officer placed all of the solo students on a ground hold. Some of the students got a little impatient while waiting for winds to die down.
Helicopter 75F: “Lucas Tower, Helicopter 75F. Request frequency change to Panama City Beach.”
Lucas Tower: “Uhh…NO.”
Helicopter 63E: “Lucas Tower, Helicopter 63E. Request permission to buzz the tower.”
Lucas Tower: “Request denied.”
Needless to say, the whole class got a stern lecture when we returned to the classroom.

Anonymous Army flight student
Fort Rucker, Ala.

On an IFR evening over Seattle:
Seattle Center: “ReachMed 123, stop your descent at 3000. I’ve got a Cirrus right below you at your 12 o’clock, 2000, 3 miles.”
ReachMed: (in what I can only describe as a great cowboy drawl) “ReachMed lookin’. No joy.”
Seattle Center: “Cirrus 1 Papa Papa, maintain 2000 current heading. I’ve got a Lear above you at 3000 at your six o’clock, passing in about one minute.”
Me: “Negative contact for 1 Papa Papa. Currently IMC.”
Seattle Center: “ReachMed, I have a new target at your 10 o’clock. Cessna Caravan climbing out of 2500, 12 miles.”
ReachMed: “I got nothin’, but I’ll keep my eye out for the turbine turtle.”
At that moment I broke out and looked up to see the unmistakable shape of a Lear turning inbound, presumably leaving the turbine turtle to continue on its adventure.

Glen Janssens
Ashland, Ore.

I was flying my RV-10 up the east coast when:
Jacksonville Approach: “Air Wisconsin 123, maintain 8000. Traffic at your 11 o’clock, northbound, an RV at 7000 feet.”
Air Wisconsin: “I’ll be looking for the Winnebago.”
Air Wisconsin passed in front of my RV-10.
Me: “Jacksonville Approach, I got a look at the crossing traffic. He looks like a Winnebago. I look pretty sporty.”
Jacksonville Approach: (laughing) “Nice.”

Tim Lewis
Manassas, Va.

Approaching New York’s JFK airport in one of the new and fast Cirrus SR22T G5’s we were coming in at almost airliner speed. The tower cleared us to land behind an A380 super-heavy stating, “Cirrus N-123, Runway 31L cleared to land, caution wake turbulence of landing A380.”
As soon as we were over the numbers, he cleared “Jet Blue 123, runway 31L line up and wait, caution prop wash of landing Cirrus.”
Yes, JFK controllers are human beings with a good sense of humor.

Chris Stern
Raleigh, N.C.

On a recent flight into Orlando Executive I was cleared to land on Runway 25.
Tower: “Cleared to land Runway 25, vehicle on the runway is removing a turtle and will be clear before your arrival.”
Me: “Cleared to land Runway 25. Is that departing turtle a heavy?”
Tower: Laughing, “Caution, wake turbulence, heavy turtle departing prior to your arrival.”
After landing, we had to pause on Taxiway F for a five-foot alligator crossing from one retention pond to another. Those were interesting delays that day.

McGregor Scott
Orlando, Fla.

I was coming back to Palo Alto and there’d been a small earthquake. Tower announced, “All aircraft, be advised that we just had a small earthquake, but the runway is not damaged and the airport is open.”
After a few seconds a guy comes in, with a tone that suggested he was sincere: “Palo Alto Tower, this is Cessna 1234, inbound for landing. We didn’t feel anything.”

Thomas Daniel
Portola Valley, Calif.

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 name and location.


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