Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Not Supposed to Say
I'm flying from point A to point B, and remarkably neither A nor B is named after an animal or a body of water. I'm not on a flight plan just "VFR company note" which means my company is in charge of reporting me missing if I don't turn up, and I have flight following which means I'm monitoring the frequency of a centre controller who occasionally looks at my blip on a radar screen and, time permitting, tells me if any other radar blips threaten mine. Presumably if my radar blip disappeared and I stopped talking to them they'd tell someone or make a note, too. At the very least, if I didn't turn up at destination and company reported me missing, they could examine the records (still called "pulling the tapes" as if they were recorded on tapes sitting on a shelf) and see where my blip was and whom I was talking to when I was last recorded as existing. As I cover ground, the controller whose frequency I am monitoring will eventually say, "Switch to my frequency 133.40," or "Contact such-and-such Centre now on 122.75." The same controller may be monitoring different frequencies and she moves me to the one with the best reception for where I am, or I'm moving out of her area and she is passing me on to the next sector. My information moves with me to the new sector so I just have to say my call sign and verify my altitude. They already know where I am going, but they verify it, because there are multiple airports in the same city. Another airplane checks in on the frequency. The controller gives him the altimeter setting and then it's quiet again. My headset detects silence, so lets the MP3 player sound into the earphones. (Currently playing Convoy, featuring another profession with radio jargon). The new check in comments on this, "Kinda quiet today." The controller agrees. "Getting the crossword done?" asks the pilot. "I'm not supposed to say," replies the controller, which was way more hilarious in the airplane than it seems right now. It was the way he said it, like he was really hiding some big secret. The controller passes me on to the next sector and I say to my coworker, "I should have asked him if he had figured out twenty-one across yet."