Thursday, September 03, 2015

Delicious Donair

Tower passed me to the centre frequency just in time for me to hear, "We have the delicious donair in sight."

I could see the question marks over my non-pilot co-worker's head before she asked, "Is that a restaurant?"

While I have been asked to report overhead a McDonald's before, that was by a small tower where the controllers knew me, not on a Centre frequency. I gave her my best guess as to what had transpired, and I'll tell you what that was in a moment, after a diversionary paragraph or two on other recent ATC exchanges, in case you want to formulate your own guess before you see mine.

This one also takes place on Centre frequency, but I've been on the frequency a long time, and it's quiet. An airline pilot gives his call sign and asks, "Are you still there?" The Centre controller answers in the affirmative and the pilot explains, "It was getting lonely." That may sound like a frivolous exchange, but it's actually a slightly quirky way of making an often necessary call. It's not uncommon to get out of range of your assigned frequency before you're assigned another. Sometimes the controller is just about to swap you but there's a flurry of activity or a handover briefing and you glide out of range before they can. Aircraft at the same nominal altitude are at different actual altitudes above terrain from day to day, depending on the temperature, so the point at which terrain cuts off a signal for an aircraft at FL180 is not identical from one day to another. Your radio can die, you can accidentally switch frequency, or the controller can think they have you on one frequency when you're really on another. My approach is usually to ask for the latest altimeter setting. That confirms that I'm still in range and gives me useful information, too.

Just today a United flight made a plaintive little call for anyone on frequency to respond. They had lost contact with Centre, and asked me if I could find them a frequency. I wonder if they thought Canada was terribly primitive not to have kept track of them. I relayed their predicament to the controller. I have been in the room where those Centre controllers are, and would have half expected the controller to just lean back in her wheely chair and call out, "Who's looking for United 1126?" But nope, she asked me for the aircraft's position and then, based on that, advised me which frequency to relay back to them.

So back to the donair. My best guess was that the controller had asked them to report the Dornier [probably the Do-228, a boxy turboprop] in sight, and that the pilot decided to call it a Donair [meat sliced from a vertical rotisserie, usually served in flatbread]. If we're really lucky, someone who was on frequency for the whole exchange is a reader and we can find out the truth.


Ben Read said...

Speaking of which, glad to know that you're still on this frequency, Aviatrix!

Garrett said...

Nice to see a story from you again! Hope you've had a good summer season.

Sarah said...

"Donair"? Lost me.. I don't speak Canadian. Or, sadly, anything but "American".

... etc.

Donair is #12

Aviatrix said...

Wow, who knew? I thought donair was Greek or Turkish or something. I wondered why the Blogspot spellchecker underlined it in red. Most of the words on that list are the normal ones I would use for those items, and only a few did I know wouldn't be recognized outside Canada, like "parkade." I learned about "parkade" on my California adventure. The American for parkade is "parking structure." How do you all understand me?

wildturk said...

hmmm. There is something called a doner (o is umlauted) kebab in Turkey. Wikipedia link to doner kebab

Now you made me hungry! Gotta go and fly for that $100 doner kebab.