Friday, July 28, 2017

Cessnas and Lying About the ATIS

Yesterday I was inbound to an airport overseen by a Flight Services Specialist. I don't know if other countries have this. There are no controllers, but there is highly trained person in the tower, dispensing altimeter settings, and traffic information, and generally doing everything a tower controller does except issue clearances and instructions. They make recommendations that you would be wise to follow, but if the FSS says, for example, that winds are 150 at fifteen gusting twenty-five, and the preferred runway is 15, the pilot is totally free to declare that she is landing on 33.

The FSS told me, when I was fifteen miles out or so, that there were two Cessnas in the circuit. One of them called final as I neared the field. I washed him do his touch and go, and kept him in sight, so that as I crossed over midfield I was able to say, "I have the red 172 in sight."

"They're both red," the specialist said somewhat acridly. "The other one is at the hold short line." So firstly he knew which one I had in sight, even if the identifying characteristic I chose wasn't distinguishing, and secondly, how is an aircraft at the hold short line--on the ground--considered to be "in the circuit"? It's okay. I'm an incurable smartass, too. I join downwind, ahead of the airborne red Cessna, and land. I refuel and taxi out again. A different specialist is on the radio. She tells me that there are "two Cessna 172" in the circuit. I find it curious that she considers C172 to be an inherent plural. I imagine this being something she feels strongly about, and that she argues for her position at sufficient length that others shrug and humour her sometimes. I mentally run through different aircraft types and try to think of any that I would not make explicitly plural. I do not ask her if either or both the C172s are red, and I depart straight out without seeing either.

I'm on my way to an airport with an actual control tower. I tune the ATIS and note that it is information Hotel. I also note that it's four minutes after the hour, and the ATIS is over an hour old. I know that this particular airport labels their ATIS on the hour, but often doesn't change it until a few minutes past. I'm still twenty minutes out of the destination, so I'll have to pick up the new ATIS before I check in. A few minutes later I hear WestJet checking in on frequency, "with India." I retune the ATIS and listen. It's identical to Hotel, same winds, same altimeter, same multiple cloud layers, same tedious NOTAM about the new rule about STARs being changed back to the way it was, "inform ATC on initial contact that you have information Hotel." What? "This is airport information India ..."

It's not that uncommon to be on frequency right as the ATIS changes letter. But it takes defiance of the laws of spacetime for Westjet to pick up India while I'm still hearing Hotel. Unless the ATIS is available by ACARS. Can you get ATIS by datalink? I don't know. It's also possible that one pilot wrote down the ATIS and the other one read the H sideways and got I, or that they heard Hotel far back, saw it was coming up on the hour, and knew they'd have to pick up India, and then forgot they hadn't. Or that they just flubbed the letter. Or they lied. I think they lied. They didn't want to listen through that tedious NOTAM that every Canadian airport with a STAR has up right now. I don't blame them. ATC would have said on frequency if the new ATIS involved a runway change, a significant change in weather conditions, or the like.

2 comments:

Colin said...

Marchetti.

Carmi said...

Is it possible that the recording starts with "This is information India..." and ends (accidentally) with "inform that you have information Hotel"?

Just a hypothesis, obviously. Did you hear it from top to bottom the second time, or from just after the start?

Sorry. Like you, I tend to prefer the explanation where nobody is guilty of anything...