Friday, February 18, 2005

Time For Confusion

I've changed my blog timezone to Universal Coordinated Time, because I could, and because it seems appropriate for an anonymous pilot blog. Universal Coordinated Time, abbreviated "UTC" (international abbreviations are dyslexic), is used by pilots so as to eliminate time zone or daylight savings changes. That facilitate communications and forces us to do math every time we talk to an air traffic controller, thereby ensuring that our brains remain active, so we can still manage simple tasks like lowering the gear and closing the throttle.

UTC is also called Zulu time, not because Zulus use it (unless they are pilots, or have moved west of their ancestral homeland I believe they use UTC+2), but because someone lettered the one-hour time zones right around the world, ending with Z at his own time zone in Greenwich England. He skipped O and I because they could be confused with 1 and 0, and he was labouring under the impression that the purpose of all this was to alleviate confusion. And the time in Greenwich (yet another name for UTC is "Greenwich Mean Time") matches UTC, except during daylight savings time, when it doesn't.

And I will entertain suggestions for ways to explain that in order to make it even more confusing. Now you know why pilots say "uhhh" so much when we're telling the passengers what time it is. We're better with hockey scores. ATC just tells us those straight out, without us having to add or subtract anything.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't find GMT confusing at all;-) Except on certain tube (subway?) lines in London, where you actually go into a different dimension and t i m e m o v e s m o r e s l o w l y

Anonymous said...

I agree about the confusion, and daylight savings time doesn't make it any easier. Imagine what things were like before the railroads arrived, whenever every time and village was its own time zone.

Fortunately, for dim-witted pilots like me, there is help: go into Radio Shack and buy a Timex Expedition watch for about CAD 35. It has a count-up timer (for non-precision instrument approaches) and a count-down timer (for switching fuel tanks), but most importantly, it supports two separate time zones. I just push a button twice before I climb into the plane, and the watch shows Zulu time during the entire flight.