Friday, March 18, 2005

Pilots are Rude

Q: What do pilots use for birth control?
A: Their personalities.

This post from Douglas' Weblog complains about ATC rudeness not pilot rudeness, but it may have the same cause.

I once heard one flight attendant explaining to another about pilots. It went something like this. "You know how we say, 'Oh could you please pass me that?' or 'Would it be a problem for you to do that?' Well pilots don't do that. They talk very directly. They just say, 'put that here' or 'give me that' or 'anti-ice on.' You think they are being rude, but that is how they talk to each other and on the radio, because they have to talk fast."

Very enlightening. If any pilot scoffs at the idea of carry through from cockpit SOPs or radio language into social interaction, just mumble your reply. "Say again?" they'll ask. I've heard a controller say simply "unable," during a normal, non-radio conversation where "I'm sorry, that's not going to work out," would have sounded a lot nicer.

On the radio, politeness can be rudeness. There's a controller I know who prides himself on his friendliness, but in busy airspace I don't want to spend the extra second listening to him wishing me a 'great day' on the ATIS, while I'm waiting for it to cycle through and give me the active runway. He thinks it doesn't matter because it's at the end, but when we tune the ATIS we usually come in at the middle, and have to listen to the middle, the end and then the beginning. So one second of niceties anywhere is a wasted second I could be using to get my clearance, except that the radio is blocked by a handoff involving reciprocal best wishes for the future.

Expressing maximum information with minimum words and minimum ambiguity is a learned skill. If you want to waste time and go on and on about something, keep a weblog. And have a great day.


Anonymous said...

I think you misread my post. "I think that typically ATC is far more patient than should be needed." I agree that pilots are rude far too often. Perhaps I should have mentioned that during the entire time I was in YXD's space, I was the only aircraft on the radio. Or perhaps I should have qualified my statement further and said "general aviation" pilots. I dunno.

But as a former tank commander in the CF, I'm well aware of the need to get your message across as fast and within as few words as possible. And I'm aware of SOPs; flight decks are just like tank turrets. You have drills to "ensure an automatic reaction to a familiar order under stress". And ya, my short verbage sometimes carries over into my non-Army life.

But I don't mean rude as in "unable". I mean rude as in "Golf-Delta-Delta, next time you want something different blah blah blah" in a condescending, lecturing tone.

Long story short; I get it. I was just making an observation.

Anonymous said...

That's a problem with language all over. We all know people who use 10 words when one would do. Presumably in ATC, direct language, briefly, is of the utmost importance

Anonymous said...

I think it's possible to be concise and polite at once. I think it's even possible to observe sterile cockpit rules and be polite. Polite doesn't have to mean verbose.

That snappy "Good day" or "so long" at the end of a controller's handoff doesn't take long to say, but I miss it when I don't hear it.

I remember watching the movie, "Pushing Tin", and noticing how unrealistic the ATC communications were. Those guys WERE rude, and they talked slowly to boot!


Anonymous said...

Ack, g'day.