Monday, June 13, 2005

Open Mike Night

Michael Oxner just blogged about funny radio conversations, including some pieces of controller-to-controller dialogue. Controllers tend to be pretty sharp folk, and pilots usually appreciate their witticisms, even when they are mocking us. Sometimes though, you'd think someone whose every working moment is broadcast and recorded would have more restraint.

Very late one night I was diverting to an airport where I hadn't originally intended to land. I called the FSS in order to amend my flight plan and ask for NOTAMs. This was back before Flight Services was centralized in each region, so I was calling a couple of guys in a local flight services station.

"Middle of Nowhere Radio, GXYZ"

After a long pause (I'm sure I was the first traffic to call them in in an hour) they responded. I made my request, and then there was some scratchy clunking and a profanity-laced question and response.

"Can you tell what the f#!@ that bitch is saying?"

"F#!@ no. Radio's f#!@ed or something."

I had a pilot-rated passenger sitting next to me, also an aviatrix. We gasped, then laughed. I switched over to the other communications radio and responded in my most formal pilot tones.

"Middle of Nowhere Radio, GXYZ, check your difficulty reading my previous transmission. Is this comm clearer?"

Another pause, and then very very attentive service. He realized that the mike was stuck during the side comments on the intelligibility of our radio, and was probably crossing his fingers that I wasn't going to take offense. Relax, unknown flight services guy. I've never actually uttered the phrase "mark the tape." The only time I've ever wanted to preserve a record of a conversation is the funny ones, not to file a complaint.

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