Aviation In Canada

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Clearance Phraseology

For some time now, ATC in Canada have had direction on the books when issuing IFR clearances through FSS or TWR to include the departure aerodrome in the route portion of the clearance. I've always found the wording potentially confusing for a pilot. Here's a case in point.

The filed flight plan route is CYFC > HUL J509 MAIRE MAIRE9 CYUL. The IFR clearance is supposed to be worded like this;

"ATC clears ACA123 to the Montreal airport via Fredericton direct Houlton, flight plan route, maintain..."

It's this wording that, understandably in my view, can lead to some unexpected manoeuvers. For example, the pilot may take the interpretation, "I have to depart, fly direct to the YFC VOR, the turn directly to the HUL VOR, and go on course from there." On a recent issuing of this clearance, the pilot did something a little different. He took off, headed for HUL VOR as the controller intended, and then asked the question of what we wanted him to do.

Now there were two things wrong. First, a potentially confusing clearance, and second, a pilot who asked for clarification after accepting the clearance and departing. Why, if the pilot was confused about his clearance, did he not ask for clarification while still on the ground? At least the other pilots who have taken an interpretation in the past had been sure of their interpretation when doing what they were doing.

I've written yet another letter up the line, citing this example, about this issue. Not to get the pilot in trouble, but to try to get our direction changed. The change entered our books a few years back when a one-in-a-million situation occurred and management did the old "knee-jerk" reaction to try to "fix" the problem. Instead, they created a new problem that's more likely to occur (both points of view on this subject are time-proven when I say more likely to occur). With any luck, that will be removed, but I'm not going to hold my breath. Even if they do see my point, it may take a while.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Use of "Clear" by Ground Control

I was born and raised as ATC in the tower at Halifax International Airport in Nova Scotia (CYHZ). They guys there are a great bunch. Learning the ropes, I found there were all kinds of little things, and each one of them had their own little bit of background.

For example, there is written direction to avoid the use of the word "clear" on ground frequency. It soon becomes "clear" why, too, if you try it. You have vehicles out there doing snow removal. You have traffic is coming, intending to use the runway they're on. So you get them to "clear the runway". Someone out there says to himself, "What the heck does he think I'm doing? Of course I'm clearing the runway!" Or, a new trainee on VatSim that I worked with the other night, while trying to get an aircraft to "backtrack to position on runway 15," at CYHZ, used the phrase, "cleared on to runway 15, backtrack to position." While discussing with the trainee that it was not allowable to use the word "cleared" on the frequency outside of a take-off or landing clearance, he told me he didn't understand why. Sure enough, the pilot backtracked to position, turned around, and took off. He had misinterpretted the clearance as, "cleared for take-off runway 15, backtrack is approved."

It seems so inocuous, like nothing could go wrong. But then, that's how things like this are discovered. "I can't believe he did that," from one side of the radio can turn so quickly into, "that's what he told me to do," on the other end. Fight about it all you want, but it's often one little word that makes the difference between a successful operation and something unplanned ruining your day. And this is why we have a number of official phraseologies in aviation.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Moncton ACC 25th Anniversary

25 years ago today, the Moncton ACC officially opened it's current facility, relocating from the old building at the Greater Moncton International Airport (known then only as the Moncton Airport) to it's new location in Riverview, NB. The facility opened with new technology being introduced to the Canadian Air Navigation System. New radar displays, communication equipment and flight data handling systems all came into place as a shadow operation remained ready across the river in the old building in the event of a problem.

Today, the facility is still on the frontline, being the first to implement new pieces of equipment, such as our voice switch equipment and radar displays. CAATS, the Canadian Automated Air Traffic System, is being pioneered here, too, though I'll reserve feelings on that one.

Next time you're flying the approach to runway 06 at CYQM, have a look out the left side after you pass the Riverview NDB. You'll see where we watch the skies over the maritime provinces, serving the transatlantic traffic twice daily along with the many departures and arrivals in our area.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Shift Work

This is not as serious a post as the title may imply. Today's post is basically an apology for not keeping up the blog over the last few days. Here's what I mean.

Normally, I work shift work. As an operational air traffic controller, it comes with the territory. I can say this: I hate Monday to Friday, 9-5. My schedule this week is similar to that, though it keeps my "work round", as it started on Saturday and ends Thursday. My days are 8:00 til 4:30. And that's where the problem is. While I like the fact that I'm guaranteed daylight for the bikeride to work and back home later, the schedule stinks, in my eyes. My normal rotation of shifts kicks the crap out of me, but at least I have some evening shifts -- where I can get things done in the morning before traffic gets bad -- and some day shifts -- which start early and allow me to be home sometimes as early as 1:00 so I get things done after work, too. But when I work from breakfast til supper, I find it so hard toget motivated to do anything else. Every now and then I get a few day shifts like this in a row -- perhaps an entire "round" of them -- and it reminds me how much I used to hate working Monday to Friday, 9-5, or the like.

How does this relate to the blog? It frigs up my whole pattern of how I get things done. Between that routine being lost, and what I've been tasked with at work, the blog has been a time consumer that I just couldn't get to. Only today and tomorrow left (as it stands now) and then I'm back on a "normal" schedule, so hopefully I'll be a little better at writing something.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Well, according to the public forecast, the thunderstorm season is upon us here in the maritime provinces. I saw "risk of thundershower" in yesterday's forecast, and again today. The storms we see tend to be short and weak compared to other areas. We have our occasional doozies, and I enjoy every minute of them -- when I'm not working. Personally, I hate hearing about lightning anywhere near an airplane I'm working, especially the light aircraft. A lightning strike can not only reduce electrical systems to a pile of smouldering circuitry, but the shear force of a lightning strike can rip holes in airplane skin. The heat could, if it struck a moving surface, weld it to the nearest non-moving surface, compromising the control of the airplane. The turbulence within a cell can be deadly, too.

BTW, there is no such thing in aviation weather as a "thundershower". TSSHRA, the METAR reporting code often read as thundershower, is actually "thunderstorm and rainshower." In the old days of SAs, before METAR, TRW was the code for the same phenomenon, and one thing that I appreciate about that is that the intensity ('-' for light, '+' for heavy) would describe the individual items. For example, T-RW was "thunderstorm and light rainshower" -- in SAs there was no such thing as -T-RW, which would have been read as "light thunderstorm and light rainshower". Thunder was either considered moderate or heavy (for a particularly active storm) but there was no "light thunderstorm". In the METAR sense, -TSSHRA exists as a notation, since the intensity (the '-' sign in this example) applies to the precipitation, not the individual phenomena descriptors (the TS and the SH) within a phrase. This leads people to read it as "light thunderstorm and rainshowers".

One of the most detailed pages I've encountered yet about METAR coding and reporting can be found here:


Sunday, April 24, 2005

BC Navajo Crash

I know I'm not the first to report this, but it's worth acknowledging the loss of anyone in our aviation community. On Friday, a Piper Navajo (or as the Canadian Press reported, a "Navaho") crashed while trying to make an emergency landing at CFB Comox on Vancouver Island. The brief newpaper article reported that an engine fire may have led to the crash. Reportedly, the PA-31 was a cargo aircraft, so no passengers were on board.

Friday, April 22, 2005


I've been enjoying the use of a Palm handheld computer for a while now. One of the applications I have was built just for me by a new programmer looking for some experience, and I use it to track on and off times, as well as HOBBS meter readings and fuel when I go flying. As much as a technology freak as I am, imagine how fascinated I was to see this:


This little piece of software hooks up to you computer to provide real time moving map display as well as a primary flight display in digital format for your flight path within Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2004. I can't help but wonder if such a product is available for real world use with a GPS connection. I successfully connected both (one at a time) of my GPS units to my Palm a while ago, and I know the ability exists. There probably already is a program out there to do this, and I just haven't seen it yet. In any case, what a neat idea. I may just have to try this out for fun.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Finally flew

The weather fell all morning. 140BKN, then 090SCT, then 090BKN, and eventually 040BKN. But that's where it stayed. We had the odd sprinkle all morning, but not after noon. The wind was only 10 knots, and that's where it stayed. The forecasters were wrong, and I was able to fly.

While my flight was uneventful, I listened to another call while I was in the circuit, doing touch-and-goes for currency's sake. Obviously an instructor with a student, he asked, in the downwind, if he could do a 360 and then rejoin for a simulated engine failure in the circuit. The 360 was for spacing with me ahead of him, so he could give his student a failure from about mid-downwind. That's something that wasn't done with me. All of the engine failure practice I was given during my training concentrated on failure on take-off. A good item to practice, certainly, but it could happen elsewhere. I decided to make the last two practice for such a thing on my own after hearing this. When everyone else landed and I had the airport to myself, I played a little. And disappointed myself, too. I would have fallen short of my target both tries. Close, but not quite on the runway. Which is a strange twist of concepts.

I've been criticized by instructors for flying my circuits too closely, always leaving myself high on final. I always made my target spots. As a result, I've made conscious efforts to fly a little wider to allow a shallower approach angle. Perhaps I should stop trying to fly a little wider and go back to my old way of doing things. At least I have ways of losing excess altitude. It's hard to find more without an engine.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Flying Weather

I could be a weather forecaster. In fact, I could make good money on the side, if it came down to taking bribes to ruin the weather forecast for a particular day. I have this effect whether it's the day before or a week in advance. I've also shown promise for distorting weather for a given event as far as 7 months in advance.

I've been trying to keep my currency for flying, and every time I book a plane, the weather drops. I check the forecast and it's good for the next 48 hours. I book a plane for the next day, and suddenly, from out of nowhere, a rogue weather system moves in and we're raining and windy. My plane is booked for today at noon, for example, and suddenly a nice, sunny forecast has turned to 1,500 OVC with rain showers and high winds beginning at 11:00. Unfortunately, they've been spot on with the TAFs in the last few months -- on days when I've booked a plane, that is.

I still have a few more days. Between work schedules and bad weather, I'm determined to fly at some point. I'll get in the air. Even if it means a circuit check next week instead.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Radio communications is, in my opinion, an art. You don't have body language to help express your feelings, just your words and tone. Essential to effective ATC communications is proper phraseology, along with some non-standard words to get ideas across. Another item that is important is technique. The title for today's post gets at one of the main points with technique.

Many people new to working radios end up making a common error. Even "old hands" at radio work occasionally goof up this way. "Clipping" is the term used for the inadvertent cutting off of words in a transmission, typically at the front end of a statement. For example, you key your mic to say, "Hi, how are you?" and all the receiver hears is, "How are you?" This is typically done, by mistake without even realizing it, by starting to speak before the mic is keyed. In the previous example, losing, "Hi," isn't all that critical, but other words lost can be.

The most common example that ATC will hear is when issuing an altitude to an IFR airplane. The transmission goes something like, "Alpha Bravo Charlie, maitain four thousand," and the typical readback has the pilot say the altitude, then the callsign, sounding like, "Four thousand, Alpha Bravo Charlie." There is one controller I work with who is absolutely adamant that a pilot responding is "dead wrong" to respond like this and even claims to have seen it written somewhere. I don't buy his arguement. In any case, if clipping comes into play here, ATC will only hear, "-thousand, Alpha Bravo Charlie." This is an incomplete readback, and if this is what we hear, we have to go chasing after it to ensure the right altitude is readback. Traffic may be a factor, whether climbing or descending, and if descending on a vector for an approach, terrain may be a factor. I don't absolve ATC for blame in this regard, either. I've already had to beat the tendency out of three of my own ATC trainess, and a few others that I've sat with in a "babysitting" sense while their regular instructor is away. It's awfully hard for a pilot to hear a transmission aimed at him when less than his full callsign is used. Though I do have to credit many pilots for hearing what my trainees were saying to them, despite their best efforts at clipping part of their callsigns.

I understand how it happens, too. Sometimes things are busy and a rushed transmission is made. Sometimes it's just a slip of the finger on the button. But it does make a difference. Even a split second pause while going for the button can make a difference in the usefulness of a transmission, regardless of which side of the radio conversation it comes from.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Contact vs. Visual Approach

Once again, I've seen it happen and I find it a little strange. Not unacceptable, and certainly not illegal, but I'm just curious about it. In years gone by, there was a time where I hardly ever issued a contact approach. These days, there are more contact approaches issued in my area than ever before. The part I don't get is when the weather is CAVOK and you can see forever, why some pilots will specifically ask for a contact approach when offered a visual.

From a control perspective, there are only a few differences between the two. First and foremost, a pilot must ask for a contact approach to be given a clearance for one. When an aircraft reports the field in sight, ATC can initiate a clearance for a visual approach. Another thing that ATC can do under certain circumstances is clear aircraft for successive visual approaches, even at uncontrolled aerodromes. When I say successive approaches, more than one aircraft cleared for an approach at the same time. Normally at uncontrolled aerodromes, only one IFR airplane gets an approach clearance at a time, and each successive aircraft must wait until the one in front of him lands or cancels IFR. Of course, the weather limits for contact and visual approaches are different, but I'm talking about days where there are no clouds (or the ceiling is nice and high) and the visibility is 93 million miles (must be, since you can see the sun).

With the ceiling and visibility virtually unlimited, what's the difference from a pilot's standpoint? I would like to see some responses for a pilot's interpretation on this. Someone educate me, please.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Taxi Readbacks

A week ago I did a post about readbacks, and one reader mentioned the idea of reading back instructions/authorizations to cross runways when given authorization to do so. An example would be, "Alpha Bravo Charlie taxi A, D across runway 24, hold short of runway 33." In my post, I stated that only the "Hold short of runway 33" needed to be read back.

The AIP RAC 4.2.5 deals with this. In accordance with CAR 602.31(1)(a), it says, readbacks of instructions other than those with the words "Hold Short" are not required. So that makes my point about what is required. The same section of the AIP does state that, "instructions to enter, cross, backtrack or line up on any runway should also be acknowledged by a readback." The underline is in the original text, but I added the italics to the word, "should," in that last quote.

The difference between the word should and shall is that should means application is recommended, and shall means application is mandatory. So is it a good idea to readback these instructions, but it is not required under the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

With the increased use of multiple runways at many airports, it doesn't hurt to readback these authorizations. To make the point a little more clear, take this example: "ACA123 taxi Alpha, Delta, Charlie, across runway 34, Bravo, Echo, hold short of runway 10," could be readback as, "ACA123 across runway 34, hold short of 10," to save frequency congestion and still readback both what's required and recommended.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Garmin's G1000

I've been reading the odd article lately about LCD panels for instrumentation in General Aviation aircraft. Being a gadget geek, I love this idea, but being a paranoid, safety minded individual, can't help but wonder about how reliable such a thing might be. Enter the Garmin G1000. Click here for more details.

The current issue of the Aviation Safety Letter made some points about it when examining the pros and cons. On the plus side, they mention how all the data comes together in a logical way and the various instruments are integrated for the pilot for at-a-glance viewing, rather than requiring scans of several panel areas and mental processing to put the items together. They also mention that getting used to such a system takes a course of one or two days provided by the manufacturer, and they still recommend flying VFR for a few hours first to get accustomed to it all before flying IMC.

Another item they bring forward is that recent developments of such systems generally took several minutes while the system initialized before the displays could be used. "Kick the tires and light the fires" kind of pilots could find themselves at the runway threshold, otherwise ready for take-off, without the displays being fully initialized. Garmin's G1000, reportedly, can be ready in as little as 30s. They also appeal to my paranoid side. I always consider failure of the display. Apart from the back-up steam-driven dials that accompany the system, the maunfacturer claims an unreal Mean Time Between Failures that exceeds the MTBF for the back-up dials. They don't go into an electrical failure and how long these will last. The 10" displays probably draw upwards of 1-1.5 amps each, so a battery will only last so long when powering these puppies.

Either way, if you have the extra $20-30K sitting around, you could have yourself a fully digital cockpit in your Cessna or Mooney, just like the pilot of the "big iron". I like it, personally. I just need someone to build one of these for Flight Sim, since I'll never be buying a real plane...

Friday, April 15, 2005

ATC Radio Chatter

I'm back home, finally, after four days of no sleep and little computer access. I have nothing ready to post, and too many "clean up items" to look after, so I'll go with this for now. Hopefully I'll be back together tomorrow.

O'Hare Approach: "USA212, cleared ILS runway 32L approach, maintain speed 250 knots."
USA212: "Roger approach, how long do you need me to maintain that speed?"
O'Hare Approach: "All the way to the gate if you can."
USA212: "Ah, OK, but you better warn ground control."

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

ATC Radio Chatter

ACA1147: "Moncton, Air Canada 1147, can you get the winds from 167 above us?"
CZQM: "As soon as I get a chance, I will."
(Some time passes with continuous radio chatter)
ACA1147: "Moncton, 1147, what are his winds up there?"
CZQM: "Standby for that, please"
(more radio chatter)
ACA1147: "Moncton, can you ask company 167 for his winds?"
CZQM: "Ok, 1147 and 167, I have a little too much to do for that sort of
thing right now. I'll leave it up to you guys to go over to company frequency and pass winds."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

ATC Radio Chatter

I'm out of town for a few days and computer access is an issue. I'll leave you with some communications overheard on ATC radio frequencies, hopefully having access to a computer for the coming days for newer posts.

ARN851: "Halifax Terminal, Nova 851 with you out of 13,000 for 10,000, requesting runway 15."

Halifax Terminal (female): "Nova 851 Halifax, the last time I gave a pilot what he wanted I was on penicillin for three weeks. Expect runway 06."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

ATC Joke

What's the similarity between a Pilot and an Air Traffic Controller?

If the pilot screws up, the pilot dies.
If ATC screws up, the pilot dies.

(Tasteless, I know, but I like the joke.)

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Speaking of Readbacks...

Not very many professional pilots do it, but a lot of newer pilots readback a lot of information issued to them. In most cases, these readbacks are not required. I'll give some examples.

Often, as a pilot approaches his destination while flying IFR or VFR with flight following, weather information is offered. Most pilots will acknowledge this info, but there are some who, probably for lack of awareness, read back the entire weather sequence. This is not only time consuming for the pilot, but it ties up a frequency (or more than one if the one he is broadcasting on is "coupled" with other frequencies). Altimeter settings do not, as mentioned yesterday, actually require a readback, though most pilots will read these back to ATC.

The only things that require readbacks in Canadian rules are IFR clearances and instructions, amendments to IFR clearances (such as new routings issued, altitudes, restrictions, etc), "hold short" instructions around airports, and any clearances or instructions issued to a VFR aircraft when a readback is requested. Aircraft while taxiing (for take-off or after landing) and aircraft issued landing clearance with a "hold short" restriction (as applied during simultaneous intersecting runway operations) must read back these instructions. The AIP specifically states that taxi instructions need not be readback, with the exception of a "hold short" instruction. Again, most pilots will readback the taxi route as a way of confirming they've received it, and most controllers I've worked with would say nothing to a pilot whether he chose to readback the taxi route or not, provided a "hold short" instruction was readback. If no "hold short" instruction is included, ATC only requires an acknowledgement of the transmission.

Any other information should be acknowledged, so ATC knows you received his transmission, unless the controller tells you he doesn't need a reply. This includes frequency changes, take-off and landing clearances, weather information and so forth. Acknowledgement of a transmission can be made simply by transmitting the aircraft's callsign. Some controllers will want more of an acknowledgement about some things, such as instructions to follow aircraft in the circuit and so on. They normally don't want a readback of which aircraft to follow, but they may want some indication that you see the aircraft you are instructed to follow, for example.

Some references for you are:
AIP RAC 4.2.5, 4.4.2, 4.4.3, 5.2, 6.1

Friday, April 08, 2005

Altimeter Readbacks

I'm afraid I'm going to demonstrate two areas of where I lack knowledge in
today's post. Both are based in one of Paul Tomblin's replies to my post
from yesterday.

The first one relates to my limited knowledge of blogging. I don't know how
to keep an "Ask the Controller" thread easily accessible from the top of
the page, which would be more likely to be of use. It's probably something
very easy to do, and I just haven't explored it. Suggestions?

The next area is the subject of why some controllers seem to want a
readback of an altimeter setting. I can say that we, in Canada, have a
requirement to issue the altimeter setting on initial contact and as
appropriate while the aircraft transits different areas. I have never seen
a written requirement for a pilot to readback an altimeter, nor have I seen
a written requirement for a controller to obtain a readback of one. IFR
clearances, yes. "Hold short" instructions, yes. Altimeters, no. As a
controller and a pilot, I appreciate the value in having an opportunity to
catch an errant receipt of an altimeter setting. If I hear an errant
readback, then I most certainly have a responsibility to correct the pilot,
and for safety's sake (not my own neck), I will act on that. So if a pilot
reads it back, I'll listen for it and confirm that they received it
correctly. I have caught many errors over the years, even a few that were
horribly outrageous. Any chance to catch a problem is welcome. But if a
pilot doesn't read it back, I won't fish for it. I have no responsibility
to do that.

Having said all of that, I can't offer a reason as to why some controllers
insist on a readback of an altimeter setting, except for maybe personal
experience. Perhaps a pilot set one wrong and if the controller had chased it down, a
crash or incident may not have occurred. This is a normal thing to have
happen in our business: The incident occurs and suddenly, someone
investigating pulls blame out of thin air and assigns it to someone based on
nothing other than a supposition, perhaps one that couldn't even be proven.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Speaking of the Split Crow...

A reply to yesterday's post mentioned the term, "Split Crow." This happens to be the name of the final approach fix, a low power NDB, for runway 06 at Halifax. Recently, the naming convention was changed on these and other locator beacons from the old single-letter to two- or three- letter designators to reduce confusion in RNAV and FMS systems. The name chosen for the newly designated ZHZ NDB was "Split Crow". Our AIS office was taken by a few calls over that name and the name of the other one, the "Midtown NDB," since these are also, by coincidence, the names of two local taverns. You see, Split Crow was the name of a point in Halifax Harbour, used in World War I, while Midtown was used since, geographically, there was an intersection of two main roads in a nearby community, and locals called it, "Midtown Junction." This wasn't good enough. They let Split Crow remain, but forced the name change on the Midtown NDB. It is now called the "Bluenose" NDB, after the schooner of the same name which is a Nova Scotia tourism icon. It has nothing to do with the tavern of the same name.

And I'll let you figure out the history behind the "Alpine" NDB at Saint John, NB. It is only pure coincidence that a local beer company brews Alpine beer in that city.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Strange Weather System Passage

While working in the tower, I was witness to a fascinating weather pattern. While a trainee worked, I was pushed to the back of the tower cab to see this all without having to watch traffic.

The sky was divided 50/50 on a northeast/southwest line. The northwest portion was clear blue, and the rest was altostratus and solid. Winds at the field were 150@10-15. A line of cloud that paralleled the overhead line of cloud appeared low on the northwest horizon, and initially appeared to be moving pretty quickly. As it approached, it became apparent that it was comparatively low at the base, and nowhere near as high as the altostratus above as we could see blue sky and the horizon below it, and the clear blue sky above it, too. Traffic was lining up for runway 15 on approach. As the line approached, the aircraft on final started to descend into it, and then poke out the side of it. Each aircraft reported "strong moderate" turbulence within, smooth above and outside. The line appeared to be rolling as well, the base rolling toward the tower as the line progressed southeastward, and the front wall, as seen from the tower, rolling up and over the back of it. As each aircraft passed through the wall of cloud, I noted on the radar the distance at which he broke out. Each aircraft (spaced about 3-4NM apart), showed the line moving fairly quickly, gaining a half-mile with each one. Eventually, the cloud line moved overhead the airport. When it did, the winds dropped to zero fairly quickly, moderate to heavy rain fell, but only for a short time, and the blue sky was visible to the northwest with the original higher cloud still visible to the southeast. After the cloud line passed, the rain subsided, and the wind shifted -- same speed, but 180° away from where it had been all morning. Even with the cloud line overhead, we remained VMC. The wind remained 330@10-15 as the cloud line continued to roll away to the southeast, meaning a change in active runway and a screwed up traffic pattern. Eventually, the sky returned to its original condition, leaving the aforementioned 50/50 split of clear blue to the northwest with altostratus covering the rest. The cloud line was out of sight, as if it had never existed, and the winds remained from the northwest. Otherwise, it all appeared as it had before the line even came into sight.

One of the many things I miss about working in the tower was watching the weather. I saw many, many interesting phenomena there, and I am still fascinated by it all.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

ATC Radio Chatter

Here's one that happened many years ago. The controller involved is still working today, though he didn't work for a couple of days immediately following this exchange.

(busy) Moncton Center: "Speedbird 169 cleared direct Chibougamau"
BAW169: "I'm sorry, sir, can you repeat that?"
CZQM: "Speedbird 169 cleared direct Yankee Mike Tango"
BAW169: "Direct Yankee Mike Tango for Speedbird 169. What was that name again?"
CZQM: "It's called Chibougamau"
BAW169: "Would you say again, please?"
CZQM: "Chibougamau. I say again, Chibougamau!"
BAW169: "Oh, how quaint. What does it mean?"
CZQM: "It's eskimo for f--- off!"

Incidentally, the YMT VOR was changed on the maps some time after this. The place name is the same (pronounced "chi-BOO-ga-moo"), but the official name of the VOR is now "Chiboo".

Monday, April 04, 2005

"Present Position Direct"

It happened to me for the first time in a long time on my last midnight shift. An aircraft departing a northeastbound runway on a westbound flight plan took off and called in. On initial contact, I said, "... cleared direct Sumspot VOR then on course, maintain FL280." The aircraft was expected to do a turn of about 120 degrees. After passing information on the flight to the next sector, I returned my gaze to the radar screen, seeing that he had made a turn and was tracking about 150 degrees off the runway heading. I let him go, watching him carefully, and confirming his equipment suffix indicated GPS on board. Eventually, I couldn't take it. The curiousity had gotten to me. I asked what his next waypoint was. He confirmed it was the Sumspot VOR. When I asked him about his track, and informed him of what the appropriate track would be, he told me he had made a turn to intercept the track between the VOR near his departure point and the Sumspot VOR, and his course would have had him intercept that track about 20NM west of the departure point's VOR.

I find this strange, personally. I'm not sure his interpretation is wrong, but it was unexpected. When I said, "direct Sumspot VOR," I expected he would go from where he was directly to the Sumspot VOR. Afterall, similar clearances are issued every day, and rarely have I seen it happen the above-described way in the 11 years I worked in the ACC. Some people around me have said they use the phrase "present position direct" to remove that interpretation and prevent what happened here. Personally, I see those words as wasted airtime, wasted syllables. Especially since the vast majority of pilots don't interpret my words the way that was described above. Am I off base? I understand that some GPS models will do this by default. Maybe that's not an appropriate method of operation for an aviation receiver? Comments?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Time Change

As much as I hate the time changes between daylight savings time and standard time, it has promised some entertaining ideas over the years. While I haven't seen it done in a long, long time, senior controllers used to take advantage of trainees at these times in the year.

On the midnight shift, the senior controllers would tell the trainees how much they hated setting all the clocks back or forward. The trainees fell into two categories. Those who were keen to show how interested they were, and those who figured it was a duty. Either way, they'd go set the clocks. In an ACC, there are plenty of clocks.

The sharp ones would normally figure out, at least at some point in the process if not at the outset, that the clocks we use are set to show GMT, or Zulu, and thus don't need to be reset at these times.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Flight Instruction

A recent comment about one of my posts (regarding engine failures and instruction techniques) prompted this post. The context is about student preparation, and I find this very interesting.

A friend of mine who is a flight instructor told me about one of his steps in preparing a student. This particular step involves an "in-flight fire" on the outside of the airplane. The drill starts somewhere along the way up fairly high, 5,000 feet or so (land around my neck of the woods is mostly below 500 ASL). At an opportune moment (instructor's point of view, of course), the instructor tells the student he has a fire in the nose cowl. Typically, by the time the student gets this little scenario, he recognizes the altitude they have is sufficient and begins the dive to 100 knots (C172, BTW) as the emergency procedures indicate, attempting to blow the fire out prior to executing a forced landing if one would be required. He continues to tell the student that the fire doesn't go out. His goal is to see if the student has taken any glances out the window for a field nearby, since it is an unknown factor just how long the fire would take to be extinguished. What if you end up burning all your altitude trying to overcome the fire and by the time it is out (maybe it doesn't go out), you can't make anyplace suitable, or even half-suitable? It's an interesting exercise, and not proposed as a pass-or-fail test, but it hopefully makes the student realize the checklists don't necessarily cover every situation, nor every possibility within a situation. Flying the airplane is always the #1 priority.

From a student's standpoint, I can see them hating it. From a licensed standpoint, I have a great appreciation for it. Anything that makes you think can broaden your horizons, and maybe make you just a little better at what you do.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Radio Conversation

Overheard on Halifax Terminal's frequency recently:

HZ_TCU: "Comet 402, are you anticipating the contact approach or do you want me to vector you for the ILS?"
short pause...
HZ_TCU: "Comet 402, that was a question, not a threat."