ATC humor
Allegedly, while taxiing at London’s Gatwick Airport, the crew of a US Air flight departing for Ft. Lauderdale made a wrong turn and came nose to nose with a United 727. An irate female ground controller lashed out at the US Air crew, screaming: “US Air 2771, where the hell are you going?! I told you to turn right onto Charlie taxiway! You turned right on Delta! Stop right there. I know it’s difficult for you to tell the difference between C and D, but get it right!”
Continuing her rage to the embarrassed crew, she was now shouting hysterically: “God! Now you’ve screwed everything up! It’ll take forever to sort this out! You stay right there and don’t move till I tell you to! You can expect progressive taxi instructions in about half an hour and I want you to go exactly where I tell you, when I tell you, and how I tell you! You got that, US Air 2771?” US Air 2771: “Yes, ma’am,” the humbled crew responded. Naturally, the ground control communications frequency fell terribly silent after the verbal bashing of US Air 2771. Nobody wanted to chance engaging the irate ground controller in her current state of mind. Tension in every cockpit out around Gatwick was definitely running high.
Just then an unknown pilot broke the silence and keyed his microphone, asking: “Wasn’t I married to you once?”
“Approach, how far from the airport are we in minutes?”
“N923, the faster you go, the quicker you’ll get here.”
“About three miles ahead you’ve got traffic 12 o’clock, five miles.”
“Don’t anybody maintain anything.
“I can see the country club down below…look’s like a lot of controllers out there!”
“Yes, sir, there is…and they’re caddying for DC-10 drivers like you.”
“Climb like you’re life depends on it … because it does.”
“Listen up gentlemen, or something’s gonna happen that none of us wants to see. Besides that, you’re (tickin’) me off!”
“Leave five on the glide, have a nice ride, tower inside, twenty-six nine …. see ya!”
“How far behind traffic are we?”
“Three miles.”
“That doesn’t look like three miles to us!”
“You’re a mile and a half from him, he’s a mile and a half from you…that’s three miles.”
“DAL1176, say speed.”
“DAL1176, we slowed it down to two-twenty.”
“DAL1176 pick it back up to two-fifty…this ain’t Atlanta, and them ain’t grits on the ground.”
The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They not only expect one to know one’s gate parking
location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following
exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206″: Speedbird 206: “Frankfurt, Speedbird 206 clear of active runway.” Ground: “Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven.” The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop. Ground: “Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?” Speedbird 206: “Stand by, Ground, I’m looking up our gate location now.” Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): “Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?” Speedbird 206 (coolly): “Yes, twice in 1944 — but I didn’t land.”
“If you hear me, traffic no longer a factor.”
“Approach UAL525 what’s this aircraft doing at my altitude?”
“UAL525, what makes you think it’s YOUR altitude, Captain?”
“Ve are at fifteen thousand, in and out the bottom.”
Anonymous voice on frequency: “Vive le sport!”
“Approach, what’s the tower?”
“That’s a big tall building with glass all around it, but that’s not important right now.”
“Mumbai, what number am I in the landing sequence?”
“By the time you land, sir, you will be number one.”
“TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 Degrees.” “Centre, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?” “Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?”
A DC-10 had come in a little hot and thus had an exceedingly long roll out after touching down. San Jose Tower noted: “American 751, make a hard right turn at the end of the runway, if you are able. If you are not able, take the Guadalupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights and return to the airport.”
“Approach, what’s our sequence?”
“Calling for the sequence I missed your callsign, but if I find out what it is, you’re last.” “Sure you can have eight miles behind the heavy…there’ll be a United tri-jet between you and him.”
“N07K you look like you’re established on the localizer and I don’t know the names of any of the fixes, you’re cleared for the ILS approach. Call the tower.”
“Request Runway 27 Right.”
“Approach, do you know the wind at six thousand is 270 at fifty?”
“Yeah, I do, and if we could jack the airport up to fifty-five hundred you could have that runway. Expect 14 Right.”
Novice female military controller to US bomber leaving radar coverage, forgetting the correct terminology… “You are entering my dark area”
A story from a friend in BA. He was overflying Aden, and saw an Aeroflot freighter climbing out.
Heavily accented voice on frequency: “Hey, English, you used to have Aden?”
BA: “Yes, we did. Why?”
HAV: “Ve have had to overnight there, and you can have it back!”
“MidEx 726, sorry about that, Center thought you were a Midway arrival. Just sit back, relax and pass out some more cookies…we’ll get you to Milwaukee.”
And (another) hoary old chestnut: QANTAS pilot to copilot landing at Sydney, forgetting the cabin intercom was live: “What I need now is a cold beer and a hot shiela”
Stewardess hurries forward lest worse befall.
Chorus of passengers “Hey, you forgot the beer!”
Lufhansa Pilot to co-pilot, forgetting that the frequency was open: “We used to come up the Thames, and turn over here for the docks….”
Voice on frequency: “ACHTUNG SPITFEUR”
“The first officer says he’s got you in sight.”
“Roger, the first officer’s cleared for a visual approach runway 27 Right…you continue on that 180 heading and descend to three thousand.”
“You got him on TCAS? Great. When you’re seven in trail, resume normal speed and call Chicago Center on 120.12.” “I am way too busy for anybody to cancel on me.” “You got any more smart remarks, we can be doing this over South Bend … go ahead.” “You’re gonna have to key the mike. I can’t see you when you nod your head.” “It’s too late for Louisville. We’re going back to O’Hare.” “Put your compass on ‘E’ and get out of my airspace.”
“The traffic at nine o’clock’s gonna do a little Linda Ronstadt on you.”
“Linda Ronstadt? What’s that?”
“Well, sir, they’re gonna ‘Blue Bayou’.”
“Approach, SWA436, you want us to turn right to 090?”
“No, I want your brother to turn. Just do it and don’t argue.”
Tower Controller: “BA356, proceed to stand 69″
BA: “Yes, Sir, Nose in or Nose out?”
French Simulator ‘Pilot’: “AF302 over NTM now.”
German Controller “AF302 Roger. Report names of stewardesses.”
FSP: “Claudette Colbert and Caroline Chose.”
GC: “Colbert I know, but who is Chose?”
FSP: “You must know her, she was Alan Delon’s third wife, between Truc and Nimporte!”
GC: “Ach, these French actors, they marry and unmarry, I cannot keep track!”
FSP: “Well, at least, the French actors, they marry VIMMEN!”
… (long pause) …
GC: “AF302 continue descent as planned.”
Pilot: “DAMN! That was close…”
IAD Tower: “Delta 560, what seems to be the problem?”
Pilot (catching his breath), “Near miss- was he ever close!”
IAD Tower: “Delta 560, how close was it?”
Pilot: “Well, I can tell you one thing, it was a white boy flying it.”
From an unknown aircraft waiting in a very long takeoff queue: “I’m f…ing bored!” Ground Traffic Control: “Last aircraft transmitting, identify yourself immediately!” Unknown aircraft: “I said I was f…ing bored, not f…ing stupid!”
A military pilot called for a priority landing because his single-engine jet fighter was running “a bit peaked.” Air Traffic Control told the fighter pilot that he was number two, behind a B-52 that had one engine shut down. “Ah,” the fighter pilot remarked, “The dreaded seven-engine approach.”
Allegedly, a Pan Am 727 flight waiting for start clearance in Munich overheard the following: Lufthansa (in German): “Ground, what is our start clearance time?” Ground (in English): “If you want an answer you must speak in English.” Lufthansa (in English): “I am a German, flying a German airplane, in Germany. Why must I speak English?” Unknown voice from another plane (in a beautiful British accent): “Because you lost the bloody war.”
Tower: “Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on frequency 124.7″ Eastern 702: “Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway.” Tower: “Continental 635, cleared for takeoff behind Eastern 702, contact Departure on frequency 124.7. Did you copy that report from Eastern 702?” Continental 635: “Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger; and yes, we copied Eastern… we’ve already notified our caterers.”
One day the pilot of a Cherokee 180 was told by the tower to hold short of the active runway while a DC-8 landed. The DC-8 landed, rolled out, turned around, and taxied back past the Cherokee. Some quick-witted comedian in the DC-8 crew got on the radio and said, “What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by yourself?” The Cherokee pilot, not about to let the insult go by, came back with a real zinger: “I made it out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours and I’ll have enough parts for another one.”
“Hey, O’Hare, you see the 7600 code flashing five northwest of Gary?”
“Yeah, I do…you guys talkin’ to him?”
“We were told Rwy 9…we’ll take out the 14R approach plate.”
“Captain you got sixty miles to take it out…have a ball.”
“Caution wake turbulence you’re following a heavy 12 o’clock, three … no, let’s make it five miles.”
“Air Force one, I told you to expedite.”
“If you want more room Captain, push your seat back.”
“Expect lower at the end of this transmission.”
“Japan Air Ten Heavy, how ’bout a radio check?”
(Response -”Rogah, switching!”)
“Citation 123, if you quit calling me center, I’ll quit calling you twin Cessna.”
“American Two-Twenty, Eneey, meeny, miney, moe, how do you hear my radio?”
“Air Wisconsin Three-Thirty-Five, caution wake turbulence, there is an Air Wisconsin Three-Forty-Five on the frequency.”
“I don’t mind altitude separation as long as they’re not on top of each other.”
Control tower to a 747: “United 329 heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, one o’clock, three miles, Eastbound.” United 239: “Approach, I’ve always wanted to say this…. I’ve got the little Fokker in sight.”
A huge C-5 cargo plane was sitting near where a small plane was waiting to take off. The private pilot got a little nervous because the military plane was closer than normal, and asked the tower to find out the intentions of the C-5. Before the tower could reply, a voice came over the radio as the C-5’s nose cargo doors opened, saying, “I’m going to eat you.”
My co-pilot did not hear it and gave me a strange look when I was doubled-over laughing. ‘Northwest 605′ was a DC-9. ‘Flagship (Pinnacle) 5600′ was a CRJ. The exchange went like this… Northwest 605: “Northwest 605 request taxi to the active MSP.”
Ground: “Northwest 605 taxi to runway 14, follow the CRJ, you will be number two.”
Northwest 605: “Roger, we will follow the Smurf-Jet.”
Flagship 5600: “At least my airplane does not qualify for an AARP membership..” (For those who don’t know, AARP is the American Association of Retired Persons, and CRJ stands for Canadair Regional Jet.)
A friend of the family used to fly for US Air, and told us this tale of how one day his plane was one of many trying to land at a busy airport. One of the controllers came on and reported something happened to cause a further delay and that those planes in a holding pattern would need to stay there. Almost immediately, one of the pilots responded with, “Bullshit!” The controller then said something to the effect of, “Sir, the use of profane language is prohibited on this channel by FAA and FCC regulations. Please identify yourself.” After a moment, one of the pilots reported, “This is flight 123 and we are negative on the bullshit.” A moment after that, another flight reported in, “This is flight 456 and we are also negative on the bullshit.” One by one, each and every one of the flights reported in as being “negative on the bullshit.”
My brother is an air traffic controller, and has two favorite conversations he recounts. One of them I’m sure is a true story, because I was there when it happened; the other is completely consistent with his personality. The first was as a small General Aviation airport in the midwest. A student doing touch-and-go’s reported flying past some geese on his downwind leg. The controller responded with “Skipper 3846 Sierra cleared for the option break break attention all aircraft caution watertory migrafowl reported north of the airfield.” After a pause somebody responded “You mean, like, birds?” The controller, without hestitation, replied, “Yes sir!”
A newly promoted Military Liaison Officer was standing the morning watch at Oakland ARTCC. His former controller team mates sent an assistant to the front desk, requesting permission from the new MLO to start the ‘wind tunnels’ at Moffett NAS (there weren’t any of course). Not wanting to appear ignorant, the MLO granted the request. After notifying the front desk a short time later that there were reports of severe to extreme turbulence in the vicinity of San Carlos, Palo Alto and San Jose airports, the controllers watched in glee as the rookie supervisor grabbed the ‘hot phone’ and bellowed to the watch supervisor at Moffett (and through the loudspeakers at every other ATC facility in Oakland’s area), “This is the Oakland Center Supervisor and I’m ordering you to immediately shut off that f…ing fan!”
In 1958, I was bouncing down the runway trying to land in a big cross-wind when the instructor said “I trust we will be landing soon, because my medical permit expires next Tuesday.” The same year, I was flying a Navy SNB (C-45) and the instructor began laughing as he read the squawk sheet from the previous flight. It said: “Order heater for co-pilot’s seat.”
The second was at a commercial airport in Texas. The controller was trying to deliver a clearance that was mostly “cleared as filed” but with one change at the departure and arrival airport. After two incorrect readbacks, the frustrated controller blurted out “Okay, that’s enough tries for you. Let me talk to Beavis.”
A story from the late 1950’s Navy flight training at Corpus Christi, Texas. Instructors were known to party hard at night, even before a ‘hop’ the next morning. A common ‘cure’ was to put on the mask and breathe the pure oxygen while the trainee got the craft airborne. The SNJ training aircraft had a tandum cockpit with intercom for personal communication between the instructor and the trainee. These ‘private’ communications would be broadcast on air if the intercom switch were accidentally left open. One such morning following a heavy night for one particular instructor, not long after the flight was aloft, the following was heard over the air: “Boy, am I ever f…ed up this morning.” After a lengthy pause a young lady air traffic controller demanded: “Aircraft making that last transmission, please identify yourself.” There was an even lengthier pause, and then a voice said: “Lady, I’m not that f…ed up.”
The Stapleton runways were so close together that aircraft on parallel runways had to see each other and provide visual separation before Control could issue an approach clearance. Commonly when pilots were asked if had they had traffic in sight they would lazily respond with, “I see some lights,” which, frustratingly, did not meet requirements for approach clearance. One very busy night a particular crew would not report the traffic in sight. Finally the pilot said, “I see some lights over there.” The controller responded in a vexed tone, “Is there an aircraft attached to those lights?” Laughing, the pilot responded, “Why I do believe there is. Thanks we have the aircraft in sight.” For that crew at least, the point was made. (Ack P Davied)
United cargo jet (with female pilot): “This is my secondary radio. Is my transmission still fuzzy?
Oakland ARTCC controller: “I don’t know. I’ve never seen it.” (Earned him two weeks on the beach)
After being informed by a pilot cleared to land in Fayetteville that he now had two light aircraft cleared to land on opposite ends of the same runway, the controller paused and transmitted “Y’all be careful now.”
One very stormy morning in BOS, many planes were lined up on taxiways waiting for departure. A female pilot made a successful landing on a crossing runway after visibly wrestling her Flying Tiger stretched DC-8 through turbulence and blustery snow squalls, fighting it right down to the runway. An anonymous voice: “But can you park it?”
A young, newly checked out local controller at Logan Airport granted the request of a Trans Portuguese “707″ to use non-active 15R (the longest runway) for departure and cleared the plane to “taxi into position and hold”. Seeing what he thought was a short pause coming in crossing operations, he told the crew to “Be ready and spool ‘em up!” The old “oil burner” sat on the runway with fire walled engines belching clouds of black smoke over nearby neighborhoods for many minutes. Only when the ground controller announced that airport fire apparatus was responding to a major fire in East Boston did anyone in the tower realize that the rookie (now stirring his newly poured coffee) had forgotten the plane and everything from Orient Heights to the Mystic River Bridge had disappeared in his exhaust.
A military pilot had been having difficulty with smooth landings and the crew was required to make note of the exact time the plane landed at different bases. One particular landing took several bounces before staying on the ground. The crew reportedly called up to the pilot, “Which landing shall we note for the record, Sir?”
“Air Force Four-Five, it appears your engine has…oh, disregard…I see you’ve already ejected.”
Tower: “Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o’clock, 6 miles!” Delta 351: “Give us another hint! We have digital watches!”



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