We’ve all been to websites that feature funny conversations between pilots and air traffic controllers:
ATC: “123YZ, say altitude.”
ATC: “123YZ, say airspeed.”
ATC: “123YZ, say cancel IFR.”
123YZ: “Eight thousand feet, one hundred fifty knots indicated.”
Most of the time, these exchanges are fictitious—the product of a good imagination. Occasionally, in real life, someone grabs the aircraft mic and pretends he’s the featured act at Caesar’s Palace: “Just flew in from the coast, and boy are my arms tired.” When you let one rip on an aviation frequency, are you lightening everyone’s day, or are you gumming up the works?
Let’s talk about radio discipline, and then you can decide for yourself. I’m not going to sit here and tell you joking around on the radio is dangerous. I don’t have the facts to back it up. No one has done a definitive study on the subject. I am going to say, based on my own experience, that as the radios go, so goes the flight.
Here’s what I mean. When your radio work is sharp and to the point, air traffic controllers respond in kind. Your radio transmissions set the tone, and almost always, everything else follows that tone. In the military, we placed such a high emphasis on razor sharp radio work that it was thoroughly discussed in every preflight briefing. Woe unto the sloppy wingman who did not check in on the radio promptly and crisply. You’ve heard this at airshows:
“Blue Angels, check-Two-Three-Four-Five-Six!”
Why so fast and sharp? It sets the tone for the precision flying that is about to come.
Gumming Up the Works
I propose the following, and you might not agree. When you try to be entertaining on the radio, you may get a chuckle from others sharing the frequency.
- You may also disrupt a busy air traffic controller’s train of thought.
- You may tie up the radio frequency longer than necessary.
- You may create a moment of confusion in which a critical piece of information is either lost or misinterpreted.
Slip Sliding Away
None of that may happen, but here is what I know will happen. The conduct of your own flight will be taken down a notch. The long slide down a slippery slope begins with a mis-step.
Am I being a stick in the mud about this? You tell me.