Two Ways to Scam an Air Traffic Controller*


The last time you flew, did you miss all or part of a clearance given by air traffic control. If so, congratulations, and join the club. We all miss a clearance every now and then. Here’s how some pilots deal with the problem:

“We’ll do all that,” or “With the numbers.” Here are some examples:

“Warrior 5592 Bravo, Burbank Ground, taxi to One Five. Left Delta, left Bravo, hold short of Bravo 3. Give way to the Cessna 172 going into the ramp at Delta 8.”

To which the reply comes:

“Warrior 92 Bravo. We’ll do all that.” Who’s this pilot kidding? We know he really didn’t get the entire clearance set in his mind. “We’ll do all that,” really means “I might have gotten about 10% of the clearance, but I’m going to start on down the road and see if I recognize what needs doing when I get there.”

Air traffic controllers are sharp people. Basically, when you say “We’ll do all that,” you’ve highlighted yourself as someone who bears watching, which is exactly what the controller will do.

Smoke, Mirrors, and Baloney by the Slice

Here is another slice of baloney: “Falcon 349 Victor Zulu, out of 8,000 for 4,000 with the numbers.” You might as well say “Falcon 9 Victor Zulu forgot to write down the code letter for/listen to/listened to an old and irrelevant version of the ATIS, so I’m trying to bee-ess you into believing I have my act together.” A busy controller might let you get away with this, but a controller with a spare second will probably reply with: “Falcon 9 Victor Zulu, the current ATIS is Oscar. Advise when you have it.”

The I’s Have It

I know many pilots are prideful and some, dare I say it, have big egos. For some, it hurts to admit “I don’t know.” We pilots are human, after all, and in the fast-paced world of flying, we are going to occasionally miss an important bit of information on the radio. It’s okay to say, “I didn’t copy that. Would you repeat the clearance?” Controllers will always repeat a clearance when you request it. In fact, a controller would much rather take the time to repeat a clearance than have to fix the mess created by a misunderstanding.

Please Don’t Feed the Controllers

So please, don’t try to scam an air traffic controller. It fools no one, and it could land you in some trouble. A sharp pilot will have the confidence and authority to occasionally admit something was missed by simply saying, “Say again.”


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