Here are some conversations that airline passengers normally will never hear. The following are accounts of actual exchanges between airline pilots and control towers around the world.
United 372: Albuquerque Centre, this is United 372. I have an engine that just went out and I need to land. No panic, but I need a runway that's close to my present location.
Albuquerque Centre: United 372, this is Albuquerque Centre. You are cleared to land at [name of unknown town] Airport immediately.
United 372: [who had obviously never heard of town either] Hey, I'm not talking some crop-duster airport here, Albuquerque Centre.
Albuquerque Centre: United 372, that runway is 6,700 feet long. Is that going to be enough for you, or do you want me to send someone up to help you land?
Tower: Delta 351, you have traffic at 10 o'clock, 6 miles.
Delta 351: Give us another hint! We have digital watches!
Centre: TWA 2341, for noise abatement turn right 45 degrees.
TWA 2341: Centre, we are at 35,000 feet. How much noise can we make up here?
Centre: Sir, have you ever heard the noise a 747 makes when it hits a 727?
Unknown aircraft: [waiting in a very long takeoff queue] I'm fucking bored!
Ground Traffic Control: Last aircraft transmitting, identify yourself immediately!
Unknown aircraft: I said I was fucking bored, not fucking stupid!
O'Hare Approach Control: 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 student became lost during a solo cross-country flight. ATC attempted to locate the aircraft on radar.
ATC: What was your last known position?
Student: When I was number one for takeoff.
A DC-10 had come in a little hot and thus had an exceedingly long roll out after touching down.
San Jose Tower: 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.
There's a story about the military pilot calling for a priority landing because his single-engine jet fighter was running "a bit peaked". Air Traffic Control told the fighter jock that he was number two, behind a B-52 that had one engine shut down.
Fighter pilot: Ah, the dreaded seven-engine approach.
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 aircraft: [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.
DC-8: What a cute little plane. Did you make it all by yourself?
Cherokee: I made it out of DC-8 parts. Another landing like yours and I'll have enough parts for another one.
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 it was dark. And I didn't land.
While taxiing at London's Gatwick Airport, the crew of a USAir flight departing for Fort Lauderdale made a wrong turn and came nose to nose with a United 727. An irate female ground controller lashed out at the USAir crew.
Ground: [screaming] USAir 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! 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, USAir 2771?
USAir 2771: Yes, ma'am.
Naturally, the ground control communications frequency fell terribly silent after the verbal bashing of USAir 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.
Unknown aircraft: Wasn't I married to you once?
– Author unknown
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