LITH003: Trainees, nervous pilots, closed airports, stealth Navajo’s, ferrying, and broken transponders

MR. ROBOTO Lately I’ve been spending an unnatural amount of time with YZ in The Hole while he trains CW, the geographically challenged trainee. It’s not as though he doesn’t know the four-state area, he does, it’s just not the four states under his jurisdiction, but I digress. We both got a laugh and wonder why so many pilots talk like robots on freq. They can’t possibly talk this way in real life, not to say working this sector is not real life, well, maybe it’s not.

ACT NATURALLY Another peculiarity YZ and I uncovered was how often pilots will stumble through and butcher their transmissions. Sheer terror and intimidation, but why? Then again, they sell software and videos on how to talk to us! Maybe P.T. Barnum was right.

DONT GO THERE! Cortez (CEZ) Airport has been closed for a week for resurfacing, but I knew it was just a matter of time until someone wanted to land there. Sure enough a Cessna 182 was the first victim last night. Once told about it, the response was “Oh my” or “Oh dear”, did a 180 and went back to Flagstaff, AZ.

STEALTH NAVAJO Scott is a regular in The Hole. He flies a Navajo for KeyLime Airlines. After all the lousy radar returns off his transponder he called it a KMart Special or that he was stealth. We have a pretty good time on freq.

PAYSON BOB Another regular that we go more by our names than aircraft/facility identifier is Bob, proud owner of a Piper Saratoga. As you’ve probably figured, or will soon, I do a lot of “hangar flying” while on freq, which is talking shop basically. Our friendship formed through talking about Payson, AZ, his plane, and how its equipped. Turns out he has family here at my facility!

TAKE MY PLANE, PLEASE Last week a pilot ferrying his plane to a prospective buyer chatted with me for about 150 miles. I mentioned a co-worker who was looking for a Turbo Centurion like his and he gave me his name and phone number over the freq. Our conversation started with him asking if his route would keep him out of any and all airspace’s he should stay out of. I could only speak for part of his route as he was heading for the Reno, NV area. Nice guy, gave me his itinerary for the following week which included a vacation in Texas by the Gulf.

FREE FOR ALL The topic of GPS’s was the topic one day between myself and a pilot. He was pretty proud of his Garmin GNC300XL. Well, a Twin Bonanza one upped him and jumped on the freq and boasted of his truly awesome stack. This was one of the first times someone who wasn’t getting any services, just squawking VFR but listening on the freq, jumped into the conversation, we didn’t know who he was! Of course once he did, others chimed in. The ironic part was that the Twin Bonanza pilot was talking about how easy his Garmin GNS430 was to use, right after another plane had squawked emergency because of problems with the same unit! Not really something worthy of declaring an emergency over, but a funny coincidence anyway.

IT’S YOU, NOT US, MAYBE A year or so ago this poor guy was having problem after problem with his transponder. He’d depart Durango (DRO) and ask for a code to check his altitude reporting (Mode C). It’d always be off by a few hundred feet. Once I said “I remember you”, he wasn’t pleased with how the work was going on his transponder and glumly replied “I remember you, too”. He had it swapped out with a Cessna 152 on which it was working, once again no luck. Then one day when he was checking it again, other aircraft nearby were also off by a couple hundred feet. Could it have been us all along? Nah.

Life In The Hole (LITH) is based on real-life Air Traffic Control (ATC) stories from pilot and controller Chris Rodriguez (unless otherwise noted) of Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC).  The comments and opinions are only of the authors and do not reflect the opinions or positions of any other company or organization.

About Chris Rodriguez

Chris is the editor/publisher of LightningRod Blog - as well as founder/editor of Wrongmont, Longmont Advocate, Vote!Longmont, Longmont Politics, the LightningRod Radio Network, as well as being the original Longmont Examiner. Chris is a writer and talker - whether it be blogs, podcasts, music, or public speaking. When he's not heard on Air Traffic radio, he can be heard on his podcasts or seen in the local paper causing trouble.
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