LITH006: Hitting the ground, forest fires, and misplaced charts

THERE ARE BETTER TERMS Today this EagleFlight took back his choice of words for his arrival at Durango. I’ve heard “arrive”, “on the ground”, and others, he picked “hit the ground”! I told him I prefer “land”, he agreed.

FIRE…BAD We’ve been working around Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR’s) since all these fires have broken out around Colorado. But it got a personal face, or voice, when a returning pilot (see the Twin Bonanza in “Free For All”) was going back to Durango as his house was in danger of burning down. We’ve been having to route all of our Denver jets around the Hayman Fire also, this in combination with weather has had a funneling effect close to that fire. Lots of fire tankers flying around as well, and we only see a fraction of them on radar.

I’VE LOST MY CHARTS AND CAN’T GET UP This was the second time I’d heard this in my career: a pilots charts fell to an area to where he couldn’t reach them. The last time it was a fighter jet that asked to go inverted to jar them loose. This time it was a Beech1900. Must’ve been alone with no autopilot.

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.

LITH005: Pilot Getaways, odd requests, boneheads, MTR’s, and messing with trainees

PILOTS, GO AWAY! Actually, the magazine I’ll refer to is “Pilot Getaways”. This is another fine publication I receive, and sometimes they show real out of the way places, some not even on charts. Well, sure enough I had someone head for Goulding’s Lodge, a fairly remote dirt strip near Navajo Mountain on the Utah/Arizona border. I had to ask if he’d heard about it through the magazine. Sure enough he did. He had flown over the spot before, but hadn’t landed (one way in, one way out, huge mountain in the way), this time he would. Since then I’ve talked to a few pilots about destinations in that magazine, more people get it than I thought. One was surprised we could read! Continue reading

LITH004: Making the big time, bad landings, colorful language, and mind reading

HOLE REGULARS MAKE THE BIG TIME Mesa Airlines Pilot Development (MAPD) program is based at Farmington, we work their Bonanzas and Barons constantly. In the latest issue of Plane&Pilot Magazine lo’ and behold there’s a color picture of one of the planes we work. Keep in mind, all we see are little green slashes for an airplane, for an airplane buff like me it’s kind of cool to actually see what we work. I’ve been razzing the pilots of these planes lately over their new celebrity status. Of course when I do others on freq jump right in. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

LITH002: Friends, history, and future of The Hole

FRIENDS OF THE HOLE There’s about 60 people in my area, The Hole is mostly worked by 2 people. There’s the southern sounding guy, Scotty, and the Southern California guy, me, FO. Between the hours of 7am-9pm MST/MDT, you’ll probably find one of us there. We both are pilots and enjoy dealing with our kind back there. People maneuver to avoid The Hole, we maneuver to get in The Hole. Quite often people maneuver themselves out of The Hole just so I can get in it. There is a handful of other people that don’t mind The Hole, but probably wouldn’t go out of their way to work it. Some hate it just because it’s off by itself and not part of the main control room. Some hate it because they don’t want to deal with the complexities of its design. Some just don’t speak the same language as a large portion of the traffic back there. But all work it, sooner or later. I just do more than most. Continue reading