LITH012: Wayward and confessing pilots, and fam flights

TURN AROUND MY WAYWARD SON Today had a disoriented student pilot on his first solo cross country. He was going from Albuquerque, NM to Gallup, NM and finally asked for help after getting way off course heading east towards the Continental Divide. Farmington Tower had me give him a code and I found him, I told them to switch him over to me but the pilot didn’t want to. I assured the tower I wouldn’t bite him and he reluctantly came over. Continue reading

LITH011: 4 hours on position, namecalling, and funky fixes

FORE SCORE & 4 HOURS ON POSITION Okay, it was only 237 minutes, but it sure felt like 240. The thing about this sector is when you get in a groove you want to stay, bladder and hunger be damned. This was one of those times. Not only was I getting begging eyes from relieving controllers (begging me to not give it to them), but it would’ve taken too long to explain everything that was going on. Continue reading

LITH010: Farewell to regulars and Hall of Shame

FAREWELL TO SOME REGULARS Scotty brought it to my attention tonight that some regulars won’t be flying our friendly skies as much anymore. We work this Lifeguard KingAir on a regular basis in and out of Farmington, NM. Apparently they no longer have the contract and the plane and crew will be taken out of the area. They’ll be missed as they were always great to work with. This airplane was one of the few that I worked that showed up on the FAA’s Accident/Incident website, after which it again flew with us regularly. The incident was on a midshift when the plane hit a coyote on the runway in Farmington. The flight had to be cancelled and there was some minor damage to the plane, major to the coyote. That pilot got a lot of flack, and I always called him the “Coyote Killer” jokingly. Scotty knows them even better, hope to hear from you guys again in your next job. Say hi to Scotty or FO. Continue reading

LITH009: Skittish Skylanes and working around emergencies

182’s ALL IN A ROW Had me a string of eastbound 182’s today. First one chose wisely and picked Alamosa, CO as his destination. There was a large line of thunderstorms from Denver south with Center Weather Advisories (CWA’s) and Convective Sigmets. The second one was going from Kingman, AZ to Jeffco Airport in the Denver area. After quite a few calls back and forth, he left for the next frequency and then he changed his destination to Alamosa as well. The next one sat out all the bad weather in Farmington, NM. She was going from Carlsbad, CA to Colorado Springs, CO. We spoke at great length about GPS’s and the weather. She’s a CFI in Carlsbad, very friendly. Continue reading

LITH008: Departure procedures and missing engines

IFR DEPARTURES There seems to be some confusion on departing IFR from an uncontrolled airport of from one with a VFR tower. In the absence of an IFR Departure Procedure or departure instructions from ATC, the pilot is responsible for his/her own terrain and obstruction clearance. Chapter 5 of the AIM gives the pilot discretion on joining the filed route or course. In other words, after you depart and you are cleared “as filed” it is at pilot’s discretion how he or she joins the filed route or course. Do you need to ask permission to turn to intercept your filed airway ? Absolutely not ! However, if you ask for that early turn you may not get it. ATC, is not supposed to vector below the minimum IFR altitude. It is entirely up to the pilot when the on course turn is made. Also, there is no requirement to actually cross the navaid. We have to put the navaid into our route of flight so the flight plan will process properly. Make Sense ? -Scotty (SW) Continue reading

LITH007: High fuel prices and swearing in junior controllers

FUEL FOR THOUGHT The topic of aviation fuel came up on frequency Sunday, and of course it turned into a mini free-for-all. A Baron going from Las Vegas to Denver Centennial was going to make a stop in Farmington for gas. I warned him of their high prices but he felt their price compared to the $3+ Las Vegas charged was acceptable. A Stationair chimed in and said he paid $2.96 in Hawthorne, NV and it was self-serve! That’s pretty atrocious. Continue reading

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