These are translated lines from a fictional story in Chinese, written by someone who (like me) does not work in aviation and therefore does not have firsthand knowledge of these things. Therefore, it is possible that the Chinese itself is an inaccurate portrayal, either of aviation in general or maybe of aviation in places other than China. If that seems to be the case, please just let me know.

I have put in bold font the parts of the lines below that I am most uncertain about.

  1. (ATC) "[CALLSIGN], are you preparing to enter final? We’re changing runway directions. Approaching planes to the south of runway 17 left and right have all been pulled up due to wind shear."
  2. (ATC) "[CALLSIGN], approved heading 350 as requested. And check your fuel levels. I’m directing you to holding point, it’s going to be a half-hour delay. Will that be a problem?"
  3. (ATC) "[CALLSIGN], roger. Our radar… indicates it might take about half an hour for the weather to settle down."
  4. (ATC) "[CALLSIGN], the first plane approaching on runway 04 has just landed. Do you want to turn around and take runway 04?"
  5. (ATC) "How about this—I guide you to the north first, then south, fly the downwind leg, then land on 04?"
  6. (ATC) "Correction, first turn to heading 360, north, then have you turn left and fly south. How’s that?"
    (Pilot) "There’s weather from 5 to 10 nautical miles. It's not going to work."
    (ATC) "Then what if you maintain your current heading, then go south… and finally turn to 180 for the approach?"
  7. (Pilot) "How about I fly to the right for 20 nautical miles first, then make continuous left turns?"
    (ATC) "[CALLSIGN], that’s possible, but you’re out of my zone if you continue for 20 nautical miles."
  8. (ATC) "[CALLSIGN]—could you check the weather for me, 20 nautical miles at 10 to 11 o’clock?"
    (Pilot) "From what I can see, it’s all yellow up here. Wind 300 at 32 knots."

For 3 and 6, I am unsure whether simply saying "weather" is too vague, but the Chinese does simply just use "有天氣," lit. there is weather.

For 5, the Chinese has "飛出個三邊來落04," which literally translates to something like "fly a downwind leg to land on 04." However, a consultant of mine told me that he couldn't really figure out what it means.

For 7, the Chinese has "連續左轉," lit. continuous left turns, turn left continuously; I'm not sure whether there is a more standard terminology that corresponds to that idea. And for "zone," I wasn't sure if I could use that to refer to an air traffic controller's area of jurisdiction (the ATC here is an approach controller).

For 8, based on what I've been able to find, I have a feeling it's not at all standard terminology in English. The Chinese is "本場上空是一大片黃區," lit. the air(space) above the current area is an expanse of yellow zone. I thought it might have to do with what this Quora response talks about, using the term "yellow area," but I'm not sure at all.

Edit: For 1, what I've translated as "wind shear" is "地面風的問題" lit. surface/ground? wind issues, but my consultant told me that it sounds very vague and I should just use wind shear, since elsewhere in the text it does clarify that the issue in question is wind shear. (My consultant is a non-native English speaker who lives in Taiwan and learned to fly in Australia, and now flies for fun occasionally.)

Here is the entire dialogue, which I may edit as I go. Feel free to let me know if the progression of events there don't make sense, and I can try to figure out whether that's an error in my translation or an inaccuracy in the original text. Directly commenting on the document is fine too. (But also feel free to ignore it; I am already asking for so much of your time.)

Thank you so much.

  • $\begingroup$ Broadly speaking those all make sense, but native English speakers might word things differently. Better aviation-related phraseology than you'll see in some media for sure! I'll see about making an answer if I have time. The discussion about "yellow areas" surely relates to precipitation as seen by aircraft-mounted radar (image included at this question). $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Jan 22 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ @randomhead thank you! $\endgroup$
    – Pearl6527
    Jan 22 at 1:48

1 Answer 1


It's hard to give a definitive answer to this, since there isn't standard phraseology for every possible situation. It's normal to use every day speech in situations like this, so it could sound in many different ways. This is my attempt at making it sound slightly more realistic:

  1. "[CALLSIGN] are you ready for vectors to final? We're changing runway directions. We had multiple go-arounds on runway 17L and 17R due to wind-shear."
  2. "[CALLSIGN] heading 350 approved. Expect holding and 30 minutes delay. Do you have enough fuel for that?"
  3. "[CALLSIGN] roger. According to our radar we expect the weather to pass in approximately 30 minutes."
  4. No change needed IMO.
  5. "[CALLSIGN] can you accept vectors to the north and then back south for downwind for runway 04?"
  6. No change needed IMO.
  7. "Request right turn, continue 20 miles and then left hand orbits." / "That's possible, but you will leave controlled airspace if you continue for 20 miles."
  8. No change needed IMO (yellow refers to the colour on the weather radar)

Re 3 & 6, I would say "weather" is sufficient. It's common to refer to areas of intense precipitation and turbulence (i.e. cumulonimbus clouds) simply as "weather".

Re 5, "downwind" is a standard term.

Re 7, "continuous left turns" could be the correct translation, depending on what they mean. My guess, however, is the meaning is either "left hand orbits" or "left hand holding". As for the "zone", it could either refer to the controllers area of responsibility, but in that case the controller could simply pick up the phone and coordinate with the adjacent sector - no real reason to involve the pilot in this decision. However, if they are referring to the limit of controlled airspace, it would make more sense to involve the pilot, since the pilot has to accept to leave controlled airspace.

As for 8, it seems weird that ATC asks the pilot to check the weather, when 3 seems to indicate that ATC has their own weather radar (not all ATC units do).

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so so much! Based on the context from the rest of the story, I do think "zone" in 7 refers to the controller's area of responsibility - if that were the case, how might one phrase it? And is "miles" a shorter way to refer to nautical miles in these contexts? $\endgroup$
    – Pearl6527
    Jan 22 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ (Also - I added one line to 6, but it's after you've already posted your answer, so please don't feel obligated to change anything!) $\endgroup$
    – Pearl6527
    Jan 22 at 14:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. My only comment is on #2: More typical I think is to either ask if you can accept a 30 minute delay, or straight up ask for fuel remaining, (in hours : minutes) if you have declared minimum fuel. "Do you have enough fuel" just doesn't seem like a question they'd ask. $\endgroup$ Jan 22 at 23:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Pearl6527 In that case simply replace "controlled airspace" with "my area [of responsibility]". We always use nautical miles in aviation, so we usually just refer to it as "miles". #6 still sounds fine to me. $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 8:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall Agreed, it sounds a bit awkward. I was trying to stay true to the origianl text. "Can you accept 30 minutes delay?" would be a better way of asking IMO. $\endgroup$ Jan 25 at 8:03

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