I love this story, like a lot of people, but is it possible to find the actual ATC recording from that story?


Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: "Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?" There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request. "Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground."

I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: "Ah, Center, much thanks, we're showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money."

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This would probably be pretty difficult to locate. The story doesn't give a date but I'm guessing its in the 70's. ATC audio would have been recorded on mag tape systems and frequently reused/overwritten if even recorded at all. Unfortunately the best account you are going to get of this is what you've read from the book. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jul 13, 2016 at 19:13
  • $\begingroup$ Related: How did planes measure their speed relative to the ground before GPS?. Not sure this story is true, or some pilots are such children... $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jul 13, 2016 at 20:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 1,842 knots over the ground.... Closer to 1,900. Great story. $\endgroup$
    – wbeard52
    Jul 13, 2016 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ @mins...some pilots are such children. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Jul 14, 2016 at 2:31

1 Answer 1


Sadly, there likely are no official recordings of this story.

Unfortunately, there was no LiveATC.net archive at the time, and unless there is an accident or incident, audio is not routinely archived by the FAA or NTSB.

Even when you want to request recent data, the FAA warns, "Because air traffic data is routinely destroyed or disposed of in the normal course of business, time is of the essence." (I've seen elsewhere but couldn't find an official source that it can be anywhere from 5-45 days), so even if you could find a date of this event, you wouldn't be able to file a FOI request.


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