Air Traffic Controllers who lose separation between aircraft call that event a "deal". Why?

When the Conflict Alert function was added to the computer system, it reported conflicts to the area supervisor. Controllers came to know the feature as "Squeal-a-Deal", but no one could ever tell me why they're called deals.

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    $\begingroup$ They are called deals because they are situations which have to be dealt with. They aren't operational errors by ATC necessarily, they could be caused by an aircraft breaking a clearance. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ It reminds me of the idiom, "What's the deal?"; which according to the free dictionary .com is a question asked of someone "to explain what they have been doing...." So as @GdD says, initially its investigational (could be serious or could be nothing), but "what's the deal" must be resolved one way or another. $\endgroup$
    – Devil07
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ For the same reason why further reduction of separation between said aircraft is a big deal? j/k. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ I've never heard that term. It must be specific to whichever country you are talking about (the USA?) and the question should be tagged accordingly $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Devil07 I once worked for a boss who declared "We don't have problems. We have opportunities to excel." The power of semantics. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 12:38

1 Answer 1


The first time some of us heard this term was from a controller at a fly-in breakfast, perhaps in the early 80's. One of the people in the group asked for clarification, and was essentially told that a "deal" was a "big deal" and that a report had to be written and reviewed, and it had the potential of being a factor in a performance rating.

The "deal" in this case was a maintenance truck which was still on a runway, after a 727 was cleared for takeoff. The 72 driver saw the issue and delayed takeoff, but it was on the tapes, and there were people in the cab who saw it. So paperwork was filed.

Rumor had it that the processes for deviations were relaxed for the new controllers after the strike/firing of controllers under the Regan administration.


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