I recall reading somewhere that the 'Air traffic controller' voice (you've heard it on TV on many occasions) started with one specific person and his mannerisms have been copied by many air traffic controllers since, particularly in the US. The article mentioned his name but I can't find the article and can't remember his name.

What was the name of this chap?

Edit: I think that I read this in Fate Is The Hunter, an autobiography of a pilot working in the '30s to '60s. Unfortunately I don't still have my copy so I can't look it up.

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    $\begingroup$ There may be a specific actor who has a familiar voice and has played ATC roles, but in the real world controllers all speak with their own voice, they don't try to imitate anyone. Any similarity comes from common phraseology, and the fact that they speak in a clear and professional manner. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2020 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ The article wasn't referring to actors playing ATCs on television. IIRC it was a cold-war era air force ATC that influenced peoples' mannerisms in that era, which in turn influenced the portrayal in the media. I think that I saw this mentioned in Fate Is The Hunter, which is an autobiography of a pilot who worked in that era. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2020 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ OK, your "you've heard it on TV on many occasions" got me thinking that way. Actually, most often I find film and TV portrayals of ATC and Pilot communication to be not very good... $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2020 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sure I can come across a copy of "Fate is the Hunter" in the next few days. That is an Ernest Gann classic. I'll get back to you later, if someone else doesn't chime in with an answer or comment regarding this book first. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2020 at 16:49
  • $\begingroup$ @quiet flyer Thank you but don't go to a lot of trouble on my account. Unless, of course I've prompted you to re-read it (and it is actually quite a good book). $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2020 at 23:25

1 Answer 1


You are thinking of a reference to Charles ("Chuck") Yeager. He was certainly not an air traffic controller, but there has definitely been a statement published in print saying that his manner of speaking over the radio has been the model that has been copied numerous other times (in movies and by other pilots in real life, as I recall the statement saying.)

The reference was in the book "The Right Stuff"-- pages 33-34 and possibly a few more (not shown) in this ebook edition.

  • $\begingroup$ I have read Space but I'm pretty sure I've never read The Right Stuff, and I'm pretty sure the reference I did read was talking about an air traffic controller. Unfortunately I lent my copy of Fate Is The Hunter to somebody and never got it back so I can't check that. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2020 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ Well, that's all I've got. See updated version of answer and check the reference-- if that's not it, I'll be interested to see what the actual best answer turns out to be. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2020 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the reference anyway. Although I'm pretty sure it's not what I'm looking after, it's an interesting piece of history. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2020 at 17:46

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