Questions tagged [air-traffic-control]

Air Traffic Control (ATC) is a service of ground-based controllers that directs and coordinates aircraft to improve safety and efficiency.

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Why did this plane fly in a zigzag pattern?

I was tracking flight NKS739 from LAX to SEA this morning and saw that it made some some odd turns. If you look at the track from FlightRadar24.com you can see that it was heading toward SEA then it ...
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Why is "Affirm / Negative" used instead of "Yes / No"?

Does anyone know why we use Affirm and Negative in RT, rather than Yes and No? I assume it's to prevent confusion with accents and other languages - but Yes and No sound very different to me!
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79 votes
4 answers
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Why do control towers have tilted glass panels?

Almost all control towers I've seen have tilted glass panels: Amsterdam-Schiphol tower (EHAM), source. What is the reason behind this choice? How is the tilt angle determined?
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How do civilian pilots and ATC verify that other people on the radio are who they claim to be?

I am interested in authentication - how identity is verified - in civilian aviation radio transmissions. I know that when someone is speaking on the radio he tells his call sign. But is there any ...
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4 answers
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Why do English-speaking pilots and ATC say "Niner" instead of "Nine"?

Besides the fact that it's now a standard, why do American-English-speaking pilots and ATC say "Niner" instead of "Nine"? None of the other numerals are pronounced in an atypical fashion. For what ...
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64 votes
2 answers
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How was I able to just plug in my headphones and listen to ATC and pilot chatter?

I was travelling from Mumbai to Newark Liberty Intl on United Airlines 49, a Boeing 777-200. I was sitting in the economy section, last row, last seat to the plane's left, basically, I was literally ...
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3 answers
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Did we get closer to another plane than we were supposed to, or was the pilot just protecting our delicate sensibilities?

Yesterday, April 28, 2019, I was flying on Alaska flight 557 from LAX to PDX. About an hour into the flight (near the California/Oregon border) I was looking out the window and saw a jet travelling ...
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56 votes
6 answers
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Why do pilots use airways instead of just "flying direct" every time?

These days, on larger/newer aircraft at least, GPS navigation is ubiquitous. So VORs and Non-directional Beacons (NDBs) are used less. Wasn't the reason for airways because they were the connection ...
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50 votes
6 answers
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Why was my flight cancelled due to bad weather while other flights were not?

I'm stuck in Frankfurt. I missed my connection due to a delay. I was rebooked, but this new flight was also cancelled due to bad weather. About 30 percent of all flights were cancelled today. ...
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49 votes
3 answers
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How can I politely remind ATC that I'm waiting for instructions or clearance?

(background: low-hour, low-experience, private pilot.) I've got an issue regarding talking to air traffic controllers, especially when I think they may have messed up, yet still giving them the ...
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48 votes
6 answers
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How close can planes fly to each other over the ocean?

While on a recent Air Transat flight from Toronto Pearson to London Gatwick, several hours into the flight and over the Atlantic Ocean, my daughter and I noticed a plane behind ours to the left, ...
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48 votes
7 answers
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Can ATC handle a flight as emergency although the pilots have not declared an emergency?

The preliminary report for the LNI610 crash shows how much distractive conversation there was between ATC and LIN610 at a time when the pilots clearly didn't have the aircraft under control – as ...
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How do pilots manage to remember ATC instructions?

Before takeoff, during flight, before landing and for taxiing, pilots are given several instructions by ATC. Do they mentally remember all instructions? Or do they note them down somewhere such as in ...
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46 votes
6 answers
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How do pilots identify the taxi path to the runway?

When the aircraft is readying to taxi, the ATC asks them to proceed to some runway number, say runway 09. In big airports, how do the pilots identify the correct path to their runway? Does the ATC ...
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What does it mean when the controller uses the word "request"?

I recently had the opportunity to fly a PAR approach into Büchel Airbase in Germany. It was a ton of fun and I'll definitely try it again when I get the chance. However, as we were getting set up for ...
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42 votes
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Why does ATC ask a crew who has declared an emergency if their aircraft will be overweight when landing?

I have heard ATC ask an emergency aircraft if they will be overweight when landing. Why do they ask? I am not asking about the consequences of an overweight landing or what procedures are required ...
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41 votes
5 answers
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How much is the minimum safe distance between two planes in-flight?

According to FAA regulations, how far should a commercial jet be away from another plane in-flight? How about military planes? They get really close when in formations... Is there a minimum distance?
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38 votes
2 answers
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Why is a Cessna C560 circling Washington DC during the protests?

Right now according to FlightRadar24 there is a Cessna C560 circling Washington DC. It took off from Manassas Regional Airport and has been circling ever since. No other identification is listed. ...
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What prevents someone from hijacking a radio frequency mid-air?

For someone who wants to stay anonymous and probably terrorize the skies, what protective measures do we have? Without even thinking too deep, I can imaging the following scenarios for someone who's ...
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37 votes
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How do I "sightsee" in a class Bravo airspace?

There are some good sights to see inside of class Bravo airspace. What is the best way to plan and communicate to ATC that my intention is to fly into the airspace to see some specific landmarks?
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36 votes
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How are duplicate call signs dealt with?

Many airlines (at least here in the U.S.) have flight numbers that use different aircraft for different legs of the flight. For example, Delta 158 uses a 747-400 from Incheon International in Seoul to ...
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35 votes
9 answers
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Can a military pilot make his airplane invisible for the ATCs?

I'm writing a story about the pilot of the Austrian Air Force, who uses his Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft for unintended purposes. I've read stories in the internets that civil pilots allegedly can ...
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35 votes
4 answers
67k views

What does "Information <letter>" in ATC transmissions mean?

When listening to ATC broadcasting (at least for ULLI), phrase "Information <Charlie|India|whiskey|etc.> on board" may be heard. Charlie, India, Whiskey, etc. ...
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34 votes
5 answers
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Do pilots need a clearance to go around?

I have read about the missed-SFO-accident and watched the 2:22 movie. I want to ask about going-around (or canceling takeoff) when the pilot is fully aware of an emergency that the tower is not (or is ...
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34 votes
6 answers
29k views

How can pilots fly inside a cloud?

I heard that sometime an aircraft fly inside a cloud, and I'm wondering how that works - how clearly can the pilot see while inside the cloud? What if a cloud is "too large"? (Is there a maximum size ...
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34 votes
5 answers
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Why are visual approaches (in the US) preferred by US pilots, but not European pilots?

I listen to ATC a lot and often hear airliners cleared for visual approaches in the USA. Interestingly, if it's European airliner pilots they deny the visual approach and request ILS even if they are ...
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3 answers
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What can a pilot do if an air traffic controller is incapacitated?

I watched this video: where a Las Vegas controller is on duty alone and suffers a stroke. The pilots become quite uncomfortable with the situation and basically ...
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34 votes
2 answers
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Should I contact ATC if I don't have a transponder?

The flight school I usually rent from is under the shelf of class C airspace. If you're going out to a practice area, the standard procedure is to contact approach control and get a squawk code, so ...
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34 votes
5 answers
35k views

Is it illegal for Joe Public to listen to ATC in the UK?

I recall that in the UK (unlike in the rest of the world) we have a law forbidding the listening to of air traffic control, dating back a century, to the days of paranoia over spies! What is this law,...
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34 votes
2 answers
14k views

What is a passenger disturbance level?

I was listening to RealATC for a United Flight UAL1074 which declared an emergency needing to return to Washington Reagan National Airport. During the ATC recording, the flight declares an emergency ...
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34 votes
1 answer
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Why is there a strip of uncontrolled airspace between Russia and Norway?

The airspace between Russia and Norway over the Barents Sea is an uncontrolled air space; no FIR is set. Illustration taken from this document. This area is like a corridor from the Scandinavian ...
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33 votes
2 answers
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What did the controller say during my approach to land (audio clip)?

I recorded this ATC audio clip during a recent flight. I'm not sure but he may be saying, 6CP, cancel lining clearance......(missing)....traffic will be in position. Can you complete this ...
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33 votes
4 answers
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Why are there many pilots who don't say "mayday, mayday, mayday" to declare an emergency?

I've been listening to some ATC from some major commercial pilots and in every video where there's been some confusion about declaring an emergency they've used some terminology other than "mayday, ...
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33 votes
4 answers
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What kind of assistance can another aircraft provide to an incapacitated pilot?

A recent incident unfolded as follows: An aircraft overflew the planned destination and did not respond to radio calls on any frequency. ATC decided the pilot might be incapacitated and asked another ...
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33 votes
5 answers
3k views

Should you wait to switch to the ground frequency until after crossing a runway?

I've never had the opportunity to fly into a controlled airport with parallel runways, so I've never actually faced the situation. But, in the interest of being ahead of it, when would it be prudent ...
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32 votes
4 answers
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What should you do when ATC gives you a number to call to discuss a violation?

Generally speaking, for those that either have experience calling the number, or, preferably, for those that were paid to answer the phone, what are the benefits or pitfalls of calling? I had a ...
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31 votes
3 answers
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What does ATC do during "slow" times?

I know at larger airports, it's NEVER a slow time. But what about at smaller airports that are large enough to rate manned ATC, but things aren't always fast-paced, high-traffic like at JFK or DFW, ...
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31 votes
4 answers
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Why do aircraft on Flight Radar 24 jump around randomly sometimes?

I use Flight Radar 24 on my iPad to track friends/families flights when they are traveling (not paranoia, just curious). I've noticed that, quite often, their plane will jump from one location to ...
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31 votes
2 answers
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I just saw a plane drop off online radar; should I do anything about it?

I was watching Flight Radar 24, positioned near my house, to see what planes I could spot, and noticed a Cessna 550's transponder just dropped off @ 5,325 ft in a high-speed descent! Is there ...
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31 votes
3 answers
7k views

Does air traffic control identify a distress situation when an aircraft flies triangles in the sky?

There is an account in a TSB Canada investigation report after a loss of radio and transponder: The emergency procedure to be followed by a pilot to alert radar stations when in distress and unable ...
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31 votes
3 answers
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"What's our vector, Victor?": What does this mean?

In Airplane there is a famous sequence: ...
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31 votes
2 answers
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What does "CC (Charlie Charlie)" mean when pilots reply to ATC?

I heard a pilot replied "CC" to ATC instruction. I can't remember the exact situation, but does anyone knows what it means?
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31 votes
2 answers
9k views

What is the cause of unusually strong wake turbulence from the 757?

The Boeing 757 (at least in the US) is in a special class of its own with respect to air traffic control wake turbulence advisories and separation. This is apparently due to it producing stronger wake ...
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30 votes
4 answers
65k views

How is wind direction reported (blowing from or blowing to)?

When the tower controller, the ATIS or a METAR says Wind 270, 15 knots does it mean the wind is blowing in the westward or in the eastward direction? Is there a single convention used to express the ...
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30 votes
3 answers
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How does IDENT work?

In order to help ATC identify an aircraft on their screen, they may ask the aircraft to "ident." The pilot presses a button on their transponder, and the controller can verify that the aircraft they ...
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29 votes
5 answers
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How much of the landing runway is mine?

If I am cleared to land a couple of miles on final, may I use the entire runway to the departure end, or do I have to comply with "taxi instructions" the tower controller might give me like "turn ...
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29 votes
4 answers
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When can I request flight following?

I'm a student pilot doing all VFR flying and making flight plans for training. I've heard that most people don't file a flight plan for VFR outside of training though, and instead request "flight ...
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29 votes
2 answers
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What does ATC mean when they refer to "company"?

Listening to LiveATC there are references by various ATC entities (towers, approach, etc) to "company". To what does this refer?
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28 votes
2 answers
39k views

Are “Kennedy Steve’s” various jokes allowed in ATC communications?

Forgive me if there is an obvious answer to this, but I was just listening to this “Kennedy Steve” playlist, and he seems to joke a lot more than most ground controllers I’ve listened to. I have ...
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27 votes
5 answers
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Can a mistake of a single air-traffic controller cause a collision between planes?

I am watching season 2 episode 13 of Breaking Bad and in the episode it shows that: an air traffic controller, distraught from his daughter's death, causes a mid-air collision, resulting in ...
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