Skip to main content
149 votes
Accepted

Did we get closer to another plane than we were supposed to, or was the pilot just protecting our delicate sensibilities?

From the flightradar24 playback, it appears to have been an encounter with Etihad Airways 171. Your flight (Alaska) was at FL360, while the opposing was at FL370. Therefore, there was 1000 feet of ...
Gremlin's user avatar
  • 947
119 votes
Accepted

How do civilian pilots and ATC verify that other people on the radio are who they claim to be?

This is a reasonable question, and to an outside the simple answer of We don't / can't might seem a little bit jarring. After-all, we live in a time of hacking, terrorism and so on and I can ...
Dan's user avatar
  • 9,308
97 votes
Accepted

How was I able to just plug in my headphones and listen to ATC and pilot chatter?

This is a feature offered on some United Airlines aircraft and flights. It's an interesting way to hear what's going on in the cockpit. You can find lots of information by searching for United channel ...
Greg Hewgill's user avatar
  • 9,152
90 votes

Why did this plane fly in a zigzag pattern?

It is a typical dogleg used to increase spacing between aircraft or delay their arrival. If the airport does not have enough capacity to handle incoming traffic, the air traffic controllers have ...
DeltaLima's user avatar
  • 83.5k
88 votes

How close can planes fly to each other over the ocean?

It was only very slightly higher than our plane by mere meters. You think you saw a plane at the exact same vertical level as yours, when in fact it was at least 300 metres (1000 feet) above or below ...
60levelchange's user avatar
82 votes
Accepted

Why do control towers have tilted glass panels?

I'm pretty sure that has to do with reflections especially at night. If you have ever stood between two mirriors you will understand the infinity mirror. Light bounces back and forwards between the ...
Trevor_G's user avatar
  • 4,876
74 votes

Can you request a new squawk code if you don’t like the one being assigned?

No, there is no procedure for assigning a new squawk code because a pilot is superstitious. The whole system behind assigning squawk codes is fairly complex, and requesting new codes for non-...
60levelchange's user avatar
70 votes

How close can planes fly to each other over the ocean?

This is an excellent question, and helps illuminate several important aspects of the way perception works in aviation. But first... Any near-miss or other air-proximity incident would have been ...
Daniele Procida's user avatar
69 votes

Is it acceptable to abbreviate “Foxtrot” to “Fox”?

Simply put: no, it is not ok to abbreviate the phonetic alphabet. The reason the phonetic alphabet is used in aviation is to make communications as clear as possible with minimum chances for ...
Jpe61's user avatar
  • 28.8k
68 votes
Accepted

What did the controller say during my approach to land (audio clip)?

I think this is what the controller is saying: November Six Charlie Papa, cancel landing clearance. I'll have it back for you in a mile or so, traffic will be in position. We can infer from this ...
fooot's user avatar
  • 73.4k
66 votes
Accepted

Do pilots need a clearance to go around?

No, and this applies to any pilot, not just an airliner pilot. After the pilot has been cleared to land (or even if you're landing at your own discretion at an untowered airport), he can decide to go ...
Dan Hulme's user avatar
  • 12.7k
66 votes
Accepted

Why was my flight cancelled due to bad weather while other flights were not?

In general, flights get cancelled when arriving flights are delayed or themselves cancelled. Your flight needs three critical things to depart on time, or at all: an airplane, flight + cabin crew, ...
egid's user avatar
  • 23.3k
64 votes

Why are there many pilots who don't say "mayday, mayday, mayday" to declare an emergency?

I'm a controller, not a pilot, so I can only speak from my own perspective. What we are taught in ATC school is that many pilots are reluctant to use the word mayday because they feel it might ...
60levelchange's user avatar
63 votes
Accepted

Are there any drawbacks to requesting progressive taxi every time?

Apart from appearing really unprofessional, the obvious drawback is a significantly higher workload, both for the pilot but especially for ATC. You're not the only aircraft moving around at the ...
60levelchange's user avatar
63 votes
Accepted

Should I telephone tower to tell them I'm alive?

YES, please call and let them know. Especially because you had been instructed to change to another frequency and you did not. Even without that, it sounds like the controller knew you were "in ...
randomhead's user avatar
  • 15.6k
59 votes

Can ATC handle a flight as emergency although the pilots have not declared an emergency?

In the US, a controller has the authority to treat any situation as an emergency, and they do. I have had controllers "declare" an emergency multiple times, even when I thought I did not ...
mongo's user avatar
  • 17.8k
58 votes

How can this kind of confusion about taxi instructions occur?

I continue my series of "not actually an answer but I got to say this": The most valuable lesson you can learn from this is not figuring out afterwards what was said, but getting into a habit of ...
Jpe61's user avatar
  • 28.8k
56 votes

What did the controller say during my approach to land (audio clip)?

Anytime communication is addressed to you, you need to understand all of it. Correct is to either ask him to repeat, or read back the part you understood, if you think the rest is unimportant. ...
Harper - Reinstate Monica's user avatar
53 votes

Did we get closer to another plane than we were supposed to, or was the pilot just protecting our delicate sensibilities?

It's unlikely. Because of RVSM, Reduced Vertical Separation Minima rules, the vertical distance between airplanes passing each other is only 1000 ft. If you were in the flight deck so you could see ...
John K's user avatar
  • 132k
53 votes
Accepted

Do I need explicit clearance to taxi on an inactive runway?

Yes, you need an explicit instruction (not clearance) to taxi on any runway - and you got one! The controller told you to "taxi on [runway] 10" which is about as explicit as it gets. If he did not ...
60levelchange's user avatar
53 votes

Why is a Cessna C560 circling Washington DC during the protests?

According to the Washington Post, an unidentified C560 was also seen circling protests in Baltimore in 2015. The FBI stated the aircraft were theirs and "specifically used to assist in providing high-...
bcattle's user avatar
  • 759
51 votes
Accepted

What does ATC do during "slow" times?

Admin stuff, emails, chat with a colleague if you are not alone on shift, read up on (ever changing) procedures, eat, read a book, make sure the coffee machine works, meditate, watch TV. Anything goes,...
60levelchange's user avatar
50 votes
Accepted

Can a military pilot make his airplane invisible for the ATCs?

Radar systems have 2 aspects, the primary and secondary systems, or the Radar and the interrogator. The radar sends out a RF signal and receives everything that is returned on that same frequency, and ...
alex's user avatar
  • 993
50 votes
Accepted

What is the procedure when an aircraft with an emergency can't land due to a blocked runway?

What's the procedure? The procedure is, be creative to save as many lives as possible! Really. The procedure is to determine a course of action which will likely result in the best outcome for ...
kevin's user avatar
  • 39.7k
50 votes
Accepted

Why does ATC ask a crew who has declared an emergency if their aircraft will be overweight when landing?

If an aircraft encounters a serious problem quite soon after departure that forces it to land immediately, the aircraft may be above its certified maximum landing weight. This is because there is ...
60levelchange's user avatar
50 votes
Accepted

Why is this airplane flying in circles randomly?

What you observed is probably a Gulfstream production test flight, either an initial or a snag clearance flight, or possibly a Customer Acceptance from Savannah Air Center, which is a completion ...
John K's user avatar
  • 132k
50 votes
Accepted

Should I contact ATC if I don't have a transponder?

Every US controller I've ever heard from says they'd prefer to be talking to every aircraft in their airspace, period. This lets them know your intentions and allows them to move you around if needed, ...
StephenS's user avatar
  • 27.7k
48 votes
Accepted

How much does it cost the airline if an aircraft misses its take-off slot?

A slot time is issued for aircraft flying through busy airspaces or to busy airports where the demand (number of flights) exceeds the capacity. If 50 flights are planned to arrive at an airport in 1 ...
60levelchange's user avatar

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible