There are an awful lot of conversations between Air Traffic controllers and Pilots.  It’s fair to say that the vast majority of these conversations are…functional.  They complete a job. But with so many conversations, there are bound to be some gems - with the below being just a few of the excerpts that we’ve found.  All names and locations have been changed to protect the authors…

A Lesson in Assumptions
Visiting light aircraft (in a posh English accent): "Penzance tower, Cessna Light G123 request approach instruction and landing?"

Penzance tower (in a broad Scottish accent): "G123, Penzance tower, welcome to my airspace.  Sadly we are not accepting your class, divert on heading and contact approach on Lands’ End." 

Visiting light aircraft: "Penzance tower, negative, request approach instructions, my landing approved earlier, I'm with my partner and will be landing for the day." 

Penzance tower: "G123 that is still a negative. Penzance field is a heliport. I strongly suggest diverting to Lands’ End airfield."

Visiting Aircraft: "Penzance tower, please confirm heading to Lands’ End...”

The Apples
We were about fourth in a long queue waiting to take off in our larger Boeing aircraft. The JFK Air Traffic Control allowed a B737 on a local flight to take a short-cut and start his take-off run by joining the main runway from a taxiway causing us to wait for him to take off and clear. "How do you like them apples?" he said on local VHF as he started his take-off run.

Boeing aircraft had a warning horn for major problems that you could be tested. Half-way along the B737's take-off run, 'someone' held their cockpit mike to the horn and pressed it as they tested it. The B737 abruptly stopped take-off with full reverse and full braking and shuddered to a halt, tyres smoking.  A few seconds later we heard a voice on our VHF: "How do you like them apples?"

This is your Captain Speaking...
A KingAir had just rotated (lifted-off the runway) at take-off when there was an enormous bang and the starboard engine burst into flames. After stamping on the rudder to sort out the asymmetric thrust, trying to feather the propeller and going through the engine fire drills with considerable calmness and aplomb, the stress took its toll on the Captain... He transmitted to the tower in a level friendly voice:

"Ladies and gentleman. There is no problem at all but we're just going to land for a nice cup of tea."

He then switched to cabin intercom and screamed at the passengers:

"Mayday. Mayday. Mayday. Engine fire. Prop won't feather. If I can't hold this asymmetric we're going in. Emergency landing. Get the crash crew out."

The aircraft landed safely with the passengers' hair standing on end.

Take a Guess
This happened at the small, but busy, Sarasota Florida airport in 1975. The tower was open from 6am until 10pm and most of the traffic was during daylight hours. There was a National flight in every night about 8:30pm and often had a joker at the wheel. On a particularly dark night the controller hears, "Sarasota tower, National123 with you... guess where?" The controller promptly turned off all the airport lights - there was no other traffic - and replied, "National123 - Sarasota tower - guess where?" After a silence of about fifteen seconds the chastened National pilot came back, "Sarasota tower this is National Airlines flight 123 from Tampa and we are exactly 10.3 DME on the 300 degree radial inbound for landing...” The controller switched the lights back on and cleared the pilot to land.

Any anecdotes to beat these?  Any particular favourites from the stories above?  Drop us an email and let us know!

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