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Although amusing nicknames were interesting on their own, most of the time knowing how they had been acquired or assigned was a stand alone story in itself. Such is the case of Ed “E4” Hayes. When I first got to Jacksonville and heard Ed referred to as E4, I thought it was a reference to his rank in the military. It was much better than that.

All ATC communications are recorded. There are multiple multi-track recorders in the basement of the facility which run 24 hours per day, the tapes from which are kept for two weeks before they’re recorded over. Nowadays the tapes are digitally encoded with time and date, but in my day there was a separate track on which a monotone voice reported the time every five seconds followed by a mark tone—“fifteen hours, twenty three minutes, five seconds, beeeeep.” However, some years before, there was no time track and the procedure was that whenever concluding a voiceline communication one announced, in addition to their operating initials, the minutes of the hour. Thus, I might have said at the end of such a communication, “RP at two eight.”

Ed, operating initials EH, was training on the D-side at CEW low one day and had just cleared out a fighter northbound off VPS to FL 230, a fairly standard clearance. In the meantime, the radar controller had just handed off an inbound T-39 to VPS approach descending to 10,000. Ed then answered a call from VPS telling the center that they had taken care of the fighter that had just departed in the face of the T39. Ed was surprised, embarrassed, and frustrated and signed off the exchange by saying, shakily, “uh, E4 at H5.” Most labels stick forever, and rightly so.

Update: Don Elliot Heald, the telephone voice of the Audichron time-of-day service for generations, as well as WWV, and perhaps, too, the FAA time, recently passed away (19 February 2009). No one I know would have been able to put a name to that famous voice.

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Last updated: 20 January 2011