ATC Fables

Some stories are so good that even though you suspect they might not have really happened you wish they had. The next two have circulated around the internet for years, along with several other lesser offerings, all purporting to have actually been heard on ATC frequencies.

Frankfurt controllers are reputed to be widely known for their snippy impatience with users apparently unfamiliar with their facility. In this instance, a British Airways B747 had cleared the active runway and had rolled to a stop trying to figure which gate they needed to go to. The impatient ground controller sarcastically inquired, “Speedbird 207, is this your first time at Frankfurt?” to which the Speedbird pilot replied, “no, I was here a couple of times in 1944, but I didn’t land.”

A young lady ground controller at a large airport during a heavy rush was getting increasingly exasperated with the traffic, and decreasingly patient with the pilots. Each exchange was more terse than the last and the tension on the frequency was palpable. Finally, after one query or missed readback too many, she had had enough and instructed every one to just shut up and hold their positions. She unkeyed the mike to dead silence, but after a short interval, an unknown male voice asked, “wasn’t I married to you once?”

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Last updated: 13 April 2009