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Air controller during emergency landing: 'I know that's BS'

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Air controller during emergency landing: 'I know that's BS'

Old 7th Apr 2012, 11:48
  #41 (permalink)  
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Only time I had a real emergency, it was on a boat. My cousin called the Coast Guard, politely. They came back with all kinds of questions: have you got your lifejackets on? what is your social security number? have you got the correct number of flares on your boat? etc etc etc. So I asked her for the mike and said the magic words: Mayday, Mayday Mayday!

Instantly everything changed; we had a senior chap come on frequency who sent us a helicopter and a cutter, which solved our problem eventually, but on a boat you have plenty of time thinking you are going to die. On a plane very little time, in this case, when ATC thought it was a hoax.

This, by the way, was off Galveston, Texas. They did understand the term I used, which in my case arose from my UK radio training. Incidentally, we were told later, after the rescue, that the Coast Guard had been plagued by shrimpers making hoax calls and they thought ours was also a hoax....which is why we had the initial runaround.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 12:06
  #42 (permalink)  
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Although rare, Feith says phantom or fake calls can originate
from someone near the airport on the same frequency as the control tower.

"It's very complex because we've had these bogus calls in the past," Feith

"It sounded like somebody just (sic) on a handheld somewhere to
me," the controller said later in the recording. "Did you hear that though?"

Another controller responds, "Yeah, I did."

"That didn't sound good," the first controller said.

"I know," responded the other controller.


if the controller thought it was a fake call, why would saying
pans or maydays make him think it was real? The issue is the controller thought this was a fake call, not that he was confused by frasing.

Butyou see, in some parts of the world the word "Mayday" is magical and overcomes any predisposition towards thinking a call is coming through from a handheld transmitter , and heavens to Betsy a faker would never think to use an actual callsign and Flight number they're hearing on the freq.


You get stuck into those of us who indicate that standard
phraseology may have resulted int a much better outcome in these circumstances and accuse us of monday morning quarter backing whilst at the same time presuming that those of us who comment haven't experience emergencies of our own.

No, I'm just pointing out that most here are ignoring the controller's own words that indicate why he had a doubt about the veracity of the call he heard, and are injecting their own cause (phraseology) because in their mind not adhereing to it in the strictest terms fits the preconceived notions they already hold; 1) Americans are sloppy cowboys on the radio, and 2) since Americans are bad at it, we are good at it, and we're going agree this is the cause no matter what.

And I can pretty much guarantee that those deriding this crew haven't suddenly had their cockpit fill with smoke on final approach to the point it's in the cabin and dealt with all that entails, let alone done so whilst (see, I can use it ina sentence too) using their best James Bond movie voice with the appropriate touch of sangfroid.

The controller states to his colleague that, to him, it sounded like the transmission came through a handheld. This could point to the clarity andvolume issues associated with a mask mic the flight crew may have been using. This may have also created the impression in the controller's mind he was hearing a "new" voice on freq, not someone who had already been cleared to land, possibly even by him. The other controller's response that it didn't sound "good" evenre-inforces this incorrect notion...that it was a rogue transmission.

You can "Mayday" and phrase correctly until Henry Higgins'eyes water and every sticker in the RAAF pecks up in a snappy salute, but that isn't going to automatically trump the disbelief of a controller who's initial doubts arise due to the quality of the transmission and new-sounding voice. The M.O. of a phantom transmitter IS to sound like an aircraft or the controller as much as possible...they use the callsigns they're hearing on freq and the phraseology pilots and controllers use.....that's how they try and fool people. They would actually say Maday, so saying it when the controller is in that frame of mind doesn't cure a thing. Get it?
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 12:29
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The reason he thought it wasn't a real call was because he didn't hear the call sign. Using standard phraseology he most likely would have. End of.

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Old 7th Apr 2012, 12:35
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Perhaps the ATC was unfamiliar with the characteristics of a transmission via a microphone in an O2 mask -- leading him to believe the communication came from a handheld?
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 12:44
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With advance apologies for a little thread creep...

Some years ago I was manning an Approach console (Mil) with a mixture of a/c inbound, outbound and transitting. One of the inbound civil a/c made a comment about being tight on fuel. This, I acknowledged and asked if the a/c was declaring an emergency. He replied "Negative".

I kept routing the a/c inbound (in an expeditious manner and routing, but without any particular priority against other traffic, although I kept his fuel state at the forefront of my mind) and he again made a comment about his fuel being tight.

Again he declined to declare any form of emergency. On the ground, I spoke to him on the phone and he was bordering on apoplectic with me for not giving him priority handling and not having crash crews standing by.

When I was able to get a word in edgeways, I invited him to calm down and asked why he had twice refused my offer to declare a Pan or Mayday, and had not chosen to do so on his own instigation. He said that he thought he would be in trouble from both his company and ATC for doing so, and thought I would be able to read between the lines and essentially declare one on his behalf.

Explaining the real world (as I saw it) to him, I assured him that ATC would NEVER think badly of a crew for declaring an emergency and if his company did so that, to be frank, was his problem to deal with. I also explained;

1. What I could/would have done if he had called Pan or Mayday.
2. The fact that not only was I not psychic, but tried not to make assumptions.

The moral was then, and should be now - don't be afraid to say you need help, and use correct terminology to do it. Not rocket science really.

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Old 7th Apr 2012, 12:57
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Emergency, smoke in the cockpit, roll trucks, please
He said please Yihaaaahh
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 13:01
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I've flown on both sides of the Atlantic and I know which ATC environment I prefer. That's just me though - I enjoy both.
For most pilots, comms are nothing to do with sounding like a Cowboy or James Bond - its about using the resources available to you to maximum effect. If you don't believe that ATC will help you and that making others aware of your situation is unimportant, fine fill your boots. ATC can offer you a huge amount if they know a) what's happening to you and b) what your intentions are. If they don't know any of that - then you're not going to be getting much back.
In my experience, when you get to the Comms part of Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, it should be executed as professionally as the first 2. It's not an optional extra - but a big part of airmanship, especially in congested airspace. Standard phraseology is the only way we can ensure things are done properly - where possible - obviously not all situations are alike and there will be variations. I don't see why that's such a contentious issue.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 13:25
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One quite amazing aspect of this thread is the number of (apparently professional) respondents arguing on the basis of flag waving and 'my country's ops are better than yours' nonsense.

There is no need for that. This case is very straightforward.

In an emergency, declare: "MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY ... [FULL CALLSIGN]" and follow up with details of the emergency.

If the incident is less serious, declare: "PAN, PAN, PAN ... [FULL CALLSIGN]" and follow up with details of the emergency.

This will ALWAYS command the full attention of the ATCO, I assure you. Regardless of national niceties. Just do it!

Anything else risks confusion as this case illustrates. Remember that this was an UNEXPECTED non-standard call for the ATC staff to interpret out of the blue, so it is vital that it is as clear as possible and makes sense. At many ATC units, staff will flick the RT onto loudspeaker on hearing the "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" prefix to a transmission so all present can hear the message and get straight to work helping out.

Use those three vital words, please! Save the colloquial chatty RT for routine situations.

By the way, I have always considered aircrew from the US and Europe to be very competent and professional across the board. Well done. But don't defend mistakes ... learn from them! (ATC and aircrew alike).

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Old 7th Apr 2012, 13:51
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There's no real excuse for non-standard RT terminology in a case such as this one. With 'Mayday, Mayday, Mayday,' then you have made it clear that you have declared an emergency; everything else comes from that understanding, particularly that other traffic knows to keep silent so that ATC can communicate clearly with the aircraft in distress. If I hear a 'Mayday' I know to pipe down to let the crew and ATC sort out what should happen next, or perhaps pass a message if the call seems to have been missed. Here we can see that no other crew pointed out the missed emergency call to ATC; that seems to show that nobody else understood it as a 'Mayday' call, showing this is not some argument about how 'we' do it compared to 'them.'

I have noticed that the USA seems to have a lot of non-standard RT. What some here have noted with a certain amount of pride, that we have most of the traffic, really is part of the problem, that we sometimes forget the standard procedures, as if we all should know what we mean anyway. 'Roll the trucks' sounds like something from a movie, Die Hard VII, perhaps. Coming from an aircraft in flight it's almost meaningless.

I got my American radio licence by sending in a postcard. That was it!

I got my UK licence by taking two short writtens, one for IFR and one for VFR. (Brits speak completely differently when the flight rules change. This is something that most people do not know.) Then I did a two-way oral test, including making a proper 'Mayday' call.

I got my German AZF by taking a spoken test in German, since they graciously accepted that I already could communicate in English, when that included a whole lot of possible situations. It was that typical German thoroughness, with the testing being done by the Federal Ministry for Post and Telecommunications. (I now have a small blood-group tattoo high up inside my left arm to show my status post-test, plus of course I had to swear the oath.)

Some of that might account for differences one can easily hear between different RT standards in the States versus elsewhere. We usually get the job done well enough here, but sometimes we need a higher standard.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 14:34
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If the incident is less serious, declare: "PAN, PAN, PAN ... [FULL CALLSIGN]" and follow up with details of the emergency.
Waiting for Pukin Dawg to correct this...
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 14:52
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One thing that cracks me up is this: Saying "MAYDAY" means you are declaring an emergency; saying "We are declaring an emergency" must mean something else, apparently.

I've flown on both sides of the Pacific and, my fellow Americans, we can sound like Cletus on a CB haulin' go go girls down I-70.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 15:30
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Unhappy Smoke doesn't have to mean a fire

I've said it before, and the next media report of "smoke" in the cockpit, I'll probably say it again. If the engine is the problem, then pilots and passengers might have been exposed to oil FUMES, or MIST, which occurs frequently when an engine leaks oil in the compressor stage forward of the bleed air inlets.
That compressed air can be 600 degrees or much hotter. Common jet engine oils contain trycresyl phosphate, which is a neurotoxin. MOST IMPORTANTLY, this is a flight safety issue. The flight crew can be intoxicated by the fumes, and their cognitive function, and motor coordination seriously degraded. That could have influenced the pilots' non-standard communications in this instance. I thought what he said was exceedingly clear, emergency, smoke, roll trucks. The controller didn't mis-hear his words, he just didn't think it was real. I don't care if he said something as non-standard as "5912 is on fire, we're landing, roll trucks," the controller can interpret and declare the emergency, and should default to "this is real" not "this is BS."

The crew and passengers should be tested for TCP exposure, and the airline should be required to inform everyone of what substances they were breathing, so they can get appropriate medical attention. Doctors will misdiagnose unless they know about exposure to organophosphates. Blood tests should be done within the first 48 hours if possible. Pilots are largely unaware of toxic bleed air contamination, and can take a cavalier attitude, which is unfortunate.

The protocol for blood testing is here: http://www.baileygreer.com/library/L..._ALL_FORMS.pdf

The medical protocol for physicians to use after a fume event is here:

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Old 7th Apr 2012, 15:53
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What's more interesting for me, as a TWR controller, is the fact that seemingly for qute some time TWR was oblivious to the fact that an a/c that landed, stopped on the rwy, is not proceeding and not calling. I know that's a big a/d and maybe it's difficult to see some parts of it, but there's surveillance, and last but not least, lack of the 'vacated' call should arouse questions.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 16:17
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@ Basil

Don't forget that a controller may not be listening solely to the frequency being worked.
Could be speaking to another controller or using intercom and miss part of a truncated call - or even saying "Milk, one sugar."
EXACTLY!!! That's yet ANOTHER reason to use "MAYDAY X3", apart from it being standard phraseology, because this alerts everybody on the frequency and now you become number one on the controllers attention list.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 16:57
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Capn Blogs

If the incident is less serious, declare: "PAN, PAN, PAN ... [FULL
CALLSIGN]" and follow up with details of the emergency.
Waiting for Pukin Dawg to correct this...
Certainly. A correct PAN call would be "PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN...[Station calling], [Full Callsign] and then follow up details of the urgency. If it's an emergency, a MAYDAY call would be appropriate.

Frankly, I'm disappointed an a little suprised the pendants here hadn't jumped on this already. But in my expat civ flying years as a Captain, Training Captain and Check Airman working with more non-Americans than cowboys in almost exclusively non-U.S. airspace, I've seen my share of R/T nazis using it as a comfort-zone crutch to compensate for a lack of being able to prioritize and manage everything from a garden-variety approach in IMC or use and interpret a wx radar correctly to handling the most basic abnormal situation. Lots of beautiful talking but a lot of walking that would be better described as the aviation version of a pub crawl.

Standard phraseology?...Absolutely, it's a great idea. I use it, taught it, and expect it. In half the countries out there you won't even get a "say again" response to anything non-standard because the only English the controllers know is the standard phraseology script.

R/T obsession?....usually coming from those who'll sit in a sim and let an engine burn off it's pylon or flight controls stay jammed while they're having a conversation with ATC re SOBs and fuel remaining. There's a lot of obsession around here.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 17:00
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I'm very concerned that too many US pilots think they are Chuck Yeager while actually showing the wrong stuff.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 17:35
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saying "We are declaring an emergency" must mean something else, apparently.
It doesn't mean anything.
My favourite place for an emergency is LHR.
Once, long ago:
Bas: Mayday x3 Fire stbd engine request priority app.
LHR: Heading 240 clear ILS 27L break x2 LH Go around straight ahead 3000ft call app xxx.
Bas: (Thinks) HTF did he know I was going to declare an emergency?
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 18:09
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It amazes me that some professionals here are trying to lay blame to the controller when the crew did not using the correct (and the most simple) phraseology! "we are declaring an emergency etc etc etc"? if it were medical, a tad embarrassing if the controller put on a full emergency as he hasn't heard properly or missed some of it (on the phone, a colleague talking to them etc) or it would need to controller to clarify the situation by which time the crew are then focused on the problem. As already said many times, MAYDAY or PAN MUST be used if you want to declare. Even MAYDAY x 3 and callsign and nothing else will get the fire vehicles moving! Doesn't take a crew discussion to figure it out, it's instant! Just last week I had an aircraft on frequency, crew said they'd like to return due to a technical issue, nothing declared. Several minutes later I observed the aircraft slowing down and tracking towards nearest landfall, on asking the crew to confirm the issue- "eerm, yeah, pan pan....", THEN we set the wheels in motion for an emergency landing, actually resulted in a forced landing at a disused airfield. If they waited any longer to declare, emergency services would not have been there on arrival. Remember the Avianca near JFK??? Every presentation I've been to where that crops up results in the same 100% agreement between all there, they should have declared an emergency! You need less thinking to say Mayday / Pan, and it works! Anything else may not work.....
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 18:23
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Perhaps the ATC was unfamiliar with the characteristics of a transmission via
a microphone in an O2 mask -- leading him to believe the communication came from a handheld?
That possibility only exists in the real world where pilots land aircraft with smoke-filled cockpits and recorded ATC conversations implicate that very thing.

Here, however, the real human factor experts decide what's irrelevant and what's not, and when coorelation does in fact equal causation.

For example, in this case an American pilot used the word "Emergency" to an American controller working at an American airport. That the controller would be entirely familiar that the word "Emergency" means an emergency, but doesn't matter to the experts who will pretend what you have here is the equivalent of speaking Swahili to a Mongolian because it grates on them like nails on a chalkboard. If it mattered, then it blows their whole chance to pontificate about sloppy American phraseology, thus reducing the chance to feel superior, which in turn starves what can only be described as a cultural need.

So one must ignore that the first action for virtually any smoke-filled cockpit scenario is to don an O2 mask, and therefore transmissions were likely being made via the same. Forget also that transmitting on same sounds much different to the reciever not only vs boom mic, but also if that "new" voice suddenly pops up in airspace where nobody else is. Disregard the controllers own words about the call "sounding like it was from a handheld" as well as the person in the article who implies prior rougue transmissions helped lead the controller to erroneously jumping to this conclusion.

And of course, reject out of hand the message could have been truncated in the first place. After all, they were cowboys, and the fact they were transmitting to someone fluent in cowboyspeak is irrelevant when there's a chance to admonish the wild-ass rodeo riders in the U.S. ATC system.

It's really no fun and one can't run an internet Ground School on one's favorite subject if this incident can't simply be equated to other incidents or accidents where poor phraseology was the cause. Therefore, this one must be chalked up to that too, you see.

Last edited by PukinDog; 7th Apr 2012 at 19:01.
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Old 7th Apr 2012, 18:58
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You guys just don't get it! The controller thought it was a fake call, most likely because the o2 masks distorted the transmission. Have you ever spoke through the o2 masks? We can barely communicate with each other let alone atc.
Mayday calls can be faked, the Microsoft wanta bees do know how to say it.

Next time I hear the beautiful European rt exclaiming "Charlie Charlie, twice really or roger"and continuing to read back clearances I will quickly correct them in my finest cowboy accent because that's what us Americans do is sit around thinking of ways to sound cool on the rt. lol

I have flown all around the world and can tell you everywhere is different and uses different terminology, trying to get English in France, central, south America, china, Russia, etc, can be a real challenge sometimes. Domestic operations are even less standard in every country I have flown, USA included. This was a domestic flight and they should use proper rt, but what they said was perfectly understandable for local controllers to understand if they heard it properly.

For the guy who thought atc should have known by the plane stopped on the runway, dia is huge with multiple runways. I think the taxi distance from the far runway is around 4 miles.
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