Friday, May 13, 2011


One of the most important traits of being a pilot is being cool.  I don't mean just the cool swagger of  the baby-blue clad Blue Angels as they march out to their F-18s at the beginning of an air show.  I am talking about keeping your cool during an emergency and being able to analyze and respond to the problem calmly and quickly.  Then, most of all, you gotta be cool on the radio when you transmit on Guard - the emergency frequency everyone is monitoring!

The coolest pilot I recall hearing was when I was flying a helo in Southern California.  Our cockpit banter was interrupted by a Navy Pilot transmitting on Guard:

Single Seat A-4 Skyhawk

"Mayday, Mayday Mayday,  This is is Navy Skyhawk 123.  I have a flame-out at 25,000 feet, 75 miles West of Point Mugu. Over,"

A couple of minutes later we heard

"Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Navy Jet 123 unable to get a restart.  Passing through 15,000.  Ejecting Now!"

That is all we heard from this cool dude.  He was later picked up from the Pacific Ocean by a rescue Helo from  N.A.S. Point Mugu.

Tone and calmness is not all that is important.  You have to know the language of the aviator.  When an air controller in Approach Control points out traffic he sees on his radar above and ahead of you he might say:  "Nighthawk-6, traffic 12 o'clock high, fast mover."

We would then scan the sky for a high speed aircraft above and in front of us.  If we see him the response is Tally Ho.  If we do not see it we would respond:  Approach, Nighthawk-6, No Joy.

If he wants you to activate the signal on your transponder that will highlight your aircraft on his cluttered radar screen he or she  will say Squawk Ident As you depress the switch you let him know that you have done so by responding:  Splash.  Of course no pilot would call a transponder a transponder.  It is a Parrot.  If your transponder is working OK . Your Parrot is sweet.

If you understand something you respond with "ROGER".
If you will do as you were told to do the response is "WILCO".
When you are done with what you are saying in a 2-way conversation you say "OVER".
Now that I have said way too much and don't expect any more responses I will say: 

"Polecat-13, Good Evening.

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