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Excerpt from Winging It! With Dr. Paul: Forty Tales Your Flight Instructor Never Told You (copyright © 1989 by H. Paul Shuch)

Toni Wakes drawing They play the game all across the country, and call it aviation safety. We claw our way through clouds or clear, they zap us with radiation, our black box squawks "henani". Phosphorescent glow on a distant screen, "radar contact" on the radio, and we relax. Do that, and you're dead!

They play the game at all altitudes, and call it separation. Squawk Mode C, Ident, your traffic at twelve o'clock, numerous targets, type and altitude unknown. Turn right heading one two five vectors final approach course maintain three thousand intercept localizer contact tower at the outer marker frequency change approved good day. Readback correct, but did you understand what you said?

They play the game by day and night, and call it Air Traffic Control. Miles away and meters below, the eyes intent on the radar screen. The job title is misleading; they control nothing. Dedicated professionals offering valued advice, but you control the airplane. You are the pilot in command. You make the right or wrong decisions based on their advice. Air Traffic Advisors they really are, and we play by their rules. Ever wonder why they may lose a plane from time to time, but they never lose the game?

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This page last updated 1 June 2010
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