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#195 One More Rant about the Radio

Yikes, this is about my third article on that silly device, whose importance is, frankly, over-rated!  Gee, this is kinda weird!  You see, I view the radio as a somewhat unimportant adjunct to aviation.   I guess I’m one of those guys who believes that “Bernoulli makes airplanes fly, not Marconi”.    But I have to admit that I’ve changed my tune a bit a few times regarding details of its use in Brian’s Flying Book.  And now I’m going to rant just a little bit about how this miracle of technology is affecting ME.  It is about ME, isn’t it?

Jeff Taylor, today’s “photo dummy”, departs Sisters with an appropriate call to “Sisters Traffic”.

I’m a teacher.  I rarely fly by myself and I also spend a lot of time in patterns.  Most of us were taught to use the radio in that pattern.  So far, so good.  The purpose of these transmissions “in the blind” is simply to let other flyers know where we are and what we plan to do, so that we won’t attempt to occupy the same airspace and trade some paint.  And if we are the only aircraft in that pattern and we have been keeping our head on a swivel, it’s really not necessary to call EVERY leg!  Remember that I said I’m a teacher.  That means that I often fly with my mouth.  As my student, whatever his experience or ratings, is on short final, it’s likely that I’m talking to him, guiding him and advising him.  Naturally, that’s when everyone starts talking!  And that’s when I start questioning what they are saying and why they are saying it.  Unless circumstances call for it, I only make one call per circuit.  When I’m on midfield downwind I call that leg and usually, I’m done yakking.  But invariably when I’m on short final and coaching my student, our conversation is interrupted by some guy who is several miles away, not inbound to our traffic pattern, and who is making a lengthy call that he’s “maneuvering”.  That’s nice.  I don’t need to know that.  Hmmm, maybe the flight schools could use the flight school frequency for that call if they really must make it.  Nah, why use the flight school frequency when you can screw with CFIs on the CTAF???!!!

The radio is supposed to be an aid, not a distraction or nuisance.  Years ago, I ran a private airport at a Central Oregon Resort.  As a chartered Citation jet was on short final, my own lineman picked up the microphone and asked, “Citation landing on 18, how long will you be with us?  And do you need transportation?”  I rolled my eyes, but had something else to do, so I didn’t reprimand him.  Turned out, someone else would do that for me.  When the Citation had shut down, the Captain entered the FBO and asked the young man, “Was that you on the radio?”  The lineman replied that it was and the Captain laid right into him.  “Don’t EVER transmit to a landing aircraft!”  I think the reasoning was obvious and after the young man thought about it, he got the idea and apologized.  He never did it again.  Just as we never drive, taxi or walk toward the runway when an aircraft is landing, we never transmit on the radio to a landing aircraft.  Personally I don’t mind if it’s just me.  I can even rub my stomach and pat my head at the same time.  But I can’t communicate with someone who has come to me for a flying education when someone else is yammering in our ears.

Lately, I’ve started to do something new.  I’m not saying it’s a great idea, only that it’s the only thing I can do.  Often, when I’m on final to a tricky airstrip with others telling their life stories on the radio, I transmit that I’m turning my radio off.  Yup, you can call all you want, but I won’t hear you.  I would prefer not to resort to that move, but I simply can’t afford to have my coaching interrupted and perhaps my landing or takeoff placed in jeopardy by an unimportant call.

The other day, I was on short final at a local airport and the helicopter behind me called. I responded, “Standby, I’m busy”.  When I was on the go and on my usual early turn, I came back with, “okay, it’s your turn to talk”.  He replied that he wanted to know where I was.  And I thought Robinson helicopters were hard to see!

Don’t get me wrong… I’m not a radio Nazi.  I’ve even been known to yack just a little bit to a pal who I hear on the frequency.  I keep it short, in case someone needs the frequency, but I don’t consider it a huge breach of communication etiquette.  However, I do wish that I could have a modicum of silence when I’m yakkin’ on the ICS.

Since this little rant was only about the radio, I guess I won’t deal with the subject of those huge patterns that Acme flies.  Maybe next time….

Oh, did I say “One” more rant?  I lied.  Here’s another one,

“It’s Your Turn toTalk”

Written in April, 2017

All right, I’ll admit it:  As I have gotten older I HAVE gotten grumpier and more curmudgeonly.  I try to keep it in check, but sometimes circumstances bring it out in me.  Y’know what has lately been bringing it out in me a lot?  It’s the hesitance of so many pilots to simply answer when they are addressed on the radio.  I’ve actually had to say, “it’s your turn to talk now…”  I’ve always wanted to add, “…ya moron!”  But I believe in being mannerly on the radio, so I’ve left that clause out.

So, to those student pilots taught by Acme to limit their transmissions to the usual “left downwind”, “Base” and “Final” calls, which also drive me nuts with their cluttering effect on the airways, I would like to say, “It’s okay to use plain English on the radio and, in fact, it is plain English between planes in the pattern, which usually does more to keep us separated than your dependence on canned transmissions.”

So, if you hear some guy call you on the radio and ask you a question, usually about your intentions, do me a favor:  ANSWER ME, DAMMIT!

Happy Swooping!


8 comments to #195 One More Rant about the Radio

  • John Carroll

    Hi Brian,

    You made lots of good points in your article, and they are all true. I don’t disagree with a one. But I would mention that at a local field to me, there is an instructor who gets upset if anyone uses a pattern entry other than the forty-five to a left downwind.

    The runway there is a single surface and subject to almost constant crosswinds. It is a ‘training’ field. I have made up to two unnecessary approaches so as to set a ‘good’ example for his students when the wind clearly couldn’t make up its mind.

    I have seen three windsocks each pointing in a different direction, sometimes almost opposite! My point is that we can go too far sometimes with being a good neighbor when a radio is available to let everyone else know what our intentions are, especially when the wind won’t make its intentions easily known. On such a day, multiple calls might be justified.

    • brian

      As everyone should know (but don’t) all airports and runways are different and we need to tailor our actions to where and when we are. That goes to pattern entries and radio use. Also, we change our thinking. I used to frown on straight-in approaches. I no longer do, just frown on assuming that the guy on final is number one when he’s not.

  • Terry

    So, one day at S39, okay, lots of days, Acme’s were yakking and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, then one had the nerve to transmit that an aircraft (me) was landing without talking on the radio.

  • I had someone get upset because my first call was 4 miles to the southeast. He grumbled, “Nice first call.” I laughed and told him I had just departed my friend’s field that is 4 miles from our airport and next time I would fly south 6 miles and turn around before making my first call. He laughed and said “Fair enough, sorry.” I make enough calls to feel safe and no more.

    Then again, I think you and I disagreed on the call “Any traffic in the area please advise.” Still drives me crazy. You make your call and if I’m close to be factor to you, I will advise… you don’t have to take the time to ask me!

    Maybe we’re all becoming grumpy old men. Maybe we’re good enough pilots that we’ve lived to be old men!

    • brian

      Jack, a LOT of people disagree with me, especially on that one! They are usually the same ones who don’t think they can take off on a displaced threshold and who hold their brakes and run up the power to do a “short field” takeoff. I usually tell them to simply start their own website. Then, they can say what they want! Thanks for your comment. I think I really like your statement, “.
      ..I make enough calls to feel safe and no more”. And I appreciate your comments, whether or not I agree with them. Happy swooping… I’ll be looking for you!

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