Posted by: braddenvillage | April 19, 2012

Funny Stories – Aircraft Controllers

Amusing Aircraft Controller Stories…

A few years ago at our Air Traffic Centre we received warning that an undisclosed number of US Air Force B2 Bombers would be crossing our FIR [Flight Information Region] at a particular time on a particular day. They would check in with us as they entered our airspace and check out again as they left. They gave us the callsign to expect, and the route was known, so it was logical to assume that they would contact us at a certain time at a certain place. The callsign and reporting points have been changed to protect the innocent. Being the then famous new ‘Stealth’ bombers we would know little about it but they would pay us the courtesy of letting us know they were there. Eric, a very capable controller with a keen sense of humour was on position, and heard, “UAE Area, this is USAFB2. This is a courtesy call advising that we are about to enter your airspace.” Eric replied, “USAFB2, welcome to UAE Airspace, we have you on radar 200 miles out over LOTUS, hope you enjoy your visit.” Without thinking the Stealth Bomber replied, “Thank you UAE, it a pleasure to be… Wait – you got us on Radar? 200 miles out? You shittin’ me?” “That’s affirmative USAFB2,” said Eric, “I’m shittin’ you. Enjoy your visit.”


A British Airways 737 touched down at Frankfurt-am-Main. The tower controller, obviously in frivolous mood, transmitted: “Speedbird 123. Nice landing Captain, But a little left of the centre-line, I think.” Quick as a flash, the BA Captain replied in a cool English accent: “Roger Frankfurt Tower. Perfectly correct. I am a little to the left of the centre-line. And my co-pilot is a little to the right of it.”


A KingAir had just rotated (lifted-off the runway) at take-off when there was an enormous bang and the starboard engine burst into flames. After stamping on the rudder to sort out the asymmetric thrust, trying to feather the propeller and going through the engine fire drills with considerable calmness and aplomb, the stress took its toll on the Captain… He transmitted to the tower in a level friendly voice: “Ladies and gentleman. There is no problem at all but we’re just going to land for a nice cup of tea.” He then switched to cabin intercom and screamed at the passengers: “Mayday. Mayday. Mayday. Engine fire. Prop won’t feather. If I can’t hold this asymmetric we’re going in. Emergency landing. Get the crash crew out.” The aircraft landed safely with the passengers’ hair standing on end


The late Captain Mickey Munn – an all-round fine fellow, highly experienced pilot and, at the time, Sergeant in the Red Devils (UK Parachute Regiment display team) – was piloting a Britten Norman Islander to jumping altitude with a full load of hairy-arsed paras crammed into the rear of the aircraft. With no warning at all, a bang and a flash of flame, the port engine blew itself to pieces. Mickey’s hands flashed around the cockpit as he brought the aircraft under control. As soon as the aircraft was straight and level he turned to his passengers and said: “Phew. I think you chaps should…” But his words tailed away as he gaped at the empty passenger cabin. At the first sign of trouble, the paras had leaped from the aircraft and were at that moment floating serenely towards the earth. Mickey landed safely to tell the tale.


Pilot: “Boeing Tower, Cessna 761 Uniform Alpha for a Mercer Departure at Alpha Niner with information X-Ray.”
Tower: “Cessna 761 Uniform Alpha cleared for takeoff, runway 13 right, fly the Mercer departure.”
Pilot: “Cessna 761 Uniform Alpha cleared for takeoff, is rolling.”
45 seconds later…
Co-Pilot: “Boeing tower, please be advised, there is a flock of seagulls near the south end of runway 13 right at 400 ft.”
Tower: (singing) “And I ran, I ran so far away… I just ran, I ran all night and day… I had to get away..”
Pilot: “Cessna 761 Uniform Alpha has humor…”
Tower: (hysterical laughter)

(The lyric incidentally is from the chorus of the 1982 hit song ‘I ran’ by A Flock of Seagulls.)


This happened at the small but busy Sarasota Florida airport in 1975. The tower was open from 6am until 10pm and most of the traffic was during daylight hours. There was a National flight in every night about 8:30pm and often had a joker at the wheel. On a particular dark night after handoff from Tampa approach the controller hears: “Sarasota tower, National123 with you… (pause) … guess where?.” The controller promptly turned off all the airport lights – there was no other traffic – and replied: “National123 – Sarasota tower – guess where?…” After a silence of about fifteen seconds the chastened National pilot came back: “Sarasota tower this is National Airlines flight 123 from Tampa and we are exactley 10.3 DME on the 300 degree radial inbound for landing..” The controller switched the lights back on and cleared the pilot to land.

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