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As Real As It Gets

It's a job with no erasers on your pencils

By Mark GagnonPublished 26 days ago 3 min read
As Real As It Gets
Photo by Rafael Drück on Unsplash

An Air Traffic Control Tower has three key positions:

1. Ground Control which, as the name implies, handles all movement on the ground, including taxiways and ramp.

2. Flight Data, or B. Man, handles all communications with the Air Traffic Control Center (ATC), as well as phones, both inter-facility and external land lines. He is also responsible for activating the emergency or crash phone when needed.

3. Local Control is in charge of everything flying in his airspace. He also issues clearances for landing and takeoff.

When it’s all working correctly, and it always has to work correctly, this happens.

Facility name: Canyon Tower

Ground console speaker, “Canyon Ground, November 237, a Cessna 172, VFR (visual flight rules) for local pattern work. Request taxi.

Pete (Ground Controller), “November 237, taxi to runway 1-7 using taxiway alpha, altimeter 2- 9er- 9er- 6, contact tower 123.5 when approaching number 1 for takeoff.”

November 237, “Roger ground. Taxi runway 1-7, altimeter 2 9er, 9er 6, contact tower 123.5, approaching active.”

ATC line rings. “Canyon Tower,” Larry (B. Man) answers.

Center controller, “Tower you have Google 7-5 a Gulfstream 3 on ILS approach runway 1-7.

Larry, “Copy center. Lemma Yankee. Alpha X-ray. (When communicating over land lines, the two parties identify themselves by using the phonetic first and last initials of their first name. This is necessary because everything said on the phones and the radio is recorded.) “Mike, you have a Gulfstream coming up on final,” Larry tells his local controller.

Local console speaker, “Canyon Tower Google 7-5 on ILS approach runway 1-7 over the outer marker,”

Mike (local controller), “Google 7-5 wind 3-5-0 at 6, altimeter 2-9er-9er 6 report 10 mile final.”

Google 7-5, “2-9er-9er-6 report 10 miles out runway 1-7.

Local console speaker, “Canyon tower November 237 number 1 for takeoff.”

Mike, “November 237, are you able to make an immediate takeoff?”

November 237, “That’s affirmative tower,”

Mike, “November 237 wind 3-5-0 at 5 altimeter 2-9er-9er-6 aircraft approximately 12 mile final, cleared for immediate takeoff.”

November 237,” cleared for takeoff”.

99 percent of the time, this works as smooth as silk, unless Murphy’s Law gets involved.

Local console speaker, “Tower November 237. Our engine just died and won’t restart. We are on the active.”

Mike, “November 237, stand by.” “Larry, contact rescue and get him towed off my runway.” Click (microphone keying) “Google 7-5 execute a missed approach there is an aircraft stalled on the active”.

Google 7-5, “Tower, we’ve been vectored around weather the entire trip and are bingo fuel. I’m afraid we won’t have enough gas for another approach.”

Mike, (thinking to himself) “This guy said bingo fuel. That’s a military term, so he is probably x-military and knows what he’s doing.” “Google 7-5, are you able to land long and avoid the stalled Cessna?”

Google 7-5, “Absolutely! Will the 8,000-foot marker work?”

Mike, “That should work fine. Report 3 mile final.”

Mike, “Pete, I see rescue is out there. Get me an eta on clearing the runway.”

Pete, “Rescue, Ground. How long to clear the active?”

Rescue 1, “Ground, figure on about another 5 minutes.”

Pete, “Copy. Let me know when you’re clear.”

Double click of the mike signifying rescue understood.

In the meantime, Center has called Larry with 2 more clearances. Pete has gotten 3 more taxi requests, and Mike now is working with 2 more aircraft in the landing pattern.

Mike, “you guys want to play racket ball after work?

Pete, “sounds good.”

Larry, “I can’t. The wife has a honey do list as long as my arm.”

Ground console speaker, “Ground, Rescue 1, we’re clear.”

Local console speaker, “Tower Google 7-5, three mile final.”

Mike, “Google 75 wind 3-5-0 at 6, use caution disabled aircraft and rescue vehicle clear of runway but close to the approach apron, cleared to land runway 1-7. Contact Ground 1-2-7.8 after landing.

Google 7-5, “cleared to land runway 1-7 contact Ground after landing.”

All the aircraft took off and landed with no further incidents until the end of the shift. There was one call on the land line that got the team’s attention.

Larry, “I’ve got Google 7-5’s pilot on the line and he is asking us to join him at The Keg for a drink on him.

Mike, “I’m in!”

Pete, “Me too.”

Larry, “The chores will be there tomorrow.” To the pilot, “See you there, captain!”

There is no dress rehearsal in this job.


About the Creator

Mark Gagnon

I have spent most of my life traveling around the US and the globe. Now it's time to draw on these experiences and create what I hope are interesting fictional stories. Only you, the reader, can tell me if I've achieved my goal.

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Comments (3)

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  • Donna Renee21 days ago

    This was fascinating! Instagram’s algorithms have realized that I love watching videos of simulations of real situations like this with the actual recordings overlayed. It’s got to be the most stressful job ever.

  • Tina D'Angelo26 days ago

    This is how men 'compartmentalize', "Just avoided a runway crash landing, hey, how about a game of racketball after work? I'm sorry, but women are so

  • Donna Fox26 days ago

    Something about this was super enticing! It felt whimsical and kind of Alice in wonderland esc, with the “Gibberish” even though it complete makes sense. I know what’s taking place and what’s happening but the way it plays out and reads feels nonsense-ical and like a made up language. I love that it was still relatable though as they characters asked each other if they wanted to play racket ball later. Well done!

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