April 16, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
How do you pronounce GLADI?
Does it rhyme with lady or laddie?
The answer is… ask ATC. Ask before you get there because another fix nearby may, or may not, sound similar.
Most charted fixes feature few phonetic flaws—although PIYIN west of New York City might be an exception. And what if you are headed toward PARKE near Boston—is it spoken as park or parky? On Victor 39, does LEADS fit better with heads, or heeds? Just west of Albany on V-2, what’s TOUCA? (That’s a trick question. The note on chart L-33 actually points the way to the Utica VOR: “TO UCA.”)
Have fun with the five-letter “words” devised for aviation’s signposts in the sky, but they occasionally spell GRIEF for pilots. Then you’ll find them under discussion in the Aviation Safety Reporting System database, which pilots know as the storage locker for narratives submitted by participants who want (a) to point out safety flaws in the system and (b) avoid sanctions for unintentional violations, not necessarily in that order.
ASRS brings us back to GLADI and a flight out of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport that was supposed to proceed there while flying a published departure.
“Shortly after checking in with Departure Control the Controller gave us a 300 heading direct and cleared us direct to a fix,” said a pilot who filed an ASRS report. “The Captain and I were confused by the pronunciation of the fix, we thought to be VLADY. I asked the Controller to clarify and confirm direct to VLADY, which she did. Shortly thereafter the Controller stated that we were showing north of the fix and cleared us direct to JACAL. Upon further investigation we determined the Controller wanted us direct to GLADI a fix on the departure procedure and not VLADY a fix a little further down on our flight plan.
“Short cuts are great, but flying RNAV SIDs as depicted allow pilots to fly what they brief,” the pilot commented.
“Also having two fixes close to each other with similar names can lead to confusion and is not a good idea,” the crewmember concluded.
An intriguing statistic: Using “IFR” as an ASRS search term between February 2011 and February 2012 produced 365 narratives.
That’s one a day.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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