IFR Fix: And, what are we forgetting?

May 4, 2012

ifr fix

The voice on the frequency was one of those big boomers that aviators imitate when sharing some pearl overheard on the radio.

Glib airline pilots got a lot of the credit for the on-air entertainment around here in those days. Corporate drivers and general aviation pilots sometimes scored—but usually it was understood that the cleverest communicators were in the employ of a transportation enterprise based in a big city down South.

This was a crew layover destination back then. Many of the exchanges that broke the late-night radio silence carried the weariness of a long day’s hauls. Approved radio phraseology broke down a bit on the overnight shift; an initial call-up might be followed by a query on where to find a seafood place open at this hour, or a golf course for tomorrow.

The back-and-forth made an instructor who was out preparing a trainee for an instrument checkride feel like reaching over and unplugging the applicant’s headset. But the relaxed atmosphere was contagious. Even the tightest trainee tended to take it easy after hearing the veteran members of the after-hours club lightening up.

The voice checked in with approach, reporting “out of ten for three with Foxtrot,” or something like that. He received and acknowledged instructions to expect the ILS.

Then the voice made a curious request.

“And Approach, how about saying the localizer frequency for that.”

This was long ago when an out-of-reach chart had no ready electronic substitute.

If the instructor flying nearby found it worth contemplating the activity that must be taking place in the other cockpit—and could visualize a forlorn flight case leaning against an armchair in a pilot’s lounge several hundred miles away—the student also noticed its nuanced nature. But for a different reason.

“Why do so many people start their transmissions with ‘And’?” he asked.

Happily, it was a nice night. The inbound crew spotted the airport from way out, and a visual approach concluded proceedings.

It was almost midnight when the student and instructor touched down after shooting the same ILS (using all appropriate published reference materials).

“Turn right next taxiway. Remain on this frequency, taxi to the ramp,” said the tower controller, who was also working ground operations at this late hour.

The weary trainee acknowledged, and then on impulse added a postscript: “And thanks for your help tonight.”

Earning an instrument rating is guaranteed to be one of the most challenging, rewarding, and fun projects a pilot takes on during a lifetime in aviation. Each week, this series looks at the IFR experience from a new perspective. Catch up on what you may have missed in the  IFR Fix archive.