Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Habits to Break

I'm not sure exactly where I picked up these bad phraseology habits, but I'm trying really hard to break them.
  • Proper Grammar, Improper Places
    "N132MM, traffic at your two o'clock..."
    "USC395, contact Mobile Approach on 118.5."
    "RN645, radar vectors for the TACAN 14 approach, North Whiting."
    "EGF888, the airport will be at your 12 o'clock, one two miles. Report it in sight."

    Articles, possessive adjectives, and prepositions work beautifully when you're talking to people casually in person or on the phone. I can't imagine calling up my wife and telling her, "Sweetie, me, dinner, chicken." Or calling up a friend saying, "Dude, me, hang out." Yeah, that would garner me some odd replies.

    But on a radio frequency, they just clutter up precious space and sound unprofessional.

  • The Murder of Roger (Ackroyd)
    Deep down in my soul, I must believe that every pilot out there is named Roger. Why? Because I seem to call them that regardless of what they're doing, what they are, or what they want.

    There are only a few times when it's appropriate, usually when you really have nothing else to add. For example, lets say Citrus 453 checks in eight miles outside of my airspace with, "Pensacola Approach, Citrus 453 at 11,000 with Tango." He is outside of my airspace, so I can't descend or turn him. He also has the latest ATIS code, so he knows what runway and approach to expect. I literally can't do a thing with him. In that case, I can reply with, "Citrus 453, Pensacola Approach, roger."

    However, I have a habit of injecting a "roger" into "working" transmissions where it simply doesn't belong. And it makes me sound like the n00b that I am.

    "Citrus 453, Pensacola Approach, roger, descend and maintain 6000, radar vectors VOR runway 8 approach."
    "BB645, Pensacola Approach, roger, squawk 0123 and ident."
    "VV7E123, roger, I have your request."

    So, I'm trying to flush poor Roger from the majority of my working transmissions. He has no place there, so he needs to be offed.

    BTW, if you haven't read the Agatha Christie novel whose title I punned, it's a good one. Definitely one of her most controversial works. Do NOT read the Wikipedia article on it, for it spoils the ending.

  • Radar Contact... Again
    An aircraft has been cleared for a practice approach. He is handed off to the tower and switched to their frequency. Once the approach is completed, the tower hands him back to me and he is switched back to my frequency. He went through two radar handoffs and remained within radar coverage the entire time.

    So why, when he comes up on my frequency for his next approach, do I insist on saying, "VV7E123, Pensacola Departure, radar contact, fly heading 040, radar vectors ILS 17 approach."

    Radar contact was never lost. He was never unidentified. He didn't disappear mysteriously. So why the heck do I insist on re-identifying aircraft that are positively identified?
Self-critiquing is a good thing. People who get complacent eventually get sloppy and I personally think people should always strive to be better at what they do. Sometimes, that starts with the little things.

A lot of these phraseology hiccups occur when it's slow - and therefore, when I'm more complacent and relaxed. However, slow periods are the times I should be perfecting my phraseology. When the pedal hits the metal, I'll be doing everything I did during the slow times - just at higher speed and in higher quantity. Every second I waste with unnecessary words will steal time needed for other ATC functions. Using non-standard phraseology will also undoubtedly increase the occurrence of that wonderful, frustrating phrase: "Say again?"


Millz said...

All good ones - I'm trying to work on removing "with you" from:

Norfolk Approach, Cirrus XYZ, with you 8000

JH at ZDC said...

At least you recognize your faults. That's a great start. And you're right, those seconds saved will count someday.

Keep it up -- practicing and blogging and everything else!

Anonymous said...

Yes, but how does the pilot know you didn't lose radar contact while he was switched to the tower freq. ?

Brandon said...

Excellent post! It's interesting to read about these "mistakes" you make (which very few pilots would even notice as mistakes). And I'm so used to our controllers telling me about all the mistakes I make, it's nice to hear that you guys do screw up every now and then.

I'm also working on eliminating non-essential phraseology from my transmissions.

Wicked Penguin said...

@anon: That's more or less why I've been saying "radar contact" more than I should, to let the pilot know, "Hey, you're under my control again." From a pilot's standpoint, it makes sense.

But... like I said, I never lost radar contact with the airplane, and it went through two radar handoffs (to and from the tower). Can I say it? Sure. It's not illegal or anything to re-radar identify someone. But it's unnecessary, and I'm trying to flush out the extraneous phraseology.

Sometimes, it just boils down to technique. I'll train with one 25 year veteran who radar IDs the airplanes after every approach, and then I'll train with another 25 year veteran who admonishes me for doing the same thing. You can't win. :)

Anonymous said...

"Traffic will be a cadet ahead to your left, report traffic in sight"
followed by
"that is your interval"

Not once was pilot instructed to actually "follow" the cadet, why not just start it all out with
"follow the cadet ahead to your left" and be done with it.

Kudos for recognizing and trying to remove the fluff. You're right, when you get busy, you'll revert to your old habits and your airtime will become even more precious.

Wicked Penguin said...

@anon2: We do use "follow", especially with the Whiting NAS traffic. I'll typically have clusters of T-34s either converging on single points, or flying similar routes in parallel to get to those single points.

In those situations, I would use: "Red Knight 645, traffic to follow, eleven o'clock, 3 miles, southbound, two thousand two hundred, T-34."

About 50% of the time, with that one transmission, the pilot will respond, "Traffic in sight. Will follow."

If he just responds with "Traffic in sight." I'll add another "Follow that traffic." That's just to ensure he knows that not only is he to keep from, well, hitting that airplane, but he'll hopefully give himself a good amount of spacing.

Of course, that's not always the case. I've seen a trailing T-34 crawl right up another T-34s butt and tailgate him for 30 miles, with the Conflict Alert going off the entire time. But hey, they have each other in sight and they're legal. During those times, I'm thinking to myself, "I said follow him, not f*** him... sheesh."

Anonymous said...

reference the RADAR Contact: if JO7110.65S 5-1-13b applies to your situation then you should be advising the aircraft "RADAR Contact" as RADAR service was automatically terminated.

Love the blog

Anonymous said...

Don't sweat perfect phraseology. As I recall, some primary objectives were no merging targets and only one on the runway at a time. Perfect phraseology is only a dream - envisioned by the authors of that infamous "book". Any evaluation that gigs you only on imperfect phraseology is basically saying that, otherwise, you're doing pretty damn fine. sdtYou'll be right at as close to perfect perfect controller and still not have it. The book was written for pepm f

Anonymous said...

Disregard all of my previous after "pretty damn fine". I got garbled.

ace said...

Sometimes there's a higher calling. While you may technically be right that the radar service was never interrupted, think in the larger picture: every airplane you work near the end of the runway, the first words out of your mouth are "radar contact." In terms of working habit, I think you might over-egg the pudding by trying to differentiate between true departures (where it's absolutely necessary) and misses or subsequent passes.

I always used to teach "train like you fight--fight like you train" (paraphrasing the military). If you have the habit of always saying "radar contact" to every airplane that appears just off the end of the runway, you'll never fail to do it to the right one, even if you may occasionally over-do it to a few.

And as alluded by another, it's consistent and comforting to the pilot, who may not be aware of the behind the scenes nuances (such as TRACAB vs VFR tower), as well.

Nothing wrong with it.

ZJX, ORD, ZAU retired

Anonymous said...

Good phraseology DOES matter. A good practice is to always keep in the back of your mind the question, "How would this sound being replayed before the NTSB or lawyers suing the FAA after an accident?"

Your phraseology is a reflection of who you are. If you are lazy, a hot dog, or a hot head, it'll come across in the tapes. And tapes will be pulled throughout your career.

One last bit of advice.....even if you are SURE a pilot is wrong, don't castigate him or argue with him/her on frequency. It's a funny thing, but your memory of what happened versus what actually happened are often two very different things. I'd say about half the time a misunderstanding or mistake is at least partially the controller's fault. Plus, it is much easier to "defend" you if sloppy phraseology didn't lead to the misunderstanding to begin with.

Callsign Echo said...

ooh ooh! It is a HUGE pet peeve of mine when people use "Roger" instead of "affirmative." I blame movies and tv, and laziness on the part of schools and instructors. I've long held that phraseology need far more attention than it's getting. I hear this mistake all the time, and not just from rookies.

But I guess it's only important if you care about the minor distinction between "I understood everything you just said," and "Yes, that is correct."