We use two main kinds of landlines to communicate with other facilities: shout lines and ring lines.
A shout line works like it sounds. You key up another facility - let's say, our tower - and your voice immediately gets "shouted" out over a loudspeaker in the other facility. They're typically used for positions that require extensive coordination and rapid response times, since you can immediately start talking. The other facility then picks up the line.
Say I take the handoff on Cessna 123 from Jacksonville Center. They switch the aircraft to me and he comes over requesting a descent. He's still 5 miles inside Jax's airspace so I can't descend him without their approval. I call up Jax's Crestview Low sector and say, "Crestview Low, Pensacola West, ApReq (approval request)." They hear that come over the speakers on their end. Then the Crestview Low controller - or his D-side - answers me. "Crestview low." I then say, "Request control for lower, Cessna 123." They make sure it works for them, then say, "Cessna 123, your control, [operating initials]." I say my initials, unkey the landline, and then tell the Cessna, "Cessna 123, descend and maintain [altitude]."
Ring lines actually ring like a telephone line on the other end and you can't speak until the other side picks up the line. They're used for lower intensity positions like Flight Data, where time and action aren't always critical.
Here's the thing: I'm not 100% sure on the shout lines, but the ring lines are essentially regular phone lines. They have actual telephone numbers associated with them by the phone company.
Let's look at the phone company for a second. When a customer cancels a line, that number gets sent back into the phone company's pool of available numbers. When the FAA asks the phone company for phone lines for its facilities, the phone company dips into that pool of numbers and gives the FAA however many numbers it asked for.
However, the FAA has no idea who was using those numbers beforehand...
One afternoon, I'm working Flight Data. The line from a local control tower rings. I pick it up, answering, "Pensacola Flight Data."
"Hi, yes! Is this Brownsville Baptist?"
"Uh, no. This is-"
"I'm looking for Pastor Larry. Is Pastor Larry there?"
"No sir, this is Pensacola-"
"But I'm looking for Pastor Larry. I need to speak with him. I was wondering if-"
"Sir, you have the wrong number."
"But I really need to speak with him. Can you tell me-"
"Sir, again, you have the wrong number."
"Oh? Are you sure Pastor Larry's not there?"
"I'm sure he's not here, sir. You have the wrong number."
"Oh, well sorry about that. God bless!"
"You too, sir."
Well, apparently that ring line's particular number used to belong to Brownsville Baptist Church of Pensacola, FL. Maybe they moved. I don't know. Whatever the case, they cancelled a phone line, the number got recycled, and it wound up in the FAA's hands when the FAA setup their landlines. But somewhere, somehow, there are plenty of people out there who think it still belongs to BBC.
Those kind of exchanges happen at least a couple of times a month, although it was the first time it happened to me. I'm always so tempted to just "run with it" but I feel bad about doing it. Others have different ways of handling them.
For instance, there was the time a coworker here got a call very similar to the one I just described. "I'm sorry," he said, "Pastor Larry's not here at the moment. I'm new here, but let me see if I can find his number for you."
And... he proceeded to give the caller another controller's cell phone number.
A minute later, we hear a cell phone go off in the break room.
Confused hilarity ensued. :)
4 days ago