I’m a pilot and love aviation and just about everything about it (except the cost). Today I finally got to go up on a pristine clean day after a long hiatus. Took The Boy and let him have some stick time (as far as he knows) for the first time in his life. Great time had by all.Flying out of a busy (Class C) airport, I’m required to have and use two-way communication with Air Traffic Control. This communication is pretty standard stuff — the FAA even publishes a glossary and scripts how the transmissions should go. However, the guidelines aren’t binding, and there’s a lot of “non-standard” chatter and communication. Moreso on a lazy Saturday afternoon, but always some.Even the pros don’t abide by the standard phraseology. People have their own catch phrases for things or their special way to make comments or reports. I’ve always enjoyed listening to and providing a personal touch to the communication. But in such a scripted environment where the price of failure is catastrophe, straying too far from the manuscript is just not smart. All it takes is a misunderstanding and you’ve got people and planes trying to defy the laws of common sense and physics. Today I got an alert that a plane would depart in front of me when I was still 7 miles (4-5 minutes) out. I expect the controller was required to tell me there’d be a departure, but it just seemed odd since there was just about no way it’d be an issue and the plane departing was three times faster than I could ever hope to fly. I tried to be cute in a response and was struck immediately that I should not have been. I’m continuously amazed at the competance and professionalism of ATC and they deserve better. One more than one occasion, they’ve saved my bacon and put up with my mistakes.The price of failed communication in business, parenting, friendship, and education is no less serious. Don’t risk it to misunderstanding.
When the stakes are high, stay with the script.