Positive ATC Stories

Discussion in 'Change to my Frequency...' started by Cajun_Flyer, Nov 3, 2016.

  1. Cajun_Flyer

    Cajun_Flyer Pattern Altitude

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    I just watched this video and, wow... what a great controller.



    Thought maybe it would be nice to have a thread where pilots can share positive experiences they've had with ATC.

    I actually flew into some surprise IMC the other day like the pilot in the video above, but the situation was much less dramatic. ATC was great and made sure I was OK before releasing me from their frequency so I could land at a nearby airport.

    It was actually a cloudless, beautiful day... not sure what happened, other that it happened fast, unexpectedly and over terrain. I saw some fog in the valley below and what looked like light mist far ahead (I thought) and above me (I thought). But then all of a sudden I was being enveloped in that mist and there was nothing light about it. Did a 180, diverted to a nearby airport and upon landing looked out to where I had been to see a dense overcast layer had formed ~2,700/3,000 ft.

    Had the same controller on the way home later and he actually checked on me after giving me a squawk. "And, uh, November-202... everything all set?" I thought that was cool of him.
     
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  2. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    24 years based at ATL Hartsfield (busiest in the world) and flying in and out of there numerous times a day I can't say enough good things about the controllers there. Especially old Buzz, he was a hoot, and Smiley, a pain in the arse but excellent controller, and many many more. A few ass wipes too but they were in the minority. :thumbsup:
     
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  3. Jim Rosenow

    Jim Rosenow Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    I can't say I've had a bad controller interaction that wasn't my fault in a lot of years of flying, but then again, for a long time I avoided that sort of thing (interaction with controllers).

    I know I have tested their patience on occasion, tho, like the time as a brand new pilot I was headed from Iowa to DPA (west of Chicago), headed pretty much straight East. I saw the airport, called up the tower and they cleared me to land on runway 10. Problem.....I was looking at a runway 9 out the windshield. Admitted that to them and without missing a beat, they cleared me for a 16-mile straight-in to runway 10 (I was actually looking at 9 at DKB, straight West). Things were different in 1971.

    Jim
     
  4. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Returning from one of my numerous trips to Wyoming as usual I called Denver approach for traffic advisories when I was north of Fort Collins. The usual is to hear "remain outside bravo" since I have to cross the app/dep corridor for their N/S runways. This one time the controller put me right at the base of one of the bravo shelves. A few minutes later traffic is called but I don't see it immediately. I minute or so later I see the traffic just before he passed directly under me with maybe 500 ft of separation. I thanked the controller for the traffic call and the altitude. I've never been given that altitude in that area since then but on busy days I avoid that area entirely. The triangular area formed by GXY-FNL-BJC can get busy with lots of students.
     
  5. BigBadLou

    BigBadLou En-Route

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    Great idea for a thread. Controllers are more than just an anonymous voice on the frequency and many are very coo too. (just watch Pushing Tin - LOL)

    Story 1: Descending in VMC to avoid a tall bank of clouds, I realized I could not descent any faster so I made a U-turn to avoid going into the clouds. Approach controller came on freq to ask how I was doing. I let him know that I was doing a 360 to remain VMC and was actually happy that he cared.

    Story 2: Coming home from a day trip with the wife late at night, we were overflying our local Charlie airspace to get to our non-towered airport. They had south flow (landing south on 17L and 17R due to prevailing southerly winds from Mexiko) and we were flying north. The controller lady was very good at sequencing traffic and sandwiched us between numerous airliners. She could have sent us 20 miles out of the way but instead allowed us to transition at a specific altitude. Wife was tugging on my shirt sleeve almost constantly, pointing out the airlines headed toward us, descending on approach or turning final. The approach lady kept giving traffic advisories to all the airlines that there was this little piddly Cherokee flying head on with all its lights on, hanging on for dear life. :D Not a single traffic advisory to us. I assume since she knew that I could see their 10kW halogens miles away. :) She transitioned us safely through the airline sandwich and when cutting me loose to land at the uncontrolled satellite field, she thanked me for holding my altitude. (it made her job much easier I assume)

    Story 3: Departing our local Delta airport right after a 1-hour friendly visit to the tower, I was on a cross-wind and got a call from the tower "check transponder, I am not receiving your mode C". I quickly flicked the switch to the Alt setting and apologized to the controller that I forgot. He came back with "never admit your mistake on frequency, just say it was warming up". To which I replied "all warmed up, sir". :)

    Story 4: Funnily enough, I was departing the same Delta airport last weekend and made the very same mistake of not turning on Alt on the transponder. I got a call from the tower "check transponder, I am not receiving your mode C". I turned it on and having learned from our past exchange, I let the controller know "it was warming up, how about now?" to which he replied "thank you". Too bad it was a different controller. :D

    I have plenty more but can't remember them all. Maybe later.
    Good thread, let's keep it going a long time, guys!
     
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  6. Seanaldinho

    Seanaldinho Pattern Altitude

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    To read some really incredible stories look up the Archie League Awards. They are done by NATCA, the controllers union, and at the CFS conference every year they tell the story and play the tapes. Really awesome stuff.
     
  7. Cajun_Flyer

    Cajun_Flyer Pattern Altitude

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    Wow... this is great!
     
  8. colojo

    colojo Line Up and Wait

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    In 31 years of flying I can barely count on one hand the negative experiences I've had with ATC. I've always found them to be consummate professionals.
     
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  9. iamtheari

    iamtheari Line Up and Wait

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    Watch all of the Air Safety Institute videos on YouTube, both the accident case studies and "real pilot stories." I think the common theme is that controllers are genuinely and personally concerned that every flight should end safely and they will do whatever they can to make that happen. I even teared up a little bit watching Sully in the theater, during the scene when the controller was in the break room feeling down on himself for losing Cactus 1549 in the Hudson, even though there was nothing more he could have done, prior to finding out that everyone got out alive. I have no idea if that really happened or not, but you can empathize with a controller in his shoes.
     
  10. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    This.
     
  11. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    One of the most rewarding experiences while doing ATC, was giving GCAs to aircraft in bad weather. In the military, especially in the old days, a GCA was the only way for an aircraft to get down in the goo.

    One time I got an Army C-12 down on a SA with a 300 ft ceiling. He had gone missed twice with another controller so I was put on position. Went missed once with me. Second approach, he cheated the MDA slightly but I knew I had him dead on course. Just about to give a safety limits wave off when they reported the runway in sight. After I told him to proceed visually, he came back with, "thanks for the approach. We never would have gotten down if it weren't for you."

    Never cared about awards. The satisfaction of a kudos from a pilot was enough.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
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  12. Cajun_Flyer

    Cajun_Flyer Pattern Altitude

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    Just to clarify - the point of this thread isn't to say that most experiences are negative, so let's tell some positive ones. Obviously that is not the case. If you have a lot of negative experiences, then the problem is likely you - not ATC. Just thought it would be nice to read some exceptional stories that pilots (and controllers) have accumulated over the years... times when ATC has gone above and beyond, and/or helped you out of a sticky situation. I'm pretty low time, but I fly out of a busy class D and always use flight following, so I have a couple I'll share later.
     
  13. neilw2

    neilw2 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Best controllers in the country are the folks at NY TRACON. They all talk really fast and sound like tough guys from Queens but don't let that fool you. They definately are abrasive at times but they will work with GA better than any other sector I have gone through. Always offering shorter routing, Bravo clearances when VFR, and vectors around traffic areas.

    BOS controllers are great but NY controllers I have found to be exceptional!
     
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  14. kayoh190

    kayoh190 Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    There's a controller at DCA that's amazing. She's super friendly and is really friggin' good at her job. I think her name might be Karen or something.

    The last guy I flew with mentioned that he'd love to meet her. I think I'd rather it remain a mystery. That way my imagination can run amok. :)
     
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  15. frfly172

    frfly172 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I have only had one or two bad experiences with controllers,and those were ,tower controllers. At one airport the female controller was nicknamed the dragon lady. Seems she gets transferred quite often.
     
  16. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    According to Sully's book, the controller later told him that that's what happened.
     
  17. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Lets not get their heads all swelled up!

    seriously, they is some good folk behind those scopes.
     
  18. danhagan

    danhagan Cleared for Takeoff

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    Was flying to a high school basketball championship game (El Paso to La Mesa TX which is between Lubbock and Midland). I had previously informed ATC that I was beginning a long slow descent, there was no traffic anywhere near me ... about a third of the way down here's the exchange:

    ATC: Tiger 630 hold altitude at 5500 for traffic your 12:00 and 15 miles and get a camera out if you have one

    I actually could see the traffic and knew it had to be something big. Shortly there after, "Fifi" passed 500 feet under me. With my back to the sun, that image could be a magazine cover photo. I thanked the controller afterwards and someone on board "Fifi" keyed up to send them a copy. My son took a great picture. Unfortunately, the lap top it was on was stolen in a "smash and grab" in Austin TX shortly after:(:mad:
     
  19. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Too numerous to mention. And the bad experiences, exceedingly few and far between, and even some of those, easily remedied with "unable" and then an explanation when they had a moment.
     
  20. luvflyin

    luvflyin En-Route PoA Supporter

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    When the waether's on the grass, GCA will save your azz
     
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  21. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Yep, and in the C-12's case we would've gotten them down first try with the PAR. Unfornately it went down just prior to their arrival so we had to make do with the ASR.
     
  22. whereisrandall

    whereisrandall Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Early on in my private pilot days, one time I felt my fingers tingling at 9500 feet and thought that maybe I was hypoxic. Turns out I was a little tense being above the clouds and had been death gripping the controls.

    When I started feeling the pulse racing of a mild panic attack, I called ATC and declared an emergency and came down through the clouds. There was a hole that I was able to circle through but as I was passing through 6500 the controller called back to ask me to confirm that I was VMC and verify altitude. He was really asking to find out if I was awake and not disoriented.

    I responded with "yessir - passing through 6500, fully conscious." Shortly after that he gave me all the information for the arrival airport that I hadn't planned on landing at and made sure that I was going to call him from the ground.

    When I landed, the FBO rep came out and said that Center had already called him. I got on the frequency a few hours later after lunch and thanked him on the way home.

    I have since felt that same panicked tensing up while in high-stress situations, and learned to breathe through it.
     
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  23. cfiiguy

    cfiiguy Filing Flight Plan

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    Several years ago I was cruising along fat dumb and happy at 11k in a mooney. We had been IMC for over an hour already, but George was doing a fine job of tracking the Loran. (now I'm dating myself right!) All of a sudden the clouds turned black, we encountered turbulence that was severe enough to disconnect the AP. Before I could key to ask Nashville Approach WTH, we did a 180 turn and dropped 3800ft. As I struggled to get control and start a climb, Nashville called and ask if he could help in anyway. I requested the first airport with an instrument approach!! He offered vectors to Nashville, and I accepted. After things calmed down he asked if I had plates for his airport and I said I did but they were not in front of me this time. He replied no worries, And gave me all the info I needed to shoot the ILS. He also stayed with me all the way to parking. While taxing he informed me we had flown into an embedded thunderstorm.
    Needless to say that controller made it on my Christmas card list!
     
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  24. BigBadLou

    BigBadLou En-Route

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    Very nice stories, indeed!
    Which will make mine look like a joke in comparison.
    Nonetheless, our local tower controllers are awesome guys, understand humor and also efficiency. (and we visit them in the cab often and thank them for a good job, for real)

    It was an absolutely gorgeous day to fly yesterday so we had 2 airplanes headed for a breakfast 1/2 hr away. We departed together in the morning.
    When returning, the Bo (faster than me) went ahead and beat us to our destination by about 4 minutes. I heard him landing as I switched to the tower 12nm out to report inbound. But the pattern was incredibly busy and I got stepped on 3 times by aircraft closer to the tower so I was never heard.
    Finally I managed to squeeze in my short "Tower, Cessna 12345" at about 6 miles out. The reply amazed me: "Cessna 12345, enter right downwind rwy 18". :)
    I must have been the only inbound target on his scope on the west side (direction of our breakfast outing) and he likely guessed from the return of the Bo that it was me behind him. :)

    It was an absolutely gorgeous day to fly yesterday and the controllers made it fun too. They sure are cool guys. I need to bring them a box of Five Dunkin' Donuts. (inside joke)
     
  25. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    I may have been on a plane that landed at a class d airport without clearance....and later while talking to the controller he admitted they never noticed a king air land and taxi to the ramp so he figured since he didn't see us and there was no loss of separation we could just pretend it didn't happen. That guy rocked.
     
  26. Hank S

    Hank S En-Route

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    Before moving, I was a regular on the Sunday Breakfast run one county over. Me, a Bo, another Mooney and 2-3 172s, depending in who showed up. Being next door to a D with TRSA Services, we always opted for flight following, with consecutive squawks, "keep the squawk" for the way home after eating.

    One Sunday morning, we're sitting there eating breakfast, and the waitress asked if we were the group from our airport. Seems the Tower had called to advise us of weather picking up, so we finished quickly and headed home. Everyone was in the hangar and driving home before anything happened. Another good move for the guys in the tower!
     
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  27. LT4247

    LT4247 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Mid morning and north of ATL, atc calls and offers a better route to my destination and NOT the usual N/S vfr corridor.

    ATC: N1234X cleared into Bravo, proceed direct xxxxx intersection then direct Kxxx.
    Saved 20 minutes off my flight. ATL is one busy place and i appreciated the offer.
    Of course i am certain he just wanted me to go away quick as possible but still,,,,,:D
     
  28. PPC1052

    PPC1052 En-Route

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    This is the thing that I think inexperienced VFR only pilots may not realize-- it's easy for IMC to sneak up on you. Conditions can change faster than your ability to perceive or anticipate getting in to IMC. It's not just pilots acting brain-dead that causes VFR into IMC flight.
     
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  29. hawk25u

    hawk25u Pre-Flight

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    30 some years ago I was a new captain flying commuter. We were having lunch with 2 other crews and a controller on break at an airport in the northeast. We were commenting about a snotty major airline crew that had flown in. The controller I had known for some years at that time and before he went to the FAA he was an auctioneer in the midwest. He went back to the tower, got our clearances and gave them to us. All of us were due out about the same time. We would call up requesting clearances and he would rattle them off in his best auctioneer voice and naturally we (commuters) got them. When the major called up for his clearance he sounded like a student pilot on his first solo and asked the controller if he could slow down some...
     
  30. Wrench978

    Wrench978 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    My father-in-law found out that one of his acquaintances is a controller for Boston Approach and put me in contact with him (I am currently going through the application/testing process to become a controller). Asked to visit the facility, which was an awesome experience. he described a bit of the job, showed me some of the different stations, then I got to sit down and watch him control final approach to BOS for a while. it was a pretty slow day so we got to chat about the job, what got me interested, where I would like to start if I got my choice, etc. When I told him I would love to start at KMHT he walked over to the supervisor and got me in that day at Manchester tower (who were also a great group of guys). It was a great experience as both a student pilot and someone who wants to be a controller!
     
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  31. tawood

    tawood Line Up and Wait

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    Once I had ATC get my tail number AND my type correct for the whole duration of my flight!!! Just kidding, I think they do a great job. I really have nothing but good experiences with ATC in my 23 years of flying.
     
  32. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Line Up and Wait

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    I have a few but I'll go for this one...

    About 15 years ago I was flying a Turbo Lance IMC east of ATL talking to ATL TRACON when my carbon monoxide detectors almost instantly turned dark black. I requested vectors to the nearest airport with an approach above min's. They told me vectors for the NDB approach at CVC. Not planning on landing anywhere near the state of GA my plates were in the back out of reach (lesson learned although with current technology it wouldn't matter anymore) and I immediately told the controller I didn't have the plate. He didn't bat an eye and gave me all the information I needed and talked me down. Was able to break out and circle overhead (lower to the ground than I had wanted) and land to have it fixed.
     
  33. Zeldman

    Zeldman Final Approach

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    A few years ago I was going into Phoenix Intl on a medevac flight. I was being vectored in sequence behind 2 B-757s. As the first 757 was about a 3 or 4 mile final, I felt my plane bumping up and down. I looked back and the paramedic was straddled over the patient vigorously pumping the patients chest, as the flight nurse was clearing the airways to start oxygen.

    I was still with approach, so I called them and told them we just went critical and needed on the ground ASAP. Immediately the controller called the 2nd 757 and told them to go around, heading XXX and contact departure. I saw the first 757 pitch up and start climbing, so I guess approach called the tower to have 1st 757 go around.

    The controller cleared me direct to the runway, then switched me to tower. I switched frequencies but before I could call in, the tower cleared me to land, plus told me to land long, plan to touchdown at about taxiway Hotel (IIRC) so I could make turn off at the taxiway that would put me right at the FBO where the ambulance was waiting.

    As I taxied off the runway, I noticed 3 or 4 other large planes were holding waiting for me to cross the taxiway, and the ambulance had been escorted to just short of the movement line. I stopped and shut down, then the ambulance crew climbed in to assist with the patient. After about 20 minutes the patient was stabilized enough to be switched to the ground transportation and taken to the hospital. I found out the next day the patient survived, and I am certain that the controllers quick action was part of the reason.
     
  34. drjcustis

    drjcustis Filing Flight Plan

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    Great stories!

    I've had one marginal experience and a multitude of great experiences.

    Like the time when I was a student pilot and was so nervous talking to ATC that I though I would **** myself every time. Then a new controller came on and managed to mangle just about every single word. I keyed the mic and said that I was learning too.

    Or the time I landed short and took my usual first right turn to taxi to the FBO. However, this time I was short and managed to turn into the Air National Guard. ATC admonished me to quickly turn around before I met the guys with guns using a little humor so I didn't feel too bad.

    Or the time I landed with a burnt out landing light at night and ATC kept me on the runway all the way to the end simply because it's easier to see the runway than the taxiway.

    There's the controller near Pensacola that got me and about five other planes clearance through the restricted area to avoid a nasty pop up thunderstorm.

    Or the controller near Kennedy Space Center who went out of his way to call the naval base and get me clearance to fly over the Shuttle Landing Strip. I didn't ask for it nor did I ever think it was possible, but it was the highlight of that vacation.

    And the thing is, these are all little things, done just because, with no expectation of an award or anything more than a thank you. And yet each one of these interactions has made a profound impact on me and everyone around me.

    So, when the big event happened, I knew that ATC was on my side, since they had been there for years. As I was approaching my home airport, I hit a flock of birds. I know that now, didn't know it at the time. It was a dark but beautiful night. I got overwhelmed with issues in the plan: anomalous readings on the engine monitor, a vibration from the engine, an autopilot that wasn't tracking correctly. When I started hand flying the plane, it was requiring significant bank to track straight and I couldn't figure out what was wrong or what I needed to do. Just the I got vectors to fly from south of the airport to land on runway 6 and I didn't think I could do it. I asked for direct to 36 which I was almost lined up with. And the controller just said cleared for 36 and went back to vectoring other traffic. A few minutes later the controller asked why I needed 36 and I told him I was having trouble controlling the airplane. Say souls on board and amount of fuel. Landed without a problem, followed by a lot of flashing red lights!

    So, thank you Controllers, everyone, for every little thing, for every big thing and for all that you've done for me and all of us out there.

    Thank you.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  35. skier

    skier Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I haven't talked to them in a number of years at this point, but NY Approach was always great to work with, even just flying VFR with flight following. You do have to be quick to get in and you don't want to hog the radio, but in my experiences they were much more helpful and accommodating than controllers in many other parts of the country.

    On my long cross country for my PPL I was flying to Orange County with flight following from NY Approach. I took the wrong radial off the Sparta VOR and ended up over Warwick instead of Orange County. I started to get a bit flustered, but would have figured it out eventually. Luckily NY Approach called me up and said "suggest heading 360". Oops.
     
  36. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Everyday they go out of their way to help students. :D

     
  37. texashikergal02

    texashikergal02 Pre-Flight

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    Kathy
    I'll tell a story on myself. I'd been a pilot for a while, and was flying back east from Ruidoso, NM to the
    Dallas area. For some reason, I'd decided 4500 was a good altitude(brain fart) ATC let me fly that until I was almost to the Abilene Class C, when the controller came on and said "you still want to fly at that altitude?"

    Thought about that a second and said, "uh, no sir" and amended my altitude just before I went over the air force base for the B1B bombers.

    I was a bit afraid of ATC early in my pilot career, but I have learned to value them tremendously. It is a partnership.
     
  38. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Display name:
    Richard Palm
    Radar Contact and denverpilot like this.
  39. Kritchlow

    Kritchlow En-Route

    Joined:
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    Kritchlow
    There are too many to name.
    ATC, in general terms, is trained well beyond a private pilot. They are true professionals, and trained to a level of an airline pilot.
     
    KA550 and Radar Contact like this.
  40. George Mohr

    George Mohr Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Gmohr
    Consistently helpful people, in my experience.