(From my website. The full article is here.) As you can read about here and here, I'm going back to flight school as I re-transition back into the cockpit. My session yesterday in my Sportys ground school course was how to talk to the control tower. Control towers aren't found at every airport; in fact, they're not found at the majority of airports. My local airport, KDMW, doesn't have one, for example. But pretty much every airport that handles a lot of traffic has one. All the big airports you know about -- Chicago's O'Hare, Dulles in Washington D.C., Atlanta's Hartsfield and so on -- all have control towers. The purpose of control towers, and the air traffic controllers (known as ATC) who work there, is to separate traffic so planes don't crash into each other. A worthy goal, and one they achieve with amazing effectiveness. There are very, very few crashes of planes into other planes, especially in the U.S. Every private pilot in the U.S. has to learn how to talk to ATC. For pilots like me, who don't use towered airports for regular flying, it can be intimidating to talk to ATC. They talk so fast, is the first complaint one usually hears. And until one gets used to the particular shorthand and lingo, it's hard to keep up. One of my early flights back when I was first flying, I flew with a buddy who's an ex-military pilot and now a Southwest captain. We were talking to ATC for something or other (I don't even remember where we were flying), but I was lost almost immediately, and didn't even realize ATC was talking to me! I was focused on minor details like, you know, where I was going, looking for other planes in the sky, holding altitude and the like. At that point, I asked my friend Garrett to handle all the ATC calls for me, because I just couldn't handle that additional workload. He talked so smooth; I was impressed. I never got good at talking to ATC; this time around I will. Being afraid of something isn't a reason to avoid it; it's a reason to attack it, until you're no longer afraid. As for the Sportys course on ATC, it was outstanding. One of the best parts was the way it showed some controllers using their screens as they communicated with pilots. It was extremely useful and interesting to see what actually goes on in the tower. I also note that these controllers worked for about a month recently with no paychecks, and still did their jobs, and did them beautifully. I salute each and every one of you for keeping us all safe in the skies. You're a credit to your profession.