Editor's Log

October 2005 Issue




Editor’s Log: 10/05

Stuck Mic
It promised to be an easy flight—just over three hours from Wichita to Oshkosh in advance of this year’s AirVenture extravaganza. A buddy and I launched my Debonair from his home drome and soon were established in cruise, talking to Kansas City Center.

Soon, an inexperienced female voice came on the frequency from her Skylane, asking for flight following. A patient controller coaxed from her the necessary information, she repeated it back and that should have been the end of it. Except her microphone’s push-to-talk switch never released.

Everyone on the frequency was treated to one side of an apparent conversation between two women discussing children, boyfriends, whether David Clark headsets clamp the head too tightly and other personal and colorful topics. It was quite entertaining, actually. We could hear the increasingly frustrated controller and didn’t need anything, but just about everyone else on the frequency lost it.

Inexplicably, one pilot took it upon himself to educate her on communications technique but came off sounding as unprofessional as she seemed inexperienced. Sir, here’s a tip: She couldn’t hear you. Another thought it would be a grand idea to get close enough to signal her. Cooler heads prevailed.

Eventually, we motored into another sector but kept Ms. Skylane on the #2 to see if her mic got unstuck. It didn’t happen while we were listening, and I still wonder how this mini-drama came out and when. And how embarrassed Ms. Skylane was about the eavesdropping.

There’s no real remedy for a stuck mic if the pilot doesn’t know about it. In this case, it was pretty obvious Ms. Skylane didn’t have much experience with the en route environment and wasn’t concerned that she hadn’t heard any transmissions from ATC or other airplanes. That’s a pilot’s first clue that something might be amiss. Some modern radios display a symbol when they’re transmitting—that’s another clue, and pilots should keep the comms in their scan. If you’re on the frequency when this happens, keep your cool; the “experienced” male pilots were much less professional than they could have been.

Of course, a stuck mic isn’t the only comm problem you might have—see the article "Deaf And Dumb?" in this month's issue.

Oh, and if Ms. Skylane is reading this, please tell me how it came out.

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Opportunity Knocks
In the past, I have used these pages to rail against the unworkable and unsafe post-9/11 airspace restrictions imposed in the name of national security. The most notorious of these, of course, is the Washington (D.C.) Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ.

Now, it’s your turn: The FAA has asked the public to submit formal comments on making the ADIZ permanent and on criminal penalties for violating it. You can learn more and submit your comments at <http://dms.dot.gov>; the docket number is 17005. You have until November 2, 2005.


—Jeb Burnside