Correcting Readbacks


In response to Marchs Unicom “Correcting Readbacks,” in which you ask readers whether and how they would correct a readback error heard on the frequency, I believe I would give it a few seconds to see if the error was picked up and then say something like “Cessna 12345, readback incorrect” and then drop it. That would alert the pilot and controller something was amiss without confusing the issue.

As you say, each situation is different and may require different response. If the

Incorrect Readback


frequency was really busy, you could use the ubiquitous cellphone and call the appropriate agency. Just a thought.

Keep up the good work! If I had to receive only one aviation magazine, Aviation Safety would be the one.

Vernon Childers
Via e-mail

More Correcting

Speak up when I hear ATC miss an incorrect readback? Darn tootin! Theres no excuse for not speaking up. I have on several occasions said “Center, BigBird 34X read back the wrong altitude,” or the equivalent.

How could a pilot sleep at night if s/he had it within their power to correct a mistake and their failure to do so resulted in an accident?

Bob Gardner
Calumet City, Ill.

It Pays To Pay Attention

Regarding your question concerning calling attention to an incorrect readback, I think its the pilots duty to do so.

In my 36 years as an airline pilot, and the ensuing 10 years of GA flying in retirement, I have heard dozens of misread clearances. Call me a busybody, but it pays to pay attention. It might be someone departing ahead on the same route, and you get a heads up as to what your own clearance might be. It usually only takes a short sentence like, “You might want to double check that last readback.” I have been thanked many times over the radio for calling someones attention to a mis-read.

In addition, I really disfavor a long complicated set of departure instructions thrown in with the takeoff clearance, such as: “November 12X, leaving 1000 turn right heading 250 until leaving 2000 then further right 350; amend altitude maintain 3000 till further advised; cleared for immediate takeoff, wind 220 at 20, gusting 29.”

Flight Approach


With a crew of two, maybe; single pilot, perhaps better to say stand by while I copy that last clearance!

Jim Piper
Via e-mail

Two Birds

Great issue (March 2008), as usual, and I read each one cover to cover. There are two points Id like to make.

First, as a retired airline captain, overhearing an incorrect readback of a clearance, Id have no hesitation (frequency congestion permitting) to say, in a courteous voice: “United, you need to reconfirm that clearance you just acknowledged.” Weve had pilots get 30 days on the beach for accepting an incorrect clearance.

Second, I dont give a rip about a slip, but in the crosswind letter, the writer was “trying to hold a forward slip” for landing. A crosswind landing requires a “side slip”; a forward slip is the kind we use to lose altitude.

Its nuts, of course, since in both cases the airplane is moving forward, and the defining criteria is the track of the nose of the aircraft.

Name withheld by request
Via e-mail

Some very good suggestions on whether and how to approach to question-the non-question, really-of whether to correct a bad readback. Thanks to all who chimed in.

One of the keys to preventing the bad readback is listening; both sides of the mic need to listen more than they talk, and compare what they heard to what they expected. Putting the clearance through what we call the “smell test”-does the clearance make sense, does it take you where you expect to go and could it possibly have been issued for another aircraft?-can help prevent a bad readback in the first place. Its all part of effective communication in an environment ill-suited to the task, but demanding it.

Turning Back

Regarding Rich Stowells article, “The Problem With Flight Training” (March 2008), I received my pre-solo flight training in 2005. My instructor drilled into my head that I was to never, ever under any circumstances to turn back to the takeoff runway following an engine failure on climb-out.

Instead, I was always taught to land “straight ahead” after an engine failure shortly after takeoff. A 180-degree engine-out turnback toward the takeoff runway at 500

Runway Turnbacks


feet agl was never taught to me. Thank goodness. Considering the statistics, Ill stick with the straight-ahead emergency landing.

Anthony J. Mireles
Via e-mail

Close Enough

I shook my head in disbelief at the Bonanza pilot who claimed he wasnt a “complete idiot” when he chose, in advance, to fly an unfamiliar airplane, in unknown mechanical condition, at night, without a flashlight (“Making a Killing,” March 2008, p. 17). He may not be a complete idiot, but hes close enough for government work.

While Im glad this pilot seems somewhat repentant, Im still concerned about the overall lack of judgment his series of poor decisions demonstrated. As a former CFII (3000+ hrs instructing out of 8000 total), I know the FAA doesnt really test for judgment. Much like a 16-year-old and his drivers test, the FAA primarily tests for skill.

While I suppose thats the libertarian approach, since “good judgment,” being subjective, is hard to quantify. In extreme cases, I think experienced instructors and/or the FAA, like mature parents, should sometimes intervene before some innocent is killed.

Its unrealistic to think everyone who wants to fly will make a good pilot. In hundreds of students, I had only one I had to cut short due to his terrible lack of judgment and awareness of his mortality (a 20-something yuppie at the time). Even though he flew fine, I could not, in good conscience, sign him off, since I knew I would be reading about him someday. While pulling the license of a pilot who lacks judgment is a “judgment call,” this one was easy.

Even though your Bonanza pilot decided its a good thing to know the systems before jumping in a plane, there are bigger sins he hasnt yet confessed. He thinks hes not a complete idiot. But I do. I expect well be reading about him again someday. (How did you find out about this anyway, since there was no accident or incident?)

Mike Palmer
Via e-mail


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