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How Do Airline Pilots Never Miss Atc Instructions?

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When reading the various causes of airliner crashes I have seldom noted that pilot error in not following ATC instructions is a factor.With so many ATC instructions being given to multiple aircraft how do "real life" commercial pilots concentrate on flying as well as listening to, and picking out, instructions specifically for their own aircraft? Cliff

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When reading the various causes of airliner crashes I have seldom noted that pilot error in not following ATC instructions is a factor.With so many ATC instructions being given to multiple aircraft how do "real life" commercial pilots concentrate on flying as well as listening to, and picking out, instructions specifically for their own aircraft? Cliff
I think there are quite a few errors-the terrible Tenerife crash was caused by a misinterpretation by one of the crew thinking they were cleared to takeoff when they were not is probably the most famous example.In my world of GA there are errors all the time-generally they are caught with the repeat process by either the controller or the pilot . I've had atc give me instructions that were in error and in that case I question them. You can't just blindly follow their instructions-some of them if I had would have got me in a dangerous situation.

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When reading the various causes of airliner crashes I have seldom noted that pilot error in not following ATC instructions is a factor.With so many ATC instructions being given to multiple aircraft how do "real life" commercial pilots concentrate on flying as well as listening to, and picking out, instructions specifically for their own aircraft? Cliff
Well....hopefully you learned those skills well before you made it to the airline. I am a big proponent of having students fly out of tower controlled airports and these skills become second nature very quickly even before you have your private. However, in an airline environment the PNF (pilot not flying) has the job of listening to ATC while the PF (pilot flying) flies the airplane. Additionally, below 10,000 ft the cockpit is required to utilize 'sterile cockpit' (most airlines have a little blue light outside the flight deck door to denote this to the flight attendants), which means no unnecessary conversations inside the fight deck AND they are not to be disturbed by the cabin crew except in an emergency. Sterile cockpit forces the flight deck crew to concentrate on the barrage of ATC calls within the terminal areas (read: critical phases of flight) and not be distracted. Also, like a pavlovian dog, you find that everytime your company name is spoken you automatically start listening regardless the flight number that follows. In the end, interacting with ATC while flying the aircraft is a skill learned before you can get your grubby fingers on your private pilots license. At the airline level, its something you can do in your sleep (LITERALLY!).

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I would say that hundreds of missed instructions happen every day. If you ever listen to a terminal airspace controller you won't believe how many times he has to repeat instructions.

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Listening to Istanbul ATC on liveatc I occasionnally hear pilots or controllers having to repeat instructions. I suppose this happens more often in situations when english is not the first language and different pronounciations make things a bit harder. Normally though, I think it becomes a sort of a reflexe where the pilot reacts upon the callsign.

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Well....hopefully you learned those skills well before you made it to the airline. I am a big proponent of having students fly out of tower controlled airports and these skills become second nature very quickly even before you have your private. However, in an airline environment the PNF (pilot not flying) has the job of listening to ATC while the PF (pilot flying) flies the airplane. Additionally, below 10,000 ft the cockpit is required to utilize 'sterile cockpit' (most airlines have a little blue light outside the flight deck door to denote this to the flight attendants), which means no unnecessary conversations inside the fight deck AND they are not to be disturbed by the cabin crew except in an emergency. Sterile cockpit forces the flight deck crew to concentrate on the barrage of ATC calls within the terminal areas (read: critical phases of flight) and not be distracted. Also, like a pavlovian dog, you find that everytime your company name is spoken you automatically start listening regardless the flight number that follows. In the end, interacting with ATC while flying the aircraft is a skill learned before you can get your grubby fingers on your private pilots license. At the airline level, its something you can do in your sleep (LITERALLY!).
My thanks to all of you who have taken the trouble to deal with my question. The replies are most interesting and I appreciate your time.Cliff

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What an awakening... Thanks for the info....Michael

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When reading the various causes of airliner crashes I have seldom noted that pilot error in not following ATC instructions is a factor.With so many ATC instructions being given to multiple aircraft how do "real life" commercial pilots concentrate on flying as well as listening to, and picking out, instructions specifically for their own aircraft? Cliff
The skill of listening out and developing a mental picture of what is going on by listening to other aircraft and ATC is something that is developed as part of initial training. It is essential in the circuit never mind in the airways.Scheduled operations use callsigns of the operators callsign peceeding the flight number. I hear our company callsign and then I am then alert to our number. It is not difficult.To be honest I don't think many flights go by without me having to re-confirm an ATC instruction. I am well aware of implications of assuming you heard the correct message and of following correctly heard and understood ATC instructions that are actually wrong too.In an airliner environment the non handling pilot will deal with ATC, but both pilots must still hear, understand and agree with the instructions/requests. It is difficult, especially during a demanding approach. But somehow one just develops an ear for it.Personally my biggest challenge was when I first start flying in SE Asia, it took weeks to develop an ear for the regional accents. It was a nightmare at fist with lots of puzzled looks towards the Captain. The less experienced ATC centres didn't help, when you respond "Say again" they just increase the volume and the speed...thanks guys :)

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When reading the various causes of airliner crashes I have seldom noted that pilot error in not following ATC instructions is a factor.With so many ATC instructions being given to multiple aircraft how do "real life" commercial pilots concentrate on flying as well as listening to, and picking out, instructions specifically for their own aircraft? Cliff
Hi Cliff...the simple fact is that pilots do miss instructions and because of that the system requires mandatory readbacks for certain critical instructions such as runway assignments, hold short instructions, altitude assignments, etc. An example:EXAMPLE-"Runway Three Six Left, taxi via taxiway Charlie, hold short of Runway Two Seven Right."or"Runway Three Six Left, taxi via Charlie, hold short of Runway Two Seven Right.""Runway Three Six Left, hold short of Runway Two Seven Right." d. Request a read back of runway hold short instructions when it is not received from the pilot/vehicle operator. PHRASEOLOGY-READ BACK HOLD INSTRUCTIONS. In my time as an Air Traffic Controller these simple checks and balances served to keep both myself and my pilot customer from finding ourselves in the proverbial frying pan more often than not. That said, mistakes can and will happen as ATC is a human process managed by humans.If you have a deeper interest in how all this magic works, I suggest you check out the FAAH 7110.65, the manual for US Air Traffic Control: http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/air...s/ATC/index.htmCheers,bt

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I agree. By the time you have your private license, if you fly regularly in controlled airspace, you're pretty well used to it. I know my ears perked whenever I heard Cherokee or Rainier (the UND/SFCC flight school fleet callsign used only at KGEG and KSFF). To compound things, we had 158ND and 159ND. Back in high school, I took a few lessons in a Cessna 150 and 152 and they were 994PJ and 994JP. It does take some vigilance at times.

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While missing ATC instructions is bound to happen from time to time, once you have a few hours under your belt you get accustomed to hearing your call sign on the air. I would equate it to hearing your name in a conversation.

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First post. Hi ! Its a busy world up there. Things tend to get missed from time to time among all the chaos occuring in busy class B airports. It is the pilots and co-pilots job and responsibility to ensure they do not miss an atc call. If they even have to question a particular call or cant "remember" if a call was made, the solution is pretty simple. ASK AGAIN! :( There really is no excuse folks. Nine times out of ten ATC will call you out on it, however when its during a heavy push there is always the slight chance they WILL NOT. Situational awareness! :( S

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First post. Hi ! Its a busy world up there. Things tend to get missed from time to time among all the chaos occuring in busy class B airports. It is the pilots and co-pilots job and responsibility to ensure they do not miss an atc call. If they even have to question a particular call or cant "remember" if a call was made, the solution is pretty simple. ASK AGAIN! :( There really is no excuse folks. Nine times out of ten ATC will call you out on it, however when its during a heavy push there is always the slight chance they WILL NOT. Situational awareness! :(
My new audio panel has a recording function. By hitting a button, it will play the ATC transmission over. I had something similar that plugged into headphones, years ago.L.Adamson

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In fact as stated, we do miss atc instructions. This happens for many reasons such as controller accent/speed, running checklist/ procedures, noise, not paying attention, controller being stepped on, flight deck conversation, elt on guard, too much information during the instruction(this happens alot when copying down the departure clearance), etc. 90% of the time you know you missed the instructions and ask for a repeat. I usually have issues myself when flying in other parts of the world like Africa, Mid East and Asia. But controllers miss communications also.

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Like Rich said, controller speed is a probably the biggest cause for missing an instruction. Especially in a busy area like JFK departure and approach at 5pm. They talk fast and they expect you to listen up. They do not like repeating themselves more than once and they will let you know "XXXX would you like that in smoke signals? One more time and listen up... S L O W TUHHHHH ONE EIGHT ZEEEEEROOO" :(

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yep you hear lots of that flying in newyorks airspace lol. imagine moving a four ship of dc10s through their space with non-standard spacing during rush hour lol. that was hard work lol.

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I think there are quite a few errors-the terrible Tenerife crash was caused by a misinterpretation by one of the crew thinking they were cleared to takeoff when they were not is probably the most famous example.In my world of GA there are errors all the time-generally they are caught with the repeat process by either the controller or the pilot . I've had atc give me instructions that were in error and in that case I question them. You can't just blindly follow their instructions-some of them if I had would have got me in a dangerous situation.
I've had this experience too, and maybe at one of the worst times!I was doing my first solo flight in a little Grumman AA-1A and I was on the downwind leg. I was informed that a Gulfstream was on final for the same runway I was using by the tower, and that I needed to report him in sight. I could not see the traffic, so i reported no joy. I'm just about at the point where i usually turn base, so the tower tells me, ok turn base now and you'll land in front of the traffic. I turned base and in front of me on a short final was the Gulfstream. I quickly turned back to downwind and after that tower said it was his mistake. All that on my first solo pattern, and I often wonder what would have happened if the Gulfstream hadn't been right in front of me and I hadn't seen him.

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I've had this experience too, and maybe at one of the worst times!I was doing my first solo flight in a little Grumman AA-1A and I was on the downwind leg. I was informed that a Gulfstream was on final for the same runway I was using by the tower, and that I needed to report him in sight. I could not see the traffic, so i reported no joy. I'm just about at the point where i usually turn base, so the tower tells me, ok turn base now and you'll land in front of the traffic. I turned base and in front of me on a short final was the Gulfstream. I quickly turned back to downwind and after that tower said it was his mistake. All that on my first solo pattern, and I often wonder what would have happened if the Gulfstream hadn't been right in front of me and I hadn't seen him.
That is a pretty intense mistake for ATC to make. I would have ripped the guy a new one. I dont care if there are only 3 planes in the pattern or a dozen. They are trained to take the nessesary steps to ensure the safety of ALL aircraft under ALL circumstances. For crap sake, I would think he would have been on high alert status for a student solo. Sorry to hear the story. On the plus side at least you learned a very valuable lesson and trusted your own instincts to turn and burn. The pilot instinct is far more superior than someone staring at blips on a screen. God bless TCAS :(

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That is a pretty intense mistake for ATC to make. I would have ripped the guy a new one. I dont care if there are only 3 planes in the pattern or a dozen. They are trained to take the nessesary steps to ensure the safety of ALL aircraft under ALL circumstances. For crap sake, I would think he would have been on high alert status for a student solo. Sorry to hear the story. On the plus side at least you learned a very valuable lesson and trusted your own instincts to turn and burn. The pilot instinct is far more superior than someone staring at blips on a screen. God bless TCAS :(
Occasionally you have your moments. Though uncontrolled fields with ag pilots are generally the worst for that sort of stuff. They fly without radios and use the "he who is fastest and lowest has right of way" rule to their advantage. I don't know how many times I've come into KPUW set in on final only to catch a glimpse of yellow hugging the ground at full throttle. There are days I wish they had a radio so I could cuss them out while I'm aborting my landing.

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Just to add to the comments here, Im no real world pilot either, but the same thing about blocking out other callsigns become old hat after some time in the cockpit. You just get used to hearing your callsign and somehow dont listen as intently until you hear it. I have flown several times in the real world with friends, and even then I got used to it. A friend of mine who has thousands and thousands of hours under his belt flying for the USAF, USCG, and privately, will sometimes sleep during his long flight legs because he wakes up to his callsign. Personally, I believe this is dangers and complacent, but as Mike T mentioned, it happens! Instructions get missed too, but it's usually caught thankfully.

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Imagine having to change your callsign to "Northwest In Delta Colors" after countless years using "Northwest". Not only will this be a cluster**** for the pilots but ATC as well. I dont know which braniac came up with this callsign. I understand it is only in affect until DAL gets the one carrier liscense agreement out of the way. However I feel there were other options they could have considered.

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Just to add to the comments here, Im no real world pilot either, but the same thing about blocking out other callsigns become old hat after some time in the cockpit. You just get used to hearing your callsign and somehow dont listen as intently until you hear it. I have flown several times in the real world with friends, and even then I got used to it. A friend of mine who has thousands and thousands of hours under his belt flying for the USAF, USCG, and privately, will sometimes sleep during his long flight legs because he wakes up to his callsign. Personally, I believe this is dangers and complacent, but as Mike T mentioned, it happens! Instructions get missed too, but it's usually caught thankfully.
Sleeping "On the Job" does go on, but is never acceptable, from a controler or pilot perspective.This is an example of the limits of human tolerance to work stress and demands. Another good reason to remember that the folks "up front" and "on the the ground" are humans and are subject to human frailities and weaknesses.bt

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