As an aviation geek, I love listening to air traffic control audio, and always enjoy the VASAviation YouTube channel, which does a great job covering interesting air traffic control interactions.
While I usually focus on situations involving airlines, here’s a rather noteworthy general aviation interaction. It seems that the same air traffic controller has been “featured” on VASAviation twice in a couple of weeks, and that’s not a good thing.
In this post:
San Carlos Airport’s stressed out air traffic controller
San Carlos Airport (SQL) is located in the Bay Area, and describes itself as “a friendly community airport.” It’s a popular general aviation airport, so it gets a lot of student pilots. You’d hope that air traffic controllers would be a little patient with them, but it seems that one air traffic controller at the airport lacks patience, to put it mildly.
With the most recent incident, a student pilot is in the pattern (with an instructor onboard), and is asked to report another aircraft in sight. The pilot says he’s looking for the traffic, and the controller impatiently responds “it’s important that you find these guys as quickly as possible.” At this point the controller tells the pilot he needs to make a full stop landing (rather than a touch and go), and says “if you wanna go somewhere else, sir, I’m working too hard.”
At this point the instructor chimes in, and tells the air traffic controller (very politely) “we were looking directly into the sun so you gotta kinda manage your expectations for what we’re able to do.”
The controller doesn’t take that well, and says “I have to manage mine and it’s a full stop landing only, you’re done.” The instructor says “I’ll be happy to talk about it later,” to which the controller responds “no, there’s nothing to talk about.”
The instructor continues to be very friendly, saying “I totally understand that you’re working really hard, we appreciate everything you do, but I need you to mark the tape in case we have to talk about this later.” That’s not well received.
You can listen to the entire interaction for yourself below.
Then just a couple of weeks earlier, the same air traffic controller got in an argument with another pilot, which you can hear for yourself below.
This controller seems overworked, but…
In the first video, you can hear the air traffic controller talk about how he’s stressed and is working an eight hour shift all on his own in the tower. Being an air traffic controller is no doubt an incredibly challenging job, and the current staffing shortages only make matters worse. It’s a stressful job during the best of times, and an even tougher job when you’re working more than you should.
While I sympathize with this controller, having a bad attitude with pilots won’t actually make you feel any better. It’s not like he’s reducing his stress by being a jerk. Rather he’s just being unnecessarily condescending, saying how he doesn’t have time for student pilots, etc.
Fortunately for every controller like this, there are multiple controllers who are professional and courteous. It just seems like this guy might want to reflect on whether this is the right career path for him.
It’s rare that the same air traffic controller is featured on VASAviation twice in a couple of weeks, but one controller at San Carlos Airport has that distinction. It’s very clear he’s stressed, so on some level this simply reflects the air traffic controller shortage we continue to have…
What do you make of these ATC interactions?