ATC Humour

15 May 15 11 Comments

I may have spent too much time reading silly threads on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network (PPRuNe). Specifically, there’s a great thread of ATC Humour with a great mix of classic jokes and personal stories. It’s eighty pages long! However, I read the whole thing so that you don’t have to. You’re welcome!

My sense of humour is sometimes very questionable. Also, some of these are very English, and I’ll leave it to the readers to explain those in the comments.

With that proviso, I bring you the best of PPRuNe ATC humour (some edits included to protect the innocent)!

Pilot: I think I suffered a birdstrike. Did you see where it hit?

Controller: Just below the beak but I think it’s all right.

Private Pilot: I need a little help as I am not sure of my position
ATC: Roger. Set 1234 on your transponder
Private Pilot: OK

—long pause–

ATC: I don’t see you in any of my sectors. Where was the last place you were sure of your position?

Private Pilot: Holding short runway 34

Confused British Airways pilot in Thailand: Bangbird, this is Speedcock….

ATC: Clipper 123, what’s the turbulence like at your level?
Clipper 123: Well …how shall I put it? The Captain’s just stuck his fork up his nose.
ATC: TWA 789, what’s the turbulence like at your level?
TWA 789: I don’t know, we haven’t eaten yet.

A cargo plane was flying the same route night after night and after while went in with approach of destination airport (around dusk) with the same joke.

Flight 123: Tower, guess who’s coming?

Each time the tower asked him to identify himself clearly on the frequency instead of joking, never succeeded…until that day in winter:

Flight 123: Tower, guess who’s coming?
Tower controller: (turning off the runway lights) Flight 123, guess where we are now…

From that day, the story says that this cargo pilot always identified when contacting the tower.

A University Air Squadron Bulldog holding for the grass runway:

Charlie 01: Tower, Charlie 01, we have a large flock of plovers by the threshold
Tower: Charlie 01, say again?
Charlie 01: We have a large flock of plovers by the threshold
Tower: A large flock of what?
Charlie 01: *sigh* Birds.

Aeroflot routing to Ireland and then on to Cuba at time of tension…

ATCO: Aeroflot 123, do you carry transponder?
Aeroflot: Negative sir, we only carry agricultural equipment

In the days that the Red Devils used to parachute over Queens Parade and work TMA south for entry into controlled airspace, a Qantas jumbo on a Southhampton departure on a sunny day made an anxious report.

Qantas: Hey, London, there’s an aircraft on our left hand side and there’s people falling out of it.
Controller: Is it a red islander?
Qantas: Blimey, that’s good radar!

There are two approaches into airfields near Boston; here are the waypoints:


Trainee controller: Cessna 172 calling, say again your callsign and type of aircraft.

Approx 4:00 AM one morning

India X-ray Charlie India X-ray Charlie request.
Brisbane: Go ahead.
India X-ray Charlie Roger, I seem to have left my flight plan in the fax machine at home. Don’t suppose you could give me my flight details.

(After a minute’s pause)

Brisbane: (laughing) India X-ray Charlie we can do that for you. You have departed Weipa.

(Another pause )

India X-ray Charlie: Ahh…roger, I kinda know that much.
Brisbane: (still laughing) You are off to Cairns.

(Another pause)

India X-ray Charlie: You guys are going to drag this out for a while just to embarrass me, aren’t you.

This went on for a while, eventually the rest of the details were also given.

Two J41 aircraft inbound to the field, the first aircraft established inbound on the ILS, second aircraft reports visual with the field requesting a visual approach.

ATC: Are you visual with the company Jetstream in your 1 o’clock, range 6 miles?
J41: Negative. Are you sure you mean in my 1 o’clock?
ATC: Try looking to the right of your 12 o’clock.
J41: Visual.

O’Hare Approach Control: United 329 heavy, your traffic is a Fokker, one o’clock, three miles, eastbound.

United 239: Approach, I’ve always wanted to say this… I’ve got the little Fokker in sight.

Detroit Radio: Number aboard?
N1234: Two
Detroit Radio: Color?
N1234: Uh…white males.

The other day at Hamilton, New Zealand (NZHN 122.9MHz) there was a female trainee controller on the frequency (every now and then you could hear her OJTI (instructor) talking in the background).

The controller had a C206 transitting the Control Zone to the south (ZK-EJE) and a 152 (ZK-EJZ – similar callsign) taxiing on the ground. Needing to check the position of the C206 (ZK-EJE) before clearing a southbound Saab 340 for takeoff the following was heard:

Trainee ATCO: Echo Juliet Zulu, report level and position
ZK-EJZ (a particularly quick thinking instructor): 172feet (aerodrome elevation) at Holding Point Charlie
Trainee ATCO: Uh…Roger? [sounds of raucous laughter from the instructor in the background]

For the next few minutes every time the trainee spoke you could hear the instructor wetting himself in the background.

London Air Traffic Control Centre controller was asked some time before to accept a pair of Blackburn Buccaneers.

Civilian LATCC controller: Where are my Buccaneers?
LATCC Military controller: Under your Buccan headset!

A couple of years ago, a A300 ST Beluga checking in :

Beluga: Hello Bordeaux, this is Super Transporter F-AD, with you FL330.
Bordeaux: Super Transporter AD, bonjour. This is Super Controller speaking!

Flight SWR 101 was normally a B747 inbound to Zurich from JFK. ACC called the approach controller and told them that flight SWR 101 was coming in with only 3 engines today. In fact, it was an MD-11 that day, a three-engine wide-body jet.

The Approach Controller immediately notified the fire brigade and everything was prepared for a one engine out landing with a 747. The pilots didn’t notice when the approach controller told them that the fire brigade was ready, and the fire brigade was pretty upset when they saw an MD-11 on final approach.

A DC-10 had an exceedingly long roll out after landing with his approach speed a little high.

San Jose Tower: American 751 heavy, turn right at the end of the runway, if able. If not able, take the Guadalupe exit off Highway 101, make a right at the lights and return to the airport.

On the airline frequency:

Flight crew: None of our toilets are working. Can we have permission to give the passengers complimentary drinks?

A Dan Air flight is running late into Aberdeen and he eventually changes from Scottish to Aberdeen Approach.

A/C: Aberdeen, good day. It’s the f*****g Dan Air 123.

An uncomfortable pause lasts for a few moments and the controller eventually responds as he would normally would. However despite the controller using the correct call-sign the pilot operating the R/T still persisted in saying ‘F*****g Dan Air 123’.

The flight was handed over to the tower frequency and the pilot continued to use this ‘modified’ callsign. The tower controller was just as surprised as their colleague was on approach but nevertheless the pilot continued to use the modified callsign right until the aircraft taxied onto stand.

When the aircraft pulled onto stand the pilot called tower and suggested that they should listen to the current ATIS.

The ATIS was recorded as normal however in the background you could hear a certain Approach controller shout out ‘Where is that F******g Dan Air’.

Cockpit: The first officer says he’s got the runway in sight.
ATC: Roger, the first officer’s cleared for a visual approach runway 27…You continue on that 180 heading and descend to three thousand.

Your story is almost true but here is the official version. I know as I was that controller. The Blackbird was competing in a race from overhead New York to overhead London and I was briefed to ‘clock’ it in as it passed overhead London. (I was a military ATCO covering the London overhead at the time – 1972) The Blackbird was out of primary radar cover so I was tracking it on SSR. As it passed over London heading East I gave it a left turn for Mildenhall and then watched aghast as it commenced it’s very very wide turn and disappeared towards Holland descending through a very high Mode C readout. Being a smart ATCO I instructed the pilot to ‘strangle his parrot’ and report when steady heading 270. When he did I asked him to report his altitude and then told him to continue. After a bit of dead reckoning I instructed him to squawk my code and picked him up over the North Sea about 30 miles east of Gt Yarmouth at about FL 330 descending !! God knows how far he had penetrated German airspace but with no SSR and probably above their primary cover maybe I had got away with it. There is one other ATCO who knows the story but you won’t tell will you Pete ?

Radar controller in a sticky situation: two a/c, parallel vectored but on the wrong sides. No chance of a vertical solution or a ‘make a 360’ solution due to traffic behind.

ATC: a/c 1, do you see the a/c on your right?
a/c1: Affirm
ATC: a/c 2, do you see the a/c on your left?
a/c2: Affirm
ATC: You guys able to maintain VFR for the next 1 min?
a/c1: Affirm
a/c2: Affirm
ATC: OK, now swap!

The amazing thing was that they actually did!

Tower: Eastern 702, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on 124.7

Eastern 702: Tower, Eastern 702 switching to Departure. By the way, after we lifted off we saw some kind of dead animal on the far end of the runway.

Tower: Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, contact Departure on 124.7.Did you copy that report from Eastern 702?

Continental 635: Continental 635, cleared for takeoff, roger; and yes, we copied Eastern and we’ve already notified our caterers…

Aircraft taxying to terminal after landing 04 used to pass quite close to the tower. One old time pilot whose voice we all knew used to flip us the finger as he said g’day on his way past (I think it might have actually been two fingers in those days). Of course we all knew the routine and gave a mass showing of fingers thrusting skyward.

It was only later we found that he had just made a PA announcement: “If those passengers on the left hand side of the aircraft look out the window now, they’ll see the friendly boys in the tower hard at work…”

Back in the early 1960s Gloster Gladiator G-AMRK was going from A to B when the engine quit (I think it was somewhere near Bedford). He put out a Mayday and asked to be pointed at the nearest airfield.

ATC: What type of aircraft are you?
Pilot: Gloster Gladiator.
ATC: This is really not the time to be funny.
Pilot: If you were stuck up here in the last flyable Gloster Gladiator in the world without an engine I doubt you would find it at all funny!

They got him down.

ATC: Aeroflot XXX proceed direct VUT.

Aeroflot: Ummm… say again?

ATC: Aeroflot, present position direct Victor Uniform Tango.

Aeroflot: Roger, proceeding direct WHISKY UNIFORM TANGO.

ATC: NEGATIVE! It’s VODKA Uniform Tango!

An AA 757 is coming out of the AA terminal cul-de-sac at high speed, checking in on the TWR frequency. Controller asks: “Why the hurry?” and the reply, although a bit garbled, sounds exactly like “I have a dangerous cargo”.

“Okay,” thinks our hero, “better give this guy priority in the departure sequence.” This is done and furthermore a message about this particular flight having a dangerous cargo is passed along down the line thru the ATC system.

The flight reaches O’Hare airport in record time.

Tower: AAxxx, would you need any special assistance when parking?
American Airlines pilot: Errr, no. Why d’ya ask? (sounding quite baffled)
Tower: Well, understand that you told JFK TWR that you had a dangerous cargo…
American Airlines pilot: Nonono! I said I have a date in Chicago!

Experienced some months ago while approaching to land a helicopter at a busy English airfield…

TOWER: PA28 G-XXXX cleared to land 04 Hard.
G-XXXX: Cleared to land 04 Hard G-XXXX.
TOWER: Helicopter G-YYYY cleared to land 04 Grass and watch for inbound PA28 on finals.
ME: Clear land 04 Grass – looking.
TOWER: He’s behind you.
SOME WAG ON FREQUENCY: Oh no he’s not…

I was laughing so hard I couldn’t hover.

Early morning at Frankfurt:

Speedbird 123: Request taxi.
Tower: Negative Speedbird 123, hold position.
Lufthansa 456: Request taxi.
Tower: Clear taxi, Lufthansa 456.
Speedbird 123: Request taxi.
Tower: Negative 123, hold position.
Lufthansa 789: Request taxi.
Tower: Clear taxi, Lufthansa 789
Speedbird 123: Why are we still holding?
Lufthansa 789: German pilots get up early and put their towels on the end of the runway.

Air Force One (B707/C-137) was visiting UK back in the 1960s. Crusty old Colonel captain decides to visit a few RAF airfields to do some crew training. These were the days before secondary radar.

Air Force One: Air Force One checking in and requesting a precision approach radar.
RAF: Roger Air Force One, can I have your present position, heading and height?
Air Force One: Look buddy, you’ve got the goddamn radar, you find us!

After a couple of identification turns Air Force One is now on dog leg to finals.

RAF: Air Force One you are now on dog leg to finals, just confirm your aircraft is multi-channel VHF equipped?
Air Force One: Affirmative
RAF:Right then old boy, you find the Final Controller!

Two jets were leaving on the same heading: BE200 at FL 70 and A340 at FL 80 about 4 miles behind but going much faster. As the Airbus caught up to the King Air and the returns on the radar merged, a meek little voice was heard.

“It’s gone awful dark…….”

A PAN AM 747 suffers an engine failure on rotation at LHR:

PILOT: Err ah Clipper 123, we are going to continue straight ahead runway heading and dump some gas.
CONTROLLER: Are you aware, sir, that your current heading takes you over Windsor Castle where her Majesty is currently in residence?
PILOT: (quick as a flash) Ask her majesty, does she just want the gas or the airplane and the gas?

A colleague heard the following recently on the way into Schiphol.

AMS Controller: Continental give me a good rate please through FL100?
Continental: Well sir, we are doing 2000 feet per minute.
AMS Controller: Could you make it 3000 feet per minute?
Continental : No sir.
AMS Controller: Oh, do you not have a speedbrake?
Continental: Yes sir, I do, but that is for MY mistakes, not for yours!

RADAR: November 12345, VFR traffic on your 12 o’clock, range two miles.
A/C: No, the traffic is actually a flock of Canada Geese!
RADAR: Well, the geese are squawking 1200.

A Tucano is a two-seater turboprop trainer. On a London north bank sector many moons ago, one of the first Tucanos was trundling around on airways when the pilot advised that an immediate diversion was required because of engine trouble.

Trainee controller not quite conversant with aircraft type: State persons on board and which engine is giving trouble.

Arguably one of the greatest responses came back:

“Me and it.”

Know any more? Leave ’em in the comments!

Categories: ATC, Fun Stuff,


  • A nice collection even if some are old jokes and some not believable. Air Force One is NOT an aircraft, but any (USAF) aircraft carrying the President of the United States. The presidential aircraft would neither be used to do some training in a country which the President is visiting. Too risky. And anyway, without the Presidential presence it would not be allowed to use the call sign “Air force one”.

    A few others: 1980’s
    Private aircraft approaching Galway in the West of Ireland. Controller: “EI-ABC what is your position ?”
    Reply: “EI-ABC at Henry”.
    Pause. Controller: “Eh, say again ?”
    The aircraft was passing Athenry, a town about 8 miles west of Galway.

    A private pilot in a Piper Aztec is trying to find his way into Schiphol, Amsterdam.
    He is VFR. It is hazy, he has some trouble finding the airport. The ATC controller gives him radar vectors.
    The pilot misses the runway many times in succession and the controller patiently vectors him back to the active runway in use.
    ATC: “G-ABCD you are on final runway 06. Cleared to land”.
    G-ABCD: “Roger, cleared to land”.
    A short pause. ATC: “GCD confirm you have the runway?” “GCD affirmative”.
    Another short pause. ATC: “G-ABCD make an immediate go-around. You are not lined up with the runway but with the parallel taxiway. And I would not mind you landing on it if it were not for the queue of departing aircraft waiting on it for you to land”.
    After another abortive attempt the controller comes back: “G-ABCD this is Schiphol Approach. Do not worry, we will vector you back to the airport. Soon you will see a very large airport with very many runways. You are cleared to land on any runway you like. BUT PLEASE LAND”.

    A large number of Piper PA 18 Super Cubs, 16 in total, are flying in formation over the Dutch bulb fields. They are trailing advertising banners.
    A British pilot flying a Carvair, a converted DC4, into Rotterdam exclaims: “My God, is it war again?”

    Schiphol used to have a now decommisioned runway 32, part of the old system and previously reserved for light aircraft. There was a VFR sector to and from the East.
    A French private pilot is getting ready for departure.
    ATC: “F-ABCD are you familiar with the VFR procedures?”
    FCD (heavy French accent): “Affirmative”.
    ATC: “F-ABCD your departure instructions follow the VFR sector and exit the control zone at point Victor. Report ready for departure”.
    “FCD roger”.
    A prolonged period of silence.
    ATC: “FCD are you ready for departure?”
    “FCD roger”.
    ATC: “F-ABCD cleared for take-off departure as cleared”.
    A prolonged silence.
    ATC: “FCD cleared for take off please expedite”.
    Another aircraft reports “point Bravo”(short final).
    ATC: “F-ABCD take-off clearance is cancelled. Hold clear of the runway”.
    “FCD taking off”.
    The incoming aircraft, now on short finals, is instructed to overshoot.
    Many abortive attempts by ATC to contact the French aircraft who simply does not reply.
    Eventually at least 10 minutes later:
    “F-ABCD leaving control zone”.
    ATC: “FCD Schiphol. For your information you took off without clearance. You told us you were familiar with the VFR procedures but you flew directly in opposite direction to the ILS of runway 06. We would not have minded so much if it had not happened to be out main arrival runway in use. Now please contact Amsterdam Information and have a good flight home.”

    Timid voice of a German private pilot on Amsterdam Information:
    “D-EABC can you give us our position please?”
    Amsterdam info: “Transmit for bearing”.
    A little later: “DBC you are 5 miles NE of the city of Amsterdam”.
    German pilot: “Can you tell me are we in an active danger zone ?”
    A. Info,(surprised) “Negative, why ?”
    German pilot: “We are very close to an aircraft towing a target”.
    I was at the time flying a PA 18 towing a large banner, an advertisement for Amstel Beer. It’s logo is a large roundel half red, half white.

  • In the 1970’s a Cessna 310 flying into Frankfurt Main, Germany.
    ATC: PH-STR maintain FL 70, join the Metro hold. Expected approach time (about 45 minutes later).
    Seconds later: PH-STR can you can maintain 160 kts until the middle marker ?
    A short hesitation: PTR affirmative.
    ATC: PH-STR holding cancelled, turn right heading 190 descend to 4000 cleared for approach runway 25L.
    The little Cessna is nearly full power going down the glide slope and slowly eases off the throttles but even on short finals has to wait until the pilot can lower the gear. He touches down well past the middle of the runway and needs much of the remainder to slow down and vacate.
    ATC: PH-STR what do you think you are flying, a bloody 747 ?

    late 1960’s:
    ATC: Nigeria XXX Lagos, you are cleared to land runway 19.
    Pilot of F27 (on short finals): Lagos how the heck can you clear me to land, there are pedestrians crossing the runway!
    ATC: They do that every day, they can take care of themselves.

    B727 following a C310 to the holding:
    Twin Cessna in front of me you forgot to remove your steps.
    C310: That is OK, they go up with the wheels.
    B727: (brief pause) Are you trying to tell me you get passengers changing their minds that late?

    Shannon ATC (mid 1980’s):
    Transam XXX number 2 for approach runway 24 follow an Ilyushin just past the marker.
    Transam: Is that an illusion ? I see a real airplane.

    Same aircraft, same crew, different situation and very different location:
    ATC Hanscom Field, Mass.:Citation 21C you are number 9 cleared to land follow a Beech Bonanza on downwind.
    ATC: 21C can you slow down you are gaining on preceding Bonanza.
    ATC: 21C can you speed up again C150 behind is gaining on you.
    Same aircraft. ATC approach London Heathrow: N121C heading 060 keep the speed up number 3 in traffic.
    ATC: N121C can you slow down please you are gaining on preceding Concorde.
    Comment: Only a Citation can fly slower than a Cessna 150 and overtake a Concorde.

  • Pardon me, Athenry of course is East of Galway before anyone corrects me (just wanting to see if anyone reads my blether !)

  • I also migrate to that thread anytime I’m trying to kill time at work :)

  • “In the days that the Red Devils used to parachute over Queens Parade and work TMA south for entry into controlled airspace, a Qantas jumbo on a Southhampton departure on a sunny day made an anxious report.”

    Nice story; doesn’t stack up though. I believe it is possible (in dire emergency) to land a jumbo at Southampton, but not to take off.

  • What’s a 360 as mentioned in one of the stories cos if that’s what’s meant why would you turn just to face the same heading. 180 I get, turn back simples

  • Rudy: Keep ’em coming!
    localflighteast: Glad it isn’t just me.
    Andrew: Huh, good point.
    Chris: If you needed to change runways, then a 360 to get you down and around and back heading the same way makes sense. On the other hand, I’m not sure I would take any of these too seriously :)

  • ATC (after a particularly dodgy landing): Please state number of souls on board.
    Pilot: Two plus a dog.
    ATC: Guess dog was Pilot in Command?

    (Alternately, the response was:)

    ATC: Guess Pilot’s name is Tigger?

  • Local control got a little busy, so he wanted to make sure where an A-7 Corsair II was that was about to shoot an overhead approach.

    Local: “Say your position, over.”

    A-7: “Well, I’m a little high, but not too far out.”

    One afternoon while working local control, I cleared an Army UH-1 “Huey” to land. The FAA Handbook required us to give all military traffic the advisory “Check wheels down” preceding the landing clearance. I guess the Pentagon was sick of too many of their pilots executing unauthorized belly landings. I gave the chopper the required advisory.

    Local: “Check wheels down, cleared to land.”

    I felt like an idiot. My crew chief consoled me, “He’s probably used that line a hundred times.”

  • (Overheard while in Japan, ca1968)
    ATC: (in a nervous, broken voice. Newbie mike fright?)
    “Clipper XXX, this is Yokota, weather is clear and wind is calm (voice cracks here)”. Pan Am:
    “Yokota, Clipper XXX. On approach and crew is calm”.
    Sorry, after 50 years I hope I didn’t forget too much detail.

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