An Important Message from Your Safety Committee
Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Do You Know How Many Fans You Have?

Did you know that one of our fellow participants in the Confidential Information Sharing Program in ATSAP, United Airlines, allows their passengers to listen to ATC from pushback at departure to gate arrival at destination? This feature is known as channel 9, is cockpit controlled, and can be selected off or on by the crew at the captain’s discretion; but for the most part it is on ALL of the time, except in oceanic airspace. United’s customers love it and many fly only United because of this feature. While it is used as a marketing strategy for United, it can also serve to promote (or discredit) those that are being listened in on. This affects pilots and controllers alike. The passengers hear everything transmitted on the frequency just as you do!

While many customers find this opportunity to peer into our world fascinating, it can create a positive or negative image of what is being said and by whom. Keep that in mind when keying the mike; there’s more folks listening in than you ever thought. The impressions made on the traveling public affect us in many ways and are difficult to erase. Let’s leave them with positive ones when it comes to the professionalism of controllers and pilots alike, and make them fans instead of foes!

Mike Blake (ZBW), National Safety Committee
Guest contributor: Captain Greg Downs, United B767/B757 pilot