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Paul Hiel, Oklahoma City ATCT

On April 10, 2007, Oklahoma City air traffic controller Paul Hiel was working the NE Radar position in the OKC TRACON when he heard several microphone key-ups on his frequency, but no voice modulation.

After hearing the key-ups a few times, Hiel acknowledged the noises and asked if there was an aircraft out there attempting to contact OKC Approach. When the mic keyed-up in response and with the day’s weather (low ceilings between 400-800 feet) Hiel responded, “If you need IFR services, click your mic twice.”

The unknown aircraft clicked the mic twice.

With that knowledge, Hiel asked the pilot to squawk 0303 in order to identify him on the radar. With his position known, Hiel set out to determine where the pilot wanted to land and to confirm he was requesting IFR services.

“Unknown aircraft, if you’re going to Will Rogers [International Airport], click your mic twice.”

No response.

“Unknown aircraft, are you just over flying or are you stuck on top? Unknown aircraft, if you’re stuck on top, click your mic twice.”

Two clicks.

“Unknown aircraft, are you wanting to land somewhere in the Oklahoma City area?”

Two clicks.

“Unknown aircraft, about the only place left is Norman [Westheimer Airport]. If you want to go to Norman, click your mic twice.”

Two clicks.

“Unknown aircraft, I just want to verify that you do want IFR into Norman. Click your mic twice.”

Two clicks.

Over the next 15 minutes, Hiel provided weather information for Norman, issued an IFR clearance to Norman, coordinated with other personnel in the radar room to vector the unknown aircraft to the ILS final approach course, and secured a landing clearance from the Norman ATCT – all without ever actually conversing with the pilot.

Once the unknown aircraft was established on the localizer and had been cleared to land, Hiel turned the aircraft over to the Norman tower for landing.

After the aircraft was safely on the ground, the pilot was able to contact Oklahoma City Approach and relay what had happened. The pilot, after departing Ada, Okla. (ADH), proceeded to climb his Beechcraft Bonanza 36 through a hole in the overcast skies, only to find himself stuck on top. Unable to descend on his own and realizing his radio was malfunctioning, the pilot turned his aircraft towards Oklahoma City hoping for the best.

“Fortunately for the pilot and his passenger, Paul Hiel was there to provide assistance,” said former NATCA Local OKC Facility Representative Jeff Cox. “Due to Paul’s dedication to safety and service to the flying public, his quick thinking and experience helped avert a very dangerous and possibly disastrous situation.”

A transcript of this recording can be found HERE.

Listen to the highlights of the event:

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