“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.”
That’s a great start. It’s always good to establish your identity when speaking to a crowd. Passengers love hearing from the captain. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if people are a little disappointed when I introduce myself as the first officer on the public address (PA) system.
“We’ve just reached our cruising attitude of 35,000′. I’m going to turn off the seat belt sign since we’re expecting a fairly smooth ride… nothing more than a nibble here and there…”
Very descriptive! I really liked the use of the word “nibble.”
“Today’s route of flight takes us down over the Carolinas, Georgia and then on into Central Florida. The temperature in Orlando is currently seventy five degrees.”
I also pass this type of information along to passengers. But, with the technology available to today’s fliers, maybe it’s time to omit some of these details that sounded interesting to folks in 1987?
“We should be arriving right on-time. If there’s anything we can do up here to make your flight more enjoyable, please don’t hesitate to ask one of our flight attendants.”
All in all, it was a good speech.
Unfortunately, nobody on his airplane heard it.
Instead of using the PA, that captain broadcast over air traffic control.
Like all the other pilots on the frequency, the two of us sat in our cockpit and listened to the captain babble on and on about his flight to Florida. We smiled as he tied up the ATC frequency for well over a minute. When he finished, the other pilots immaturely informed him of his colossal screw-up.
He took the ribbing in stride. He re-keyed his mic and said, “I hate when I do that.”
It happens all the time.
To understand how this happens, take a look at the 737 audio control panel:
The knobs on the panel control which source(s) we hear through our headset or speaker. Depressing the knob activates it and turning adjusts the volume. (We hear whichever source is selected with the mic selector regardless of whether the knob is depressed.)
When we activate a microphone through a push-to-talk or handheld mic, the communication is directed to the source selected by the “MIC SELECTOR.”
Every type of plane is different, but the concepts are very similar.
That evening, the captain probably forgot to hit “PA” before starting his announcement. Therefore, it all went over VHF-1.
The opposite problem occurs when the pilot forgets to re-select VHF-1 after finishing a PA announcement. I’ve been in the back of plenty of jets when the pilot announced, “Descend to flight level 290…” over the PA.
On the 737, we have an additional hand-mic dedicated to the PA system. It is located on the rear of the center pedestal so both pilots have access.
To avoid ever making these mistakes, I only use the center pedestal hand-mic to make PA announcements.
Until recently, I thought this method was fairly fool-proof. But, one night when I was the flying pilot, the captain started to make a PA. I looked over and thought it was odd that he was holding the microphone in his left hand. I then realized that he was using the hand mic that ties into the normal audio control panel. That evening, he was the guy broadcasting to the world to keep their seat belts fastened.
There are two categories of pilots when it comes to making PAs over ATC: Those who have and those who will.
After all these years, I’m still in the “will” category.
However, it’s only a matter of time.
I’m one wrong button push away from public humiliation.
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