Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Dawn in the tower

The air traffic control duty supervisor on this day was a nice elderly gentleman with an understanding of the young, and this attitude manifested itself in many ways. One of this had been his insistence that he not wake the slumbering tower crew when out doing the morning check of the runway. In view of this check being due at 4.30 a.m., this was highly appreciated.

The system worked fine until that summer morning when we were expecting a cargo DC-3, operated by some obscure French company. The -3 was due in at 5 a.m., so our super, as was his custom, did his check at 4.30, maintaining radio silence as usual, then drew prudently aside onto a taxiway to watch the cargo plane land. He also left his flashing yellow light atop his car going…

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

When approach control handed over the flight, the pilot reported having the runway in sight, whereupon the tower controller promptly cleared him to land. It was only a minor circumstance that, ATC authority not having had the money to install expensive tinted glass in the tower, they had to make do with curtains all around. Needless to say, these curtains were neatly drawn to keep out the rays of the rising sun. In justice to the controller, it must be said that he did peer out in the direction from which the plane was due, but seeing him exactly where he had claimed to be, he let the curtain drop back in place, lest the light wake the others…

Once on the ground, the French pilot reported the marshaller in sight and the tower automatically cleared him to “Follow and switch off”. As you may know, the marshaller is the man with the colored wand, stationed on the apron at some airports, his duty being to help the pilot park his plane. What this Frenchman had actually seen was the flashing yellow light of our supervisor’s car… When the super saw the Douglas steering right down the taxiway he was parked on, he quickly turned his car around and started driving towards the terminal. Looking back in the rear view mirror, he saw with horror that the plane was increasing speed, eager to catch up. He was afraid to slow down, lest the tail dragger overrun him, and from the driver’s seat he could not reach the on/off switch of his radio either. So the chase was on. That particular taxiway had only one exit apart from the one leading to the apron, to a maintenance area, with prominent “NO ENTRY” signs posted on both sides. The super tried this exit, but the DC3 followed, undeterred. Still afraid to stop, or even to slow down, our supervisor sped down between a couple of other aircraft, onto another taxiway and finally back onto the runway. His attempts to throw the radio switch to “ON” were still in vain. Afraid now that they would get in the way of another early arrival, the poor man increased his speed still further, hoping to gain some distance, then turned sharply onto the next taxiway, slowed down and finally stopped.

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

The French captain, no doubt puzzled by now, wondering at the rationale behind this strange exercise, also stopped and seeing the super climbing from his car, he opened a side window, smiling. The supervisor’s French left much to be desired, neither could he recall ever having seen standard English phraseology to be used in such cases. Fortunately the noise of the engines made voice communication impossible anyway, so the super settled the case by waving his hands expressively in the direction of the apron. The Frenchman understood, and once the super backed his car onto the grass, he slowly taxied away, finally seeking the real marshaller.

Meanwhile, the tower was blissfully unaware of the small drama being played out below. The protracted engine noise, heard muffled through the curtains, was put down to a case of difficult parking… The “punishment” was thorough, as from then on the supervisor broke his radio silence each time he was on duty, at 4.30 a.m. sharp.

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Signals from the tower

Aerodrome control towers the world over are usually equipped with signal flares and an Aldis-lamp, with which signals can be sent to the odd aircraft coming in without radio contact. Your average modern jet is unlikely to experience total communication failure and in any case, pre-arranged procedures would help resolve the situation. At smaller fields, however, the fireworks could come in handy even today.

The general and perpetual shortage of funds at the airport in question had precluded such niceties. It was typical of the paper pushers of the authority that while they insisted an Aldis-lamp was a waste of money, they regularly authorized radioless aircraft to operate in and out of the field. Most of these were either on ferry flights (new, small aircraft being delivered to their owners) or were on special assignments of one sort or another. They invariably thought they were the only ones using the field and came in and left, majestically unconcerned about the big boys being held on their account… Controllers had no other choice, they had to move those they could talk to.

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

It was on a bright, warm Sunday afternoon that they were expecting a flight of some six or eight agricultural aircraft (shit bombers they called them), on a ferry flight to the Middle-East. They had no radio, of course. Though they were coming in low, radar picked them up soon after they crossed the control area boundary, happily motoring along at 160 knots. As usual, once they got near enough to the field, controllers stopped all other traffic and waited for them to enter the traffic circuit, nicely lining up to land one by one.

To the astonishment of the controllers however, the flight leader, followed by his faithful crowd, instead of heading for the runway, flew over the tower, then started circling it. It was quite a sight and the people on the observation terrace must surely have thought this was a performance expressly staged for their benefit. What the hell does he want, the tower crew asked themselves, anxiously thinking of the heavy birds out there somewhere, waiting for their turn to come in. In the end the tower war council decided that this was a pilot who went by the book and he was waiting for a landing clearance before using the concrete. A rocket or a green flash from the Aldis would have been the thing, but they had neither.

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

With the planes circling over their heads with seemingly endless patience, controllers looked around, desperately searching for some instrument with which to issue that coveted clearance to land. They found a broom which looked promising and someone produced a bright yellow PVC bag. They quickly pulled the bag over the business end of the broom and looking at their tool decided it appeared professional enough.

They sent the youngest of their colleagues, holding the converted broom, to climb to the roof of the tower. Once there, he started waving the “signal device” in the general direction of the runway in use. His appearance was an instant success. The flight leader acknowledged the clearance, gracefully rocking his wings, while there was general applause from the crowd on the terrace, this latter finally catching on to what was happening. It was only when our boy climbed back down from the roof that we realized he had only a sports shirt on above his swimming trunks, with thin but hairy legs sticking out…

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

Plane Te Shpijave

By the way… a lighted board with the landing runway number on the roof of the tower (controlled from the cab) came as a direct result of this incident.

By Steve Zerkowitz
Article Source: ezinearticles.com