Short Final: Coastal Navigation


Stop me if you’re heard this one.

Many years ago, a foreign student with a heavy accent contacts air traffic control over the east coast of Florida saying he’s lost. The controller gives him a transponder code and tries to get a general idea of where he is in relation to coastal landmarks. After a few questions, the student says, “All I know is I’m over Deland.” Surprised at the specific location, the controller looks in vain for his target in the vicinity of the Florida city about 30 miles north of Orlando. No luck. “Are you sure you’re over Deland?” he asks. The student answers, “Yes! I was over de water; now I’m over de land.”

(I have no conceivable way to verify the story, which is probably made up.)

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.


  1. It’s probably true. I was a railroad conductor in New York when a person with a heavy accent came up and said “Pay attention?” I said I am, where do you want to go?

    After 3 tries, I got “Penn Station.” True story.

  2. In the AA Dallas 727 simulator with a Texan as a instructor he asked if we had a “oil indication” and I turned asked the FE if he saw any oil problems…..
    Perplexed with this off script question and fumbling trying to sort things out He said with his best none TX accent “Aural Indication”
    True story.

  3. My story is similiar , but very long. A C-150 called me on unicom while I was instructing in the Navy’s T-44 out of Corpus Christi. I got him over to ATC to get him on radar but they could not hear him because he was too low and too far away. He didn’t even know if he was North or South of Corpus and he thought his VOR wasn’t working.
    I ignored half of what he told me and had him start cycling thru VOR frequencys and finally he locked onto PSX (?) VOR. Then I got him on VCT VOR and triangulated his position.
    He also was down to 1/8 tank both sides.
    The story gets tooo long and some of the stuff he told me was crazy. I eventually asked him if he had a pilots license. Turns out he was a student pilot on a solo cross country.
    So I started telling him step by step what to do and he complied. Then we fire walled the Navy King Air at 500 feet and pulled an intercept on him because we weren’t sure of his position and led him to a landing. Got an atta boy letter at home from the FAA for this. The entire conversation was recorded on the approach control frequency that both planes had switched to but they could only hear my plane. He was too far away.
    Well that’s the short version of this story. All for the Glory of Aviation.

  4. Back in the 1980s while attending Embry-Riddle I dated a young lady from Deland and told her this story. She was less amused than I was. Despite my silly humor, she still said yes. Told it to her again tonight, she still isn’t as amused as I am.

  5. in 1988 I worked as an A&P at PHI in Louisiana and one of the Leads had worked in Iran under the Shah and he told me that two of the local pilots told him their 206 “rotten bacon” was out. The rotating beacon was inoperative.