Short Final: FL680


While flying from San Jose International Airport to Portland International Airport we heard the following:

Oakland Center: “Pinion, cleared to FL680.”

Bonanza 12AB: “Oakland Center, Bonanza 12AB with a question, when able.”

Oakland Center: “12AB, go ahead.”

Bonanza 12AB: “Did I just hear you clear an aircraft to climb above 60,000 feet?”

Oakland Center: “Affirmative, 12AB.”

Bonanza 12AB: “What kind of aircraft is that?”

Oakland Center: “A military aircraft.”

The exchange abruptly ended there.

Daniel Sternbergh

San Jose, CA

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  1. Beale AFB north of Sacramento is home to the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, which operates the U-2 Dragon Lady, and before its retirement in the 90s, the SR-71 Blackbird. Back when I was stationed there the SR-71s used the static call sign “Aspen,” and the U-2s were “Pinion.”

  2. If I was the ATC I think I would say “yes, it is my brother’s 2020 Bonanza G36. He just purchased it.”
    Then I would approach Textron and ask for the sales commission. 🙂

  3. I was an air traffic controller at Chicago Center and one day I was working a NASA U2. I had been told that the flight would be above FL 600 but he was not squawking mode C. Out of curiosity I asked the pilot what his altitude was and the reply was “You don’t need to know.”