Short Final: Watch Your Language


As the legend goes, a long conga line of airliners stretched down the taxiway at (pick your big-city airport of choice). The weather was getting steamier, and so was the tone of voice between the pilots and the harried controller. Scheduled arrival times—and some duty limits—were hanging in the balance, and so was the controller’s temper.

After a few snide (but still G-rated) comments from the pilots waiting in line, the controller snapped back, angrily: “Look! We’re doing the best we can! We’ll have you all out of here soon!”

After a brief pause, an unidentified muffled voice over the frequency said, “Bull$#!7.”

The controller snapped back, “Aircraft that made the obscene transmission, identify yourself!”

After a short, respectful silence on the frequency:

“American 1234, negative on the bull$#!7.”

“United 5678, negative on the bull$#!7.”

“Southwest 9123, negative on the bull$#!7.”

“Loofthansah 4567 heaffy, negatiff on der bull$#!7.”

Etc., etc., etc.


  1. Brings back memories of the 727 days of yore in the at JFK. Fridays, 17:00 push. Nasty weather. 1 + hours later and 3,000 pounds of fuel consumed +/-, two engine taxi, still number umpdyump for departure. We always managed the grand tour of the airport from terminal 3, clockwise to RWY 22-L.

    • At least at JFK the English language is always very Oxford, the etiquette impeccable, the controllers relaxed, friendly, and polite. It’s America’s little hometown airport in America’s little hometown.

  2. Wow!

    The 1st time I heard that, I was young, and I’ve been in the avionics industry since it was just called the radio shop (57-years, now).

    It’s still good for a laugh.

    • It’s kind of like the BUFF pilot that lost an engine and declared an emergency to land at a NAS.

      The controller got the laugh then when he said, “Oh no. The dreaded 7-engine approach.”

  3. This story has grown legs. My Dad flew for Eastern in their glory days and relayed that story to me but he was flying and heard it.

  4. In the glory PATCO years I remember being number 117 for departure at ORD during a “by the book” controller slowdown.

  5. This brings back an ancient memory. We were on our initial solo flights in H13 (Bell 47s) back at Mineral Wells, TX in 1967. One lad, we all knew who it was by voice but we never said it.. was blasting around the Texas countryside along w much of our flight. All of a sudden the was a call “ Ah s*it, I F*cked up now!!” followed by dead silence. The tower officer at our remote stage field reached across n grabbed the mike. “F*cked up now, f*cked up now say ID, say ID!” A very long pause ensued…… then…”I didn’t f*ck up that bad…..”…..