The Readers Have Spoken


Within the cavernous FAA warehouses in Oklahoma City molders jetsam once vital to National Airspace System (NAS), such as NDBs, Terminal Control Areas, Flight Service Stations (FSS), GADO (General Aviation District Office) and, now, Flight Watch. Time was when you were cruising in your ’47 Navion with the canopy slid back, and the ADF pointing to thunderstorms and faulty magnetos, you could tune your Narco SuperHomer to 122.0 MHz and — through the static — hear a friendly voice, advising you to wait your turn for weather updates.

Flight Watch was the Weather Channel without pictures for pilots, but it’s gone. Sad though that may be, enquiring minds ask, “Flight Watch? Wasn’t that an FAA test question years ago?” In part, yes, but it deserves a proper funeral.

So in Brainteaser #216 we asked you to suggest uses for the newly available frequency 122.0.

Additionally, we asked what other FAA programs should be axed.

Responses proved, once again, that Brainteaser readers are creative and slightly demented. We like that.

Here’s a highly unscientific distillation of the replies to the question, “What should become of Flight Watch and 122.0?” (Names have been redacted to protect FAA employees who wrote to us on government computers.)

Give Peace a Chance

Most responders recognized the possibility of turning 122.0 into an expansion CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency). Here’s a sampling of unedited comments:

“The 122.0 freq could be assigned as an additional CTAF frequency. On busy days, any present CTAF is subject to saturation.”

“Use 122.0 as a CTAF frequency at uncontrolled airports.”

“Use it for UNICOM where frequency congestion is a problem.”

“Give it to CTAFs so as to free up some congestion from overlapping CTAF transmissions.”

Great ideas all, because anyone who flies on VFR weekends knows that CTAFs are awash in squealing verbal garbage, making it often impossible to announce a position or identify the cluck who’s announcing every stinkin’ leg of the traffic pattern or that he’s taxiing to the runway at your airport, so you can confiscate his microphone and return it only after he learns that the radio does not produce lift.

CFI rant over.

Adding another CTAF could dilute frequency congestion, but do we really think that’ll make the offenders think before transmitting?

Share The Words

A few submitters suggested using 122.0 as an air-to-air frequency. You know, so you don’t have listen on CTAF to the CB chatter from buddies in separate homebuilts calling out performance figures to each other, as in:

Proud Pilot #1 headed to Oshkosh: “I’m indicatin’ one-twenty-two, now! How ’bout you?”
Proud Pilot #2 headed to Oshkosh: “Showin’ one-thirty at 2400 RPM … phew-doggie!”

This reader was a bit more specific in frequency allocation, although, perhaps a bit misguided: “Turn 122.0 into the new air-to-air frequency that pilots can use instead of 121.5.”

A gentle reminder here that 121.5 is the emergency frequency and not an air-to-air frequency. The Balloon Flying Handbook reminds us that “The air-to-air frequency is 122.75.” Balloonists, pestered by circling fixed-wing aircraft, should try calling the intruder on 122.75 to tell them to buzz off. Just don’t expect a response.

Another reader thought 122.0 should be a “standby emergency frequency,” for use, perhaps, when 121.5 is congested with non-emergency air-to-air chatter.

Frequency 123.45 (aka “Fingers”) is periodically utilized for air-to-air, but the FAA (and FCC) might develop heartburn with that. FAA Order 6050.32 reflects the special use of 123.45 MHz: “123.45 MHz is authorized to be used only for non-government flight-test operations, not air-to-air communications. However, the frequency 123.45 MHz is designated as an air-to-air VHF communications frequency to enable aircraft engaged in flights over remote and oceanic areas out of range of VHF ground stations to exchange necessary operational information and to facilitate the resolution of operational problems.”

Another reader suggested, “Keep 122.0 MHz open as another optional UNICOM freq or use it as a Flight Following channel.”

Easier still, call the nearest Approach Control facility or Center for radar flight following. Those frequencies are accessible on your GPS or go old-school and check the A/FD (Airport/Facility Directory) or sectional charts.

This reader’s suggestion simplifies finding frequencies by turning 122.0 into Directory Assistance: “Have a recorded broadcast of all available frequencies in the area …”

“In Canada,” this pilot writes, “126.7 is used for position-reporting by VFR aircraft who are not with flight following. It improves see-and-avoid, since you can broadcast, ‘Over Lake Scugog at 3500 (feet) eastbound.’ This leads to brief conversations among pilots flying in the immediate vicinity. When flying VFR in the U.S. when flight following is unavailable, I feel naked, not having a clue where other aircraft are.”

The vision of naked, clueless Canadians in U.S. skies is reason enough to reallocate 122.0 for this purpose.

Several readers suggested that Flight Watch retain some of its former weather-reporting status by broadcasting “area forecast-type info such as cloud tops and PIREPs. Kind of an area AWOS.” Or used to “report any unusual weather that is not a hazard but very interesting to note.”

Another pilot supports the PIREP theme: “Click on 122.0 to leave and to listen to PIREPs. Especially local icing PIREPs.” While several pilots suggested that Flight Watch should broadcast NOTAMs affecting the local area, Facebook could handle much of this, too.

And yet another pilot (or possibly a Lockheed Martin briefer fearing job elimination) suggested 122.0 be turned over to AFSS to do whatever they feel like with it.

Thinking outside the box, this pilot said, “Turn Flight Watch into Wrist Watch, and continuously broadcast the time. This will be useful for timing of holding patterns, non-precision instrument approaches and cooking three-minute eggs. It can also be fed into the aircraft intercom/speaker system to annoy passengers.”

Practical absurdities continued with a plan for Flight Watch to serve as a “warning service to indicate where FAA inspectors are conducting ramp inspections.”

Advertising Possibilities

What ad exec wouldn’t leap at the opportunity to target an audience? Certainly, this Madison Avenue reader sees the potential: “(Why not broadcast) advertising for airport businesses? ‘Eat at the Ailerona Flapjack, mention you heard it on 122.0 and get a free flapjack’ ?” Or “pan bread,” for all you R. Bach barnstorming fans out there.

Running with the commercialization theme, one reader said Flight Watch should be turned into “a job search board (with) Craigslist broadcasts for all those unemployed AMEs after Third-class medical reform passes.” Or, he continued, “(Make it) the audio for America’s Got Talent, Local Air Show Edition, where local hangar owls provide commentary on landing prowess, pattern-flow violations and POH weight-and-balance deviations sponsored by your local A&P mechanic union or FSDO.”

Or make 122.0 a “pilot-help frequency.” It wouldn’t be for full-blown emergencies but more for, “Could someone remind me how to land in a crosswind?” Like a call-in ask-the-experts show: “Hello, you’re on Flight Watch, how can we help?” “Yeah, long-time flyer, first-time caller …”

Two respondents went all digital on us with these suggestions: “(122.0) could be a data transmission frequency for the new ‘texting’ between controllers and pilots. Since 122.0 is in the middle of the band, the data won’t be scared or intimidated by non-aviation chatter in other adjacent frequency bands.”

Never known data to get scared but point taken and expanded upon by this reader who says, “Make Flight Watch the Aviation Twitter site. #stupidpilottalk.”

And speaking of stupid pilot talk, this pilot suggests we “use the old Flight Watch frequency for the people who need to say, “All traffic please advise.” Variations on that stupid phrase include, but are not limited to, “Traffic in the area, please advise.” AIM 4-1-9(g) has more to say on that issue.

At least one pilot has no use for 122.0, Flight Watch or anything associated with it: “I believe 122.0 should be abolished just like that stupid nauseating FAA score. Don’t they have other things to waste their money on similar to firing and ruining FAA whistle blower’s careers for doing their jobs and not covering up unsafe practices to justify the FAA’s numbers to Congress.”

Take that and get off my lawn!

Two pilots considered the educational possibilities of Flight Watch in the right hands, beginning with, “122.0 could be a broadcast of updates from the Federal Register with a Jackie Gleason laugh.” How sweet it is.

Educational potential continues if “a very sexy female voice could read FARs and help keep us current.”

Although not educational in nature, this alternate use for Flight Watch could prove entertaining: “It should be used to tell flying stories AS THEY ARE HAPPENING. Each story must begin with, “Here I am,” instead of the venerable, “So there I was.” This will increase the efficiency of Nature’s gentle way of weeding out pilots who forget to FLY THE PLANE.” (All CAPS indicates shouting.)

This entry made little sense, but it was entertaining in a heard-on-a-barstool-at-closing-time way: “(The term) ‘Flight Watch’ should replace ‘Center,’ since ‘Contact Boston Flight Watch on one-two-seven-decimal-seven-five’ just sounds cooler, and it’s still two syllables.”

What To Eliminate

The survey had two parts. We also asked what else the FAA should eliminate. Here’s an IFR suggestion: “Would be nice to eliminate visibility requirements for legal descent below mins for Part 91 pilots. This legality is almost entirely subjective and serves no real purpose. If one can see the runway environment and can land using normal descent and normal maneuvers, subject to good judgment, that should do it.” Go for it.

Several readers suggested eliminating FSDO and TSA, and one even went so far as to suggest the FAA should go eliminate itself. We thought those suggestions a bit extreme, because, honestly, without the FAA we’d lose much of the grist for our editorial mill.

One reader was specific regarding which FAA entity should be purged: “Get rid of the ACOs (Aircraft Certification Offices). Do we really need the FAA to validate TCs and STCs? It’s 2016. Time for a standards-based approach, with well-trained auditors to check the paper trail. Businesses are there to make money. They won’t succeed if they have shoddy products. Let the market decide.”

Say what you will about ACOs, but not so fast on declaring this 2016, warned one dude who returned to the first part of our survey by saying he wants 122.0 MHz to “play ’60s and ’70s rock music.” Well, OK. Just nothing by The Eagles.

Many readers — too many to quote each — want to relegate the FAA’s Third-class medical and the Aeromedical Branch to the FAA’s Dustbin of History in Oklahoma City. Here, now, is one of the more temperate comments: “What else should the FAA eliminate? The *$#%&^&*^%$ Third-class medical! What is happening with PBOR2 (Pilot Bill Of Rights 2)?”

To which this CFI replies, “Yeah!”