Being a professional flight instructor can sometimes make one feel like Rodney Dangerfield ("I get no respect!"). One area where this is most obvious can be interactions with ATC. While many, many controllers are helpful with the oddball requests that instrument instruction can generate, others are not so understanding. In their defense, flight instruction results in unexpected requests and non-professional pilots may have non-professional radio technique. Scheduled operations are more predictable, pre-filed, and staffed by skilled and experienced pilots. Still there are times when ATC seems, well, grumpy.
me: Oakland Center, Skyhawk 12345, 2000, climbing 3500, missed approach at Petaluma, direct Point Reyes
OC: 345, radar contact 4 miles northwest of Petaluma, say intentions
me: 345 requests vectors for the Santa Rosa ILS 32, missed approach, then VFR flight following to Oakland
OC: 345, I'm too busy for multiple approaches, say request
me: 345 requests the Santa Rosa ILS 32
OC: 345, I'm unable multiple approaches, say request
me: Ah, I'm confused, we're only asking for one approach, the Santa Rosa ILS 32, 345
OC: 345, I'm unable multiple approaches, so it will have to be a full stop landing
me: Request the Santa Rosa ILS 32, full stop
OC: Fly the Point Reyes transition and report established ...
The really strange thing about this was that we continued to monitor the frequency and heard very little going on. Perhaps controllers are feeling resentful that the FAA has (as is allowed by current laws) foisted a new contract on them after months of unsuccessful bargaining. Since the government can simply dictate the new contract, it's odd that they even bother to bargain. But hey, that's just me ...
We all know where this is heading: Being charged for ATC services. The so-called pay-per-view is already in place in some countries and now it seems that it's making its way, slowly and inexorably, to the U.S. Here's my view of what ATC services will look like, once you apply some old-fashioned American ingenuity to it:
Norcal: Skyhawk 123, radar contact 15 miles east of Oakland, say request.
me: Skyhawk 123 requests an IFR clearance, Oakland ILS 27 Right, information mike
Norcal: Skyhawk 123, how will you be paying today?
me: We'll use our Norcal/Macy's credit card, Skyhawk 123
Norcal: Skyhawk 123 is cleared to the Oakland Airport via radar vectors to the ILS 27, maintain 3000, squawk 4543
me: Cleared to Oakland via radar vector for the ILS 27, maintain 3000, squawk 4543
Norcal: Skyhawk 123, I see you are a gold member, would you like to upgrade to a platinum account, which offers complimentary altimeter setting and express vectors?
me: Negative, Skyhawk 123.
Norcal: Skyhawk 123 is 3 miles from NAGVY, fly heading 240, maintain 3000 until established, cleared ILS 27 right.
me: 240, 3000 until established, cleared ILS 27 right, Skyhawk 123
Norcal: Skyhawk 123, be advised that you account is overdue so I will only be able to offer you the localizer with no glideslope and the approach lights will be set to low.
me: I sent a check last week!
Norcal: We haven't received it, contact the Oakland tower 118.3, and thanks for using Norcal/Macy's