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Radio_EtiquetteWe were approaching Bhopal, when an Air India A321 bound for Mumbai requested pushback from ATC. A few minutes later, Bhopal cleared us to land, as we left our hold near the right base, for finals.

Even before we could turn into finals for Runway 30, the commander of the Air India 321 started “complaining” of how the aircraft was pushed-back facing south-east, and the winds blowing into the rear of the engine stalled the engine-start process. He ranted on, and on, about how the ground crew wouldn’t push him facing the wind, as they needed permission from ATC, and that the ATC must advice the company handling ground crew to push them back facing the wind.

The Air Traffic Controller, shot back a long, lengthy reply on why it was not possible, and the sorts. The argument of each was right, and the discussion just short of breaking into a fight, and for the rest of us, enlightening and amusing. When the debate was over, we were on terra firma.

But it is hardly amusing when you’re on finals in a small airplane, and you can neither transmit nor request for the surface winds. It gets even less amusing when, let’s say, you witness an airplane incursion, and neither the ATC can transmit, nor can you state you intention to go around. And when you go, around, you will have to bank hard to avoid that Bell 429 that is flying toward its helipad. Or even worse, you suffer an engine fire and you are forced to land, but there is some inattentive bloke in that Piaggio Avanti, who is on the active. Or you execute a go-around, and the Piaggio pilot, so fed up with the controller that he thinks the coast is clear and applies power for takeoff, will find two airplanes, one executing a missed approach, and himself on a high speed departure, with no TCAS on board one of the airplanes. Thankfully, none of those happened that day.

The Air India commander is at fault. With a minimum of 5000 hours under his belt, he started “talking” on a frequency when there were multiple approaches. The ATCo worsened the situation, by choosing not to a) ask the captain to switch to another frequency where the issue may be resolved or b) request the captain to hold as there were multiple aircraft inbound into the field and one on finals.

Instead, the ATCo chipped in, and held the PTT button pressed till he was satisfied with his own reply.

It’s not an FRTOL or RTR-A that makes you a better person. Neither is it hours of manning the ATC or flying a jet that matter. You just need a bit of common-sense. Awareness. And Radio Etiquette. All part of good airmanship.

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