Gaming the bureaucrats (Air Traffic Control edition)

I had to laugh over a picture gallery at the Telegraph titled ‘Airline scams and scandals‘.  It draws material from a book of the same name by Edward PinnegarThis story in particular made me chuckle.

In the early 1970s when Frankfurt air traffic control decided to stage industrial action (in the form of work to rule), this caused horrific delays and most aircraft were held up for at least an hour… a sticky situation which called for an innovative solution.

Because the parking was out of view of the ground controller, as soon as the aircraft was on the ground certain pilots called for start clearance knowing it would not be given for a good 45 minutes. It wasn’t long before air traffic control cottoned on and refused to put an aircraft in the queue until it was confirmed that the doors were closed. They thought they had put an end to these antics. They were wrong.

Some BEA pilots decided they could outwit the Frankfurters and devised a new ploy – when asked if their doors were closed, an absolutely hand-on-heart confirmation could be given… they hadn’t landed yet! So when the reply came back (for example) ‘Bealine 123, roger that, you are number seventy-two in the start sequence’ (i.e. there are seventy-one aircraft in the queue before you), the pilot would be perfectly happy as the aircraft would arrive at its parking slot, offload passengers, refuel and take on the next load of passengers, by which time their turn had come and off they went. When air traffic control discovered this latest tactic, they were distinctly unamused.

There are more stories at the link.  Amusing reading.



  1. There are few bureaucratic rules that entrepreneurial, innovative people cannot find a way around. The problem kicks in when the paths around those rules becomes so long that criminal activity becomes a viable option.

  2. At Ramstein Air Base a seasoned Luftwaffe Major was impatiently waiting for clearance to take off in a Eurofighter Typhoon.

    Quite off-handedly he keyed his mike button and said to no one in particular in broken English: "I am taking off in a European manufactured plane, made mostly in German, from a German airfield, were the control tower is manned by German military personnel. I wish to speak German. So why must I use English to communicate?

    Little did he know that at the far end of the field sat a U.S. Air Force F-16 manned by a newbie 2nd Lt Plot who happened to be listening in on the com-net.

    Without a pause came the answer from the "unidentified" American: "Cause you lost the friggin war, Hans!"

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