These Are Words You Never Want To Hear From A Controller

Photo by: Pieter van Marion

“Where in God’s Name are you going?”


Those are six words you never want to hear from an air traffic controller.  Air traffic controllers and pilots have a very unique working relationship.  Using the radio, controllers issue clearances and pilots repeat the clearances back.  The confirmation of every clearance ensures that mistakes are at an absolute minimum. While basic, this systems keeps aviation exceedingly safe and a testament to the professionalism of both pilots and controllers.

Most mistakes occur because of a misunderstanding or a mental error on the part of a controller or pilot.  In the video below by Daniel Mori, you’ll hear a pilot verbally confirm the heading that ATC assigned him.  When he starts to turn the airplane in that direction, the controller raises his voice and asks, “where in God’s Name are you going?”  Those words are enough for any professional pilot’s stomach to drop.  After a brief exchange, the controller assigns a new heading and backs down from his aggressive tone.  When the pilot offers to call him on the ground, the controller declines, most likely realizing that it could have been his mistake all along.