Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Where's George?

Okay, this is an air traffic control "war story" from one of my friends who worked in the tower of a large metropolitan city airport. The city will remain nameless to protect the reputation of everyone there named George. My friend was working in the control tower on a busy weekend night at local position. "Local" is the position and/or the controller who clears aircraft to takeoff and land. In other words local control if where most of the action takes place. While my buddy, Phil (a real name...just not my buddy's real name) was clearing airplanes to do various things and trying to make sure that they all did them without running into each other he heard this from the primary frequency speaker; "Hey, where's George?" He keyed his mike and said, "Say again for tower." "I said where's George?" Phil looked around at the other controllers who all shrugged back at him. They didn't have any idea what the call was about either. Phil said, "Aircraft making the last transmission, say your call sign and repeat your question." "This is Piper 65 Papa, where's George," came the immediate if somewhat slurred reply. "Okay Piper 65 Papa, this is the tower. Who's George?" "George. You know, George, my passenger." "65 Papa, you've lost a passenger!?" "Yeah, tower. He was right here beside me when I went to take off. Now I can't find him. He's going to be late getting to Albuquerque." Phil just stared at the speaker in front of his console. He looked around bewildered. Then he grabbed the strips that showed the last few airplanes taking off. Sure enough there was a Piper with the call numbers that ended in 65 Papa. "Hey, Jerry," he turned to his ground controller, "Turn up the runway lights on 29 right." As the lights got brighter on the runway that the Piper airplane had used for take-off, he picked up his binoculars. Sure enough, there next to the numbers lay a prone figure, probably named George. Evidently both the pilot and the passenger had had one too many cool drinks before take-off. As the pilot started the take-off role George had opened the door to up-chuck and fell out of the airplane. The medics picked him up and and confirmed that drunks have way too much luck. And the FAA was waiting for 65 Papa at Albuquerque with a Breathalyzer and a police escort.