Follow your aircraft’s progress:
Eavesdrop on cockpit radio traffic
This is the screen shot showing the channel on which passengers can listen in on the radio communications between the flight deck, air traffic contollers and other aircraft in the vicinity. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
JUST AFTER UA 935, a Boeing 747 (heavy) Jumbo Jet lifted off from London’s Heathrow Airport at about 10:35 a.m. (local time) on Tuesday – after waiting a few minutes for a takeoff slot while two incoming aircraft landed – I discovered a fascinating form of inflight entertainment.
Aboard this aircraft one can select from the audio offerings an option to eavesdrop on the radio traffic from the cockpit!
Just after takeoff, one hears not only the Captain (or First Officer) of UA 935, but also London air traffic control and communications with other aircraft in the vicinity using the same VHF frequency.
“We are at 12,700 (feet)” was the first transmission I heard. It is not certain if it was the Captain or First Officer at the controls; it could be either.
The back-of-the-seat video screens are vastly improved from before. Their resolution is almost as good as this MacBook, and the audio quality is similar to sitting in a multi-plex theater. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
“THIS IS LONDON CONTROL, UA 935. Turn heading three-four-zero,” was next. This is a course north northwest and would take us over northern Scotland heading over Greenland near the North Pole to Los Angeles.
The polar route is a much more efficient (and faster) way to manager westbound trans-Atlantic air traffic. The prevailing winds at this altitude are from the west-northwest, so heading directly into them (like London to Boston) would waste fuel and take longer.
The polar route saves time and fuel.
A few minutes later, London control was back, after talking to Alitalia.
“UA 935, contact London control, please.”
“Copy, London. This is UA 935.”
“UA 935, turn heading three-twenty (320 degrees).”
We were plus or minus 10 minutes out from LHR.
“UA 935, request level flight (altitude).”
“Copy, London, UA 935 requests three-four-zero (34,000 feet).”
A few seconds of silence.
“UA 935, climb to three-three-zero (33,300 feet.)”
I could hear the subtle change in the pitch of the engines as the pilot increased thrust to climb. The nose pointed ever so slightly up; I’m sure most of the passengers didn’t even notice.
A few seconds later. “UA 935, this is London. Climb to three-four-zero.”
“We copy, London.”
Passengers aboard UA 935 sit back and enjoy the in-flight entertainment. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.
A LONG SILENCE ENSUED from UA 935, but there was plenty of other radio traffic from other aircraft.
11:32: This is UA 935 at two-seven-zero (27,000 feet) heading three-two-zero (320 degrees – northwest.)
11:38 (From London control) UA 935, Contact Scottish control on three-four-zero-decimal-five (VHF frequency.)
“We copy, London.”
Scottish Control (man with broad brogue): “Good morning, UA 935.”
11:39: Public address announcement from the flight deck. “Welcome aboard, ladies and gentlemen. We have reached our cruising altitude of 34,000 feet so I have turned off the fasten seat belt sign. Our flight time to Los Angeles is quite short today … ten hours (and some minutes). The weather is good all the way. Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.”
There were a few facts I wished to include in this story but I was uncertain about their truth. Through the purser, I requested an interview with the captain.
He kindly sent me the following handwritten note:
“Thank you for your interest in your flight today. I don’t have time to talk with you during the flight, but if you send me an email I would be happy to answer some questions. Unfortunately, I can only answer questions related to facts about either the plane or the flight. (Distance, Alt, Airspeed etc.)
I emailed him within hours of landing. Alas I have not received the answers to my questions.