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Telling a controller to "Mark That".


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Back when I first started flying out of Fresno class Charlie we had 1 really pissy controller on tower and sometimes approach. He hated student pilots, and helicopter students especially and used to give us open ended instructions that would have several different maneuvers from different directions we could use in order to comply with his instructions. Surely, every time he would start yapping at us, telling us that we didn't do what he wanted us to do, and even when we would try to clarify his instructions before carrying out said maneuvers the bitching would start about how busy he was and how he didn't have time for our crap.

 

Well anyway, one day I was doing 1 of my stage checks with the chief instructor and the pissy guy start yapping like clock-work. Well, let me tell you, the Chief was taking none of it and there were a few choice words exchanged between the two of them. The whole thing ended with the Chief saying the term "Mark That" over the radio as he sat in the left seat laughing his ass off.

 

I never got around to asking him what "Mark That" meant but I'm guessing it has something to do with the audio recordings and maybe the controller had to bring that part of the tape to the attention of his superior later on in the day or something.

 

Anyone have any more insight into what this term means and why the Chief found it so funny? The problem with the tower got cleared up a few weeks later with our school meeting with the ATC guys to discuss regular routes and terms to be used for the helos.

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Yeah I've heard that saying before too, and from what I understand the controller is required to mark the current timestamp on the recorder, that way if a complaint is filed or accident happens they can go back to that mark on the recordings eaiser without having to go through an entire days worth of tape. I'll have to ask one of my ATC friends to find out if they have to legally mark it, or what it exactly means for them, but I'm assuming since they have strict procedures and phraseology they are required to use, it can only be bad for them if the controller was outside of standard phraseology.

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I'm thinking they do have to legally mark it as the controller promptly shut up. Whether the Chief complained or not, i don't know. But, it looked like he had just ruined the controllers day by the way he was laughing.

 

I have since taken a tour of that facility, which is where I should have asked that question but it didn't spring to mind at the time. You'll actually learn a lot on how to make both your and the controllers life easier by touring your local Tower/Approach facility. That is if your local one still does tours. Ours was organized by a CFI in the school and about 12 of us went that day, both fixed wing & Rotor.

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Darren, I have been a controller for over 10 years and have never heard of the saying "mark that". If a tape needs to be tagged for later review there are certain procedures that need to be followed. The controller legally has no responsibility if this phrase is said over the radio. The only way a pilot can get a tape tagged is to call the manger or supervisor and complain about the services they recieved. Even then the tape may or may not get tagged depending on the manager/supervisors judgement. So in other words, if a pilot said "mark that" on frequency it would mean nothing to the controller, they would probably scratch their heads and keep working - besides the tape machines are usually in a recorder room away from the control area so the controllers do not have easy access to them anyway. That being said there could be some local agreements or procedures for your particular airport, but I doubt it.

 

Zenmaster

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Darren, I have been a controller for over 10 years and have never heard of the saying "mark that". If a tape needs to be tagged for later review there are certain procedures that need to be followed. The controller legally has no responsibility if this phrase is said over the radio. The only way a pilot can get a tape tagged is to call the manger or supervisor and complain about the services they recieved. Even then the tape may or may not get tagged depending on the manager/supervisors judgement. So in other words, if a pilot said "mark that" on frequency it would mean nothing to the controller, they would probably scratch their heads and keep working - besides the tape machines are usually in a recorder room away from the control area so the controllers do not have easy access to them anyway. That being said there could be some local agreements or procedures for your particular airport, but I doubt it.

 

Zenmaster

 

Thanks Zen, I knew there was someone on here that had been a controller for a while. It's funny that I've heard a pilot mention to controllers to mark the tape and Darren too, so appearently there is a misconception out there. Thanks for setting at least me straight.

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If there is a true problem brewing with a controler while it's rare I would do several things. First rather than continue a wordy fight on the radio I would just tell them I would be on contact with their supervisor. This will normaly clear things up right away. Even more so if they know they were in the wrong.

 

Second, I would make detailed notes of the incident and then actualy follow up on my promise to contact the ATC supervisor.

 

This can apply to anything that happens. Be it a rude controler bad mouthing on the radio to another incident such as a close call or other safety related incident.

 

One problem though with helicopter is that offten operations are at our own risk. This means the burden is now on the pilot and not the controler. For example here in Las Vegas the controllers have absolutely no responsibility with traffic seperation of helicopters even though it's Class B airspace. This is by special arrangement. This causes some problems every now and then because the helicopter landings and take offs are not coordinated.

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