This is a repost from Aviatrix’s latest post.

First, some background:

ADF Is a navigation tool thats based on AM radio signals. The way it works is that there are a bunch of “stations” (called NDBs, Non Directional Beacons) all over Canada that broadcast this AM signal that you use for direction finding. There is a compass in the cockpit with an arrow that points to the ADF station you have dialed in.

You also know that you are dialed into the right station because it broadcasts morse code. The morse code is its identifier as each station has a unique name. For example the NDB near Buttonville is “KZ”, so the morse code you’d hear is ” -.- –..”. This code is also printed on the map, so you can just match up the dots and dashes.

Since you know the location of the station (because its on the map) you can simply line up the nose of the plane with the arrow in the cockpit to head straight for it. You know you’ve passed the station when the arrow flips 180°.


Because it’s AM based, you can also dial in commercial AM radio stations (you could even use them as an NDB if you want). Thats why you hear the radio guys say “CKFM” as it is the “official” name of the broadcasting station (and it would be broadcasting its morse code if it was a dedicated NDB)… Anyways.. on to the story:

Phone in to Win

Here is the ADF story I promised. I heard it from a pilot at a training course, years ago.

The crew is flying a heavy Boeing into Vancouver, the captain’s home town. It’s a VFR morning, and Vancouver has an ILS so they don’t need the ADF. They have had it tuned to a local AM radio station since before the top of descent, and are listening to the tunes, the traffic, the weather, and a phone in contest. Tenth caller wins! The captain pulls up his cellphone out of his flight bag, turns it on, and dials in.

“Congratulations! You’re the tenth caller.”

It turns out that this is the same radio station that many of his colleagues listen to. In fact people he knows are listening to it at that very moment. They recognize his voice. And they recognize the steady whoosh-grind sound of the jet engines as heard from the cockpit. And of course everyone knows you’re not supposed to be using your cellphone in an airplane. Especially while you’re the one landing it.

The DJ asks the captain his first name, and he gives it. The DJ can hear the background noise, too, but he can’t place it. “What are you doing right now?” he asks.

There’s a bit of a pause, and then the captain replies “I’m … driving … a .. truck.”

No word on what the the prize was, or even if this really happened. But I like the story.

2 Responses

  1. Andys says:

    lol, just further proves that the “no cell phone” rule is a load of crap, and everyone knows it.

  2. Blake says:

    Oh Yeah..
    Not that the equipment in my Cessna 172 is just as sensitive as in the airliners, but there have been opportunities for me to use my cell phone if need be.
    I guess they don’t want someone in coach with their GSM phone to power that baby on, and the pilot gets that annoying GSM “dit dit dididididtt” noise in his headset 😉