ATC to Pilot Instruction - What they mean, and what you think they mean

You sir, have created a thread I found funnier than any other xD I’ve been in training for IFATC and have had plenty of experience with all sorts of different pilots and I gotta say, this sums it all up.

Some other commands that I’ve noticed:

As Tower

  • Inbound for Landing on the Visual/GPS/ILS
    Means: “Coming in for landing”
    remains ignorant of instruction

  • Enter Downwind/Base/Straight In
    Means: “Join the pattern”
    Pilots: “Just keep flyin, just keep flyin, just keep flyin flyin flying”

As Ground

  • Cross Runway
    Means: “Runway is clear, feel free to cross”
    already on the runway
    Pilots: “Oh shoot was I supposed to request to cross?”

  • Give Way to
    Means: “Be courteous to others”
    Pilots: cuts the line

  • Pushback Approved, Expect Runway
    Means: Pushback to a certain direction
    Pilots: “left right, what’s the difference?”

As Appr/Depr

  • Turn Heading
    Means: “Turn to this heading”
    Pilots: “Whaddya say? Fly any way I want? 10-4 good buddy!”

  • Request Flight Following
    Means: “I am flying VFR and require handoffs to destination”
    Pilots: “Listen up ATC person, you need to ‘follow me’ to my destination”

  • Request Radar Vectors
    Means: “I would like you to vector me into the pattern of my nearby destination airport”
    destination on the other side of the map
    Pilots: “Vector pls”

  • Airport in Sight
    Means: “Flying VFR; Basically Requesting Handoff”
    Pilots: “What’s this little button do?”

I often find myself using the “Flight Following not Required” command way too often…

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At least on the TS…
Command: Go around
Meaning: look it up
Pilots think:

  2. Make a right 360° then land…

. POV: You recieved a ILS clearence for runway 16R

ATC (Tower) - okay, he’ll request inbound on ILS

Not gonna lie. I used to be guilty of doing this

Thank you, glad you’ve enjoulyed. I always enjoy the little things pilots do, it keeps things interesting.

Running Tower, sitting there thinking, “Yeah, you can drag race down the taxiway but you’re still #3 for departure there, Dale.”

Backs out of the entire ramp instead of just backing out of the gate and pulling out forward like everyone else.
I’ve got a couple videos of this I may compile.

Yep, when you’re requesting flight following to Sydney from LAX, that’s a little outside of my coverage area, bud.


Pilots think: what does this yellow and black line mean? Oh it’s hold short line! I should stop behind it probably.
Sudden stop
Aircraft behind him was instructed to Go-around

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I always run because I almost never know what I did wrong.

say intentions

what i mean: “hey man you uh, gonna say something or you just wanna sit at the front of the departure queue for ten minutes?”


“hey man you’re on three mile final what’s the plan here”

what they think i mean: idk lmao

immediate takeoff

what i mean: “get yourself moving and get off my runway”

what they think i mean: “take your sweet time the guy on three mile final can go around”

I swear I’ve watched people almost wait to see if you’ll issue the go around for the inbound before they take off.

ATC: Extend downwind, I’ll call your base.
Pilot: Extending downwind, you’ll call my base.
Then slowly turning base like nothing happened!!

RIP. El Risitas 💐


When pilots say “Unable”

What it means to ATC:
“You’ve given me an instruction that I cannot execute due to factors that you are either unaware of or have overlooked.”

What it means to pilots on the TS:

ATC: Cleared to land runway 27R
Me: Lines up in runway 27L 🤦‍♂️

  • Pilots think: I am supposed to park. Why am I supposed to ask?
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