Maybe the last key reason to keep me fly on United Airlines is the Channel 9 they offer. I believe most of people even don’t know that there is a special channel at every passenger’s seat: the 9th channel. That is the channel the pilot communicate with the control tower. Recently, most of the United Airlines captain don’t bother to turn it on, but they did turn it on the last time at UA857 from San Francisco to Shanghai. Here are some audio I recorded. Click on any of the dark image to play.
Part I near landing Pudong Airport
Interestingly, although I heard it is required to use English to do the communication, most of the conversation in the audio is in Chinese. It is the same situation when we fly near Tokyo Narita Airport. They are using a language I am not very sure whether it is English or Japanese – I just cannot get a single word besides the numbers.
In the audio above, a brief transcript is like this:
“United 857 …. 300” (the flight I am in)
“FM9142 go down to 12.” – Background information: FM9142 is from Qinhuangdao to Shanghai and will launch at around 12:10 pm that day. I don’t understand what 12 means. I thought it was runway numbered 12, but a quick check reveal that there is no runway 12 at Pudong Airport (there are only 17L/35R, 17R/35L – this should be future, and 16/34). What does it mean?
“247D 2400” “247D keeps 2400”
“MU2155 turn left, to 070” my guess is, they want them to turn left and heading to 70 degree?
“MU2155 ..” This is the flight from Yinchuan to Shanghai via Xi’an. They are scheduled to land at 12:15 PM.
“FM92142 down 600” I guess this means lower down to 600 meter level, and if this is the case, the previous 12 may mean 1200 meter altitude.
Above is just my guess, and I will send this to my United Airlines pilot friend to ask him what this means. I believe he will have the best answer for me.
Below is another piece:
Part II near landing at Pudong Airport
The message in it was:
“MU2155 direction 050”
“FM9142 can turn left direction 210”
“247D turn left direction 350”
“MU2155 down 15” from what the pilot repeated, I am sure 15 means 1500 meters in altitude.
From the communication above, I have the impression that all the planes are lineup as a big circle surrounding the Pudong Airport, and gradually lower the altitude to land. It turned out that we finally landed at runway 16 – the runway east of the T2, near the sea, from the north to south.
Below is another clip I recorded at the time when we were at range of control center of Japan. Anyone can understand any word from the conversation? I cannot.
Communication near Japan
I think you can also use the hand phone to tune to that channel once you are up the sky. But you are require to switch off your hp during take off and landing time.
It is recorded by Sony T-10 camera. The sound comes from air-phone jacket at the seat.
The last discussion is all English, the Japanese ATC just has a *really* strong accent, while the SQ pilot sounds Indian and the NW guy is very American. Something like this:
ATC: …671, heading two-five-zero, (incomprehensible)
SQ671: Two-five-zero heading, Singapore 671
ATC: Northwest 72, listen to this, one-one-thousand, (incomprehensible)
NW17: OK, roll to stand(?), one-one-thousand and match(?), is that correct, Northwest 72
ATC: Northwest 72, affirm, go straight to (incomprehensible)
NW17: Cross-match, two-niner-eight, Northwest 72.
This website has the approach charts and airport diagrams for Shanghai.
The charts marked 3 then a letter are the Standard Terminal Arrivals (STARs) and the charts marked 5 and 6 and then a letter are the instrument approach charts (the last leg of an approach before landing). The lines can give you an idea of the traffic flow for arriving aircraft even if you don’t understand what’s written. The charts marked with a 9 and a letter are departure procedures (like arrivals except used by departing aircraft). I’m not quite sure what chart 10 is but is probably a holding procedure for extreme traffic loads.
For the last recording:
ATC: …671, fly heading two-five-zero, expect vectors to [incomprehensible, probably a waypoint]
SIA671: Two-five-zero heading, Singapore 671
ATC: Northwest 72, descend to LEACH, one-one-thousand, 25 knots(?), area QNH 29.82
NWA72: Ok, we’ll descend, one-one-thousand and MATCH, is that correct, Northwest 72
ATC: Northwest 72, affirm, cross MATCH at one-one-thousand
NWA72: Cross MATCH, one-one-thousand, two-niner-eight-two, Northwest 72
In most places, feet are used to indicate altitude, so one-one-thousand would be 11,000 ft. Vectors and headings are 3 digits and correspond to the degrees on a magnetic compass. QNH (or “Altimeter”) is the air pressure on the ground and is given in millibars or inches of mercury (as in this case). The capitalized words are most likely navigation “fixes” used by pilots to create routes.