MANILA, Philippines – Love is in the airwaves, literally.
Besides “10-4,” exchanges of “1-4-3” fill the restricted aviation radio frequency on days like this as airline pilots deviate from strict transmission protocol to pursue the hearts of female air traffic controllers (ATCs).
Blips of mushy lines that range from the flattering to the unbelievable have become a regular part of radio communication between airline pilots and female ATCs at the Air Transportation Office’s Manila Control Tower, where a third of the 30-member controller team are women.
“There’s this pilot who flies from Los Angeles, a direct flight that takes eight to 12 hours, and that arrives early morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. He will say after I clear him for landing: “Oh, it’s so nice to hear a lady’s voice after a long flight. It’s like coming home to my mistress rather than to my wife,” veteran ATC Marlene Singson told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.
“I have received that comment several times. That’s how I’ve memorized it. I often think, should I answer him? But I just say roger,” she said, chuckling at the recollection.
Valentine’s Day or not, pickup lines often make it to official radio transmission even while such romantic quips are supposed to be barred under radio regulations, Singson said.
Pilots often seize the chance to make their sweet advances during the few minutes they are in touch with female ATCs to get clearance for takeoffs and landings at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), said Singson who will mark her 24th year in service next month.
“We are not allowed actually to talk about such things over the frequency. So you let it pass… It’s what you call superfluous transmission, where lines outside the standard phraseology is transmitted,” said Singson.
She said pilots of regional flights, those with frequent trips from Asian cities to Manila, transmitted the sweet nothings most often and at times would even go beyond the radio to express their romantic intent.
“Sometimes pilots with different [accents], when we ask them if they understood our transmission and we say “how do you read me?” They’d say: “You’re coming in sweet and lovely,” she said.
“When they have flights to Manila, they send us orchids, they send flowers. So if they are here twice a week, we get flowers and chocolates twice a week,” she continued.
Some would even ask ATCs out on times they were to spend the night in Manila.
But has anyone said “roger” to the advances?
“Some agree to simple dinners. The pilots pass by the tower then take the ATCs to dinner. You can’t avoid that relationships would develop because they become close,” she said.