Friday, September 7, 2012

The Importance of Proper and Consistent Phraseology

Ever wonder where old aviation
headsets go to die? Race tracks!
Imagine you hear the following phrase:

Five. Yellow. Stationary.

or this one...

Turn five. Standing.

The former phrase is standard phraseology at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in Ohio. The later is standard phraseology for tracks and corner workers in Northern California (NorCal). Both mean the same thing. Both phrases mean the corner worker in the worker stand at turn 5 is holding a yellow flag up, not waving it, just holding it up. If you want to know why a corner worker would hold up a yellow flag, that would be the subject of another post ;)

The problem is, if you are from NorCal like me and you hear "Five. Yellow. Stationary." You would assume the turn number wasn't called (or the transmission was broken) and the call is actually telling you car number 5, which is yellow, is not moving. Because that would be a normal call in NorCal. Our calls about cars are always: car number, car color, followed by car location/condition. In this particular situation, we had just received a call about a yellow car number 5 that was slow on the track and, therefore, likely to stop on track. See how easy it is for assumptions to snowball, especially when not using proper (or consistent) phraseology?

In amateur auto racing, there is no AIM or Pilot/Controller Glossary (or in my case Corner Worker/Controller Glossary). Here I don't have the protections or simplicity afforded by a standard phraseology and method of communications that I enjoy when flying. This little experience certainly reminded me how important it is to use proper phraseology.

Here's another interesting phrase I'm learning at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course...


Which I have finally figured out means, the last car on the course has passed by turn 8.  Go figure ;)

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