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Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:19 am
by 747-600X
Something tells me there are some unhappy air traffic controllers out there...

https://flightaware.com/live/flight/RPA3759
https://flightaware.com/live/flight/ENY3759

:shock:

Re: Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:31 am
by AirKevin
I wonder how often those two flights actually land at the same time. From listening to LiveATC, I know that at JFK, you'll occasionally have American 15 and JetBlue 15 departing around the same time. Also American 3 and Japan Air 3 could occasionally depart around the same time. And with Dynasty 5322 having been delayed before, I can imagine there's a possibility of that flight arriving at the same time as Endeavor 5322.

Re: Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:35 am
by BWIAirport
Aren't callsigns frequently changed to alphanumeric combinations, especially in crowded airspaces? Couldn't they easily change AAL15 to AAL1G to avoid confusion with JBU15?

Re: Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:39 am
by barney captain
It happens quite regularly. Just a few days ago we were on the same frequency with a Skywest flight that had the same flight number.

Skywest/Southwest - no chance of screwing that up. ;)

Re: Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2018 1:13 am
by atcsundevil
BWIAirport wrote:
Aren't callsigns frequently changed to alphanumeric combinations, especially in crowded airspaces? Couldn't they easily change AAL15 to AAL1G to avoid confusion with JBU15?

Maybe in Europe, but not usually in the US. I occasionally see some US carriers with alphanumerics, but I think they're generally for IRROPS (although I do see one from AWI quite regularly). Similar sounding callsigns happen daily, but it doesn't really happen often enough or be problematic enough to warrant a major change. In my opinion, anyway.

747-600X wrote:
Something tells me there are some unhappy air traffic controllers out there...

https://flightaware.com/live/flight/RPA3759
https://flightaware.com/live/flight/ENY3759

:shock:

It definitely doesn't make controllers unhappy! It's just part of the job, and the recognition of similar callsigns is something they drill into you from just about the very first nonradar problem at the Academy. Like or similar callsigns on frequency actually happens pretty often. It just requires a little extra effort to ensure the correct aircraft gives the readback. Apart from the fact that I'm guessing this is probably a Flight Aware error, it's almost easier when similar callsigns are following each other — they're aware of each other the entire flight. If this example really did happen, then typically we'd print off flight strips to give to the supe to run up the chain. It's important to let air carriers know when this happens so it's not a regular issue, and they're usually very good about fixing the issue quickly.

If it's busy, sometimes it's challenging for controllers to notice similar callsigns, but if it is recognized, a quick transmission typically prevents any potential readback errors. "Brickyard 3759, be advised Envoy 3759 also on frequency." It doesn't even have to be exact matches, just similar numbers (better safe than sorry). For example, JBU569 and JBU596. Similar numbers get mixed up by pilots more often than exact numbers from what I've noticed, but that's probably because it just happens more often and with the same carrier.

The 7110 also recommends specific emphasis when making transmissions: "Envoy 3759 ENVOY, descend and maintain FL230." With N-registered aircraft, it recommends not parsing the callsign (typically N1234T would be parsed to N34T after the first transmission), and by replacing "November" with the aircraft type or manufacturer: Gulfstream 1234T and Centurion 4334T, for example. Long story short, we're pretty well prepared when similar callsigns come along.

Re: Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:20 am
by AirKevin
BWIAirport wrote:
Aren't callsigns frequently changed to alphanumeric combinations, especially in crowded airspaces? Couldn't they easily change AAL15 to AAL1G to avoid confusion with JBU15?

Who's they. American or ATC. In any event, worst case scenario, at that point, sometimes I'll hear the controller say "American 15 American" and "JetBlue 15 JetBlue." Though a few days ago, I did hear the controller say "JetBlue 751 JetBlue" and "Dynasty 5321 heavy Dynasty." Didn't think 751 and 5321 sounded anywhere near close to being similar, especially when the flight numbers were stated as seven fifty-one and five three two one respectively.

Re: Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 2:36 am
by flapsdown40
barney captain wrote:
It happens quite regularly. Just a few days ago we were on the same frequency with a Skywest flight that had the same flight number.

Skywest/Southwest - no chance of screwing that up. ;)


Ha ha ha! That reminds me of something that I witnessed years and years ago at the airport near where I live. Just to provide a time frame, this was back when America West Airlines was still flying. Their parking slot was kind of towards the south end of the airport, and the south terminal bldg didn't have jetways back then. Passengers walked across the tarmac/apron to those moveable stairs when boarding and de-boarding AWA flights. Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, parked at the north end of the field, where the terminal bldg had a bunch of jetways.

So I was standing on the observation platform of the south terminal bldg with 4 or 5 other people, and it was obvious 2 of those people were husband and wife, waiting to pick up their daughter. So an America West 737 pulled into its parking spot and shutdown. Two mobile stair trucks drove out to the plane; one for the front cabin door; the other for the rear cabin door. The cabin doors opened and pax began filing down the stairs to head for the terminal bldg. As a side note, isn't it amazing how many people come walking off a 737 that had a full cabin? It's a wonder they all fit in that plane. And this was back in the day when AWA (I think "Cactus" was their ATC callsign) was flying 737-300's or -400's; something like that. Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong on the version of 737 that Cactus flew.

From there, the dialog between the girl's parents went something like this:

the dad (d): Keep your eyes open for "Mary."
the mom (m): ok
d: is that her, wearing the green sweater and carrying her purse and carry-on bag?
m: uh, no it's not.
d: ok

So this back and forth banter of, "Is that her?" "No" went on until everybody had de-boarded the plane. No "Mary" in sight.

d: Did she say she was flying in on America West or Southwest? (He sounded a tad annoyed by this point.)
m: Um Um Um I I I really don't know. I I I I can't remember which one.
d: Well, she must have flown in on Southwest then, because she wasn't on this flight! (The dad was really annoyed at this point; I could tell by his voice.)
d: Let's go drive to the Southwest terminal and see if she's there.

So off they went, in search of their daughter at the Southwest terminal. This was back in the day when cellphones weren't nearly as common as they are today; just having a cellphone back then was kind of a status thing. So they weren't even able to call "Mary" to see if she was at the north terminal.

Sorry for this rambling post, but just thought it was funny in regards to the "sound-alike" callsigns or airline names that occur from time to time in the aviation world.

Re: Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 3:46 am
by NYPECO
Reminds me of a few years ago, Delta 1328 and Southwest 3828 were lined up on separate intersecting runways at Midway. Tower cleared 3828 for takeoff, but 1328 thought takeoff clearance was for them. Both aircraft started rolling and tower had to yell at them to stop before they would collide. ATC recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b26NcJCLZl4

Re: Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 4:24 am
by loranfair
A similar situation led to any aircraft carrying the US president being Air Force 1 (or Marine, Army, or Navy 1). Columbine !!, President Eisenhower's Connie, tail number 48-0610 was operating near DC using call sign Air Force 610 while Eastern 610 was operating in the area. Fortunately, the only problem was confused controllers, but someone realized that a unique call sign might help.

Re: Identical flight numbers on same routes at same times

Posted: Fri Sep 07, 2018 4:35 am
by flyguy84
747-600X wrote:
Something tells me there are some unhappy air traffic controllers out there...

https://flightaware.com/live/flight/RPA3759
https://flightaware.com/live/flight/ENY3759

:shock:

This is a flight aware error. The flight probably shifts back and forth from Envoy and Republic. It’s a data error.