Talk like Sully

Its time we learn to communicate. Lets email (and talk)  like Sully.


When advised to return to LGA, Capt. Chesley B. Sullenberger III  simply answered “UNABLE” and got on with his business of saving 155 lives.

I recommend we use Pilot Radio Communications Phraseology and Techniques for our business communications. It may not sound friendly or polite, but it lands millions of planes a year successfully. So, entrepreneurs, investors, managers, employees, customers, salesmen, consultants, accountants and even lawyers – listen up!

Use these general rules from the world of aviation:

  1. Phraseology is the mark of a professional … reviewed from time to time to sharpen your communication skills.
  2. Listen before you transmit.
  3. Think before keying your transmitter. Know what you want to say and if it is lengthy; jot it down.
  4. Use figures in round numbers

I suggest using these key phrases. I have modified the definitions slightly to be applicable to us non-pilots:


ACKNOWLEDGE- Let me know that you have received my message

ADVISE INTENTIONS- Tell me what you plan to do.

OUT- The conversation is ended and no response is expected.

OVER- My transmission is ended; I expect a response.

ROGER- I have received all of your last transmission. It should not be used to answer a question requiring a yes or a no answer.

HOW DO YOU HEAR ME?- A question relating to the quality of the communication or to determine how
well the communication is being received.

SAY AGAIN- Used to request a repeat of the last communication . Usually specifies communication or portion thereof not understood

I SAY AGAIN- The message will be repeated.

CORRECTION- An error has been made in the communication and the correct version follows.

STAND BY- Communication pause  to attend to other duties of a higher priority.



THAT IS CORRECT– The understanding you have is right.

NEGATIVE– “No,” or “permission not granted,” or “that is not correct.


WILCO– I have received your message, understand it, and will comply with it.

UNABLE– Indicates inability to comply with a specific instruction or request.


CLEARED AS FILED–  Proceed in accordance with the plan

ABORT– To terminate a preplanned maneuver

DELAY INDEFINITE (REASON IF KNOWN)– Used when an accurate estimate of the delay time and the reason for the delay cannot immediately be determined

RESUME OWN NAVIGATION– Used to advise a pilot to resume his/her own responsibility.

VERIFY– Request confirmation of information; e.g., “verify assigned altitude.”

WHEN ABLE– When used in conjunction with instructions, gives the latitude to delay compliance until a condition or event has been reconciled. Unlike “pilot discretion,” when instructions are prefaced “when able,” the pilot is expected
to seek the first opportunity to comply.


ON COURSE – Used to indicate that an aircraft is established on the route centerline.

OFF COURSE– A position fix is reported or is observed at a point not on the approved

FINAL– On the final approach,  course is aligned with a landing area.

REPORT– Used to instruct pilots to advise of specified(real time)  information; e.g., “Report passing Las Vegas


EXPEDITE– Compliance is required to avoid the development of an imminent situation.

IMMEDIATELY– Compliance is required to avoid an imminent situation.

EMERGENCY– A distress or an urgency condition


Note the flow and use it to get things done in the world of business (but keep things in perspective – Sully never used Emergency or Mayday):

Expedite -> Immediately -> Emergency -> Mayday

Please note that I modified the definitions slightly. The original is here.

Finally, so as not to confuse “Talk like Sully” text (aka TLS) from other text in the body of the email, it is suggested to use CAPS. Since ALL CAPS is considered “yelling”, I suggest prefacing the terms with “*” (conviniently located on the number pad to the left of your cup of coffee).

Now back to the usual topics of this blog – airfare savings, frequent flyer info and some New England vacation ideas.
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Splurge for a One Day Lounge Pass

Executive summary – if your plans involve waiting time at the airport, access to the airport lounges is relatively inexpensive. Plan ahead – there is some research involved.

There are six ways to get access to the airport lounge:

  1. Fly business class
  2. Have the right kind of credit card (e.g. Amex Platinum, Citi Chairman)
  3. Have super elite status on some Frequent flyer programs (like ElAl) or Gold on Star Alliance/OneWorld and have a boarding pass for the same day from the right (or partner) airline.
  4. Buy an annual pass ($250 – $400 and be ready to be very loyal to one carrier)
  5. Be 82 years old and tell them you are flying for the first time in 20 years for your Grandson’s Bar Mitzvah
  6. Read the rest of this post

What you get in a lounge – Food, Drinks, Coffee, Wifi, quiet place to sit, more food, more drinks and in a select few – showers. In Dubai, you get a swimming pool. FYI.

What you avoid:


Its actually pretty simple and inexpensive. Buy a day pass. There are a few ways to do that (follow the links to turn this into a full fledged research project):

  1. Buy a day pass from one of the airlines – AA ($50), UA ($50) or DL ($30). All have lounges at LAX, SFO, JFK, EWR. Continental does not offer a day pass.
  2. Buy a day pass from for 20 GBP. But no lounge at JFK!
  3. Join Priority Pass. There is a $99 annual fee and $27 per visit. Access to lounges of multiple carriers.

Now it gets complicated – there are lots of differences. Here goes:

  • Kids under 18 are free at some lounges and under 21 are not allowed at others
  • Some allow a single entry, others allow entry at all lounges while in transit (a very good idea if you are flying to Hawaii)
  • Some lounges in Europe are after passport control – so you will not be able to use them if you are an arriving passenger
  • Only AA has a lounge at SJC

And in general:

  • Best to research and buy online
  • Make sure lounge is in or near terminal you want to be in. You don’t have to fly their airline to use a day pass but you may end up spending your time hiking around the airport (not to mention multiple security checks)
  • Airlines are closing down lounges as part of the “Very bad time to be in the airline industry” program.

And now the bad news – the situation at Ben Gurion is bleak. The King David (ElAl) lounge does not offer day passes and does not work with any of the above partners. The Dan Lounges offer day passes (100 NIS) – but are very crowded (as in – standing room only – whats the point?). Members can bring friends and one should not miss the spectacle of the masses congregating outside the doors “making friends”. Hang out at McDonalds, instead.

Treat yourself to a splurge and let me know what you discovered and where I steered you wrong. I will be in the Carmel Forest Spa at the King David Lounge.

TLV2JFK covers the issue of what to do in the airport before flights – we like lounges and we discuss how codeshares turn into lounge shares. In SFO, there is enough to do at the airport and you might just find yourself sleeping on a floor at JFK.

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