Back in the world of the mainstream airlines, I discovered one (and possibly only one) benefit of flying with United – “channel 9”.
On my flight from Chicago to Vancouver I was able to plug my earphones into channel 9 and follow all the communications between the cockpit and air traffic control. Listening to the communications on the ground at Chicago was certainly an eye-opener – whilst the airport didn’t look so busy, there was never a break in the communications are all the aircraft were shuffled from the terminals to the runways. Once we were cruising, the communications were of course rather thin, but on final approach things livened up again. Something I particularly noticed was that every turn or deceleration of the aircraft was in response to instructions from the tower – a fact that I had never really thought about before.