Henry and Heinz

(translated by Juergen Matthes)


Rhein Control, Karlsruhe, night shift.

Boeing 727 Delta Airlines
Boeing 727 Delta Airlines

Night shift at an area control center, here in Karlsruhe controlling the upper airspace, is quite hectic at first, then extremely boring (for hours), and then towards morning increasingly hectic again. The shift starts shortly after 9:00 p.m., until midnight you have to concentrate quite a bit and perform top level. After midnight then – this is when the boring stretch starts – you have to fill your time somehow.

Heinz is quite a normal guy, but Henry – one of the oddest characters I’ve ever known! He is enthusiastically interested in Buddhism, esoterica, foot-reflex-massages, acupressure, therapeutic fasting, all kinds of „weird“ things. After a full fast lasting 2 weeks he passed out in the tramway. His statement to the doctor arriving at a hospital: „Sorry, total loss of energy.“ So that’s Henry!

Heinz and Henry, together at night-shift. They are responsible for the west sectors of Rhein Control, they brought along a chess game and had it set up at their control-board. The first moves went smooth and uninterrupted, but then Clipper (Pan Am) 163 called in, a flight from Vienna to New York.

Every controller recognizes gossipy pilots at once, no one knows how, but it is true! Henry complains: „Another one who wants to blabber our ears off!“ Heinz says: „Let me handle this.“ The following conversation starts:

Clipper 163: „Any shortcut for us?“
Heinz: „We’ll check, call you back.“
Clipper 163: „Night shift, eh, are you very busy?“
Henry (to Heinz): „It’s your turn, why doesn’t he shut up!“
Heinz: „Clipper 163, a 747, right?“
Clipper 163: „Yup, brand new!“
Heinz: „Are you hauling freight or passengers?“
Clipper 163: „Passengers.“
Henry (to Heinz): „It’s your turn, take a move, we don’t have all night!“
Heinz (to Henry): „Yes, in a moment.“
Heinz (to Clipper): „How many do you have on board today?“
Clipper 163: „264 passengers.“
Heinz (to Clipper): „And what are their names?“

Until Clipper 163 was handed off to Maastricht (the next guys), the frequency was quiet and peaceful and Heinz and Henry could continue their chess game without further interruptions!


Rhein Control, Karlsruhe.

Nattenheim sector, Henry is coordinator controller, Heinz is working as radar controller. A racetrack in the Nattenheim sector is the UB6, the Upper Blue 6, a route from Nattenheim VOR in the western part of the sector via Ramstein to Karlsruhe and further on to Munich or Rattenberg. Flying westbound is Sabena 125 at flightlevel 350 from Zagreb to Brussels.

On Heinz’s frequency Speedbird 66 (British Airways) calls in at flightlevel 330 from London to Dubai.

Speedbird 66: “Rhein Control, good morning, Speedbird 66, flightlevel 330.”
Heinz: “Speedbird 66, radar contact.”

After a while Henry points to the control-strip of Sabena 125. Henry had coordinated a lower level for her with Maastricht (the next guys), since she wanted to land at Brussels and therefore had to be handed off to Maastricht at a lower level. This new level he had marked down on the control-strip and was pointing towards it. Heinz only nodded briefly.

Heinz: “Sabena 125, descent to flightlevel 280, expedite your descend.”
Sabena 125: “Descending to flightlevel 280, expediting, Sabena 125.”

Now the Sabena aircraft had to descend through flightlevel 330 of Speedbird, who was approaching her head-on. If she would expedite, as instructed, this would work out without risk.

But – Sabena did not expedite, and they kept coming closer and closer!

Heinz: “Sabena 125, expedite your descend, rate 2500 ft per minute or more, due to noise abatement!”
Sabena 125: “Noise abatement?? We are more than 6 kilometers high, how should that work?”
Heinz: “What do you think, the noise it would make, if you hit the opposite Speedbird!”

Sabena 125 was dropping like a rock down to flightlevel 280.

Henry and Heinz