But before I could get into the air, I had to speak that Arabic numeral thing… the new language. He reached over, clicked on the radio, and twiddled a knob. We listened to a string of babbled numbers coming from the speaker. (The ATIS, automated terminal Information Service, telling us airport stuff.) And then he handed me the microphone. “Call Ground Control. Say who you are (aircraft ident), where you are (location on field), with the ATIS, and your intentions (what you want to do).” I took the mic numbly, looked at it, put it to my lips, and said “Hanscom Ground, November four seven 22 Foxtrot at the terminal, taxi for takeoff with the ATIS.” Oh believe me I didn’t do it like that right away – we had sat parked and practicing that, running through the script for at least 15 times before I could get it right. Stiff with fright, I wheezed and gasped out the transmission – and sank back in my seat. “Good,” he said, “Now let’s change the frequency off the ATIS to transmit, and try again.” I could have hit him. So I gasped it all out again, and listened for Ground to talk back. None of which I could unravel.
Later back at the flight school counter, the guys’ eyes turned to me as we walked back in. “Wow” they said… “You sure sound sexy on the radio.” (Tower transmissions were loud-speakered in at the school.) Startled, baggy eyes looked me, and I at him. “That was a voice gripped by terror” he said. And chortled. And I laughed. Weakly.