My good friend Bob, who you all know as Refrigerator Magnate and definitely the King of Cool (though he calls it Kitsch), concluded a response to my previous post with ‘Over and Out’ before asking the question… “Do people really ‘sign out’ like that?” So, I thought I’d better try to answer that one.

First, lets remove any confusion. My post referred to Amateur Radio kit and the words Over and Out really belong in the world of Aviation. So, forget Ham Radio for a few minutes and lets look at how this phrase fits in when flying.

The vast majority of people will have come across this phrase in b&w films where a lone pilot struggles against the odds to bring his stricken aircraft home in the sort of storm that makes the biblical deluge seem like a walk in the park on a summers day. We hear the final instructions from the tower and our struggling hero answers “Message Received, Over and Out”. The issue with this in the real world was (note the past tense) that the message the pilot is sending is confusing. It basically says “I’m expecting a response from you but I won’t be listening to it”!

In the very early days of radio equipped aircraft and aerodromes, this phrase was used but it quickly became obvious that it was open to confusion. It became the norm to use the term Over when you were expecting a reply from the other station (Aircraft or Control tower) or Out when you did not intend to make any further transmissions and did not expect a response from the other station. In other words, these were words that used separately worked fine for the relatively quiet skies of the 1920/30’s.

Leaping forwards, in the modern world the method of opening or concluding a contact with a station is now very formalised for General Aviation (and note here that I’m giving UK examples – it will differ in the US and other countries). Approaching an Aerodrome Traffic Zone, the pilot will call along the lines of ‘Stapleford Approach this is Golf-Bravo Bravo India Lima inbound to you, requesting joining instructions’. The ground station will respond advising which runway is in use and the preferred method of joining the circuit. The Pilot will then acknowledge by repeating the details received. Subsequent calls from the pilot will indicate his position such as overhead, downwind, base-leg and finals but will not necessarily receive any response from the ground – these are courtesy calls that advise other traffic of the aircraft’s relative permission in the circuit. At any point the ground station may advise the pilot to deviate from the standard procedure to accommodate other traffic but, as this is an example of a general aviation airfield, this is unlikely as the pilot is expected to exercise his own judgement and maintain safe separation from other traffic visually. After landing the Pilot may request parking instructions and, after finding the advised spot and shutting down the engine, will turn off the radios… there is no ‘Out’! And Over is not really used either – My initial call to Stapleford would probably have received a reply along the lines of ‘Golf – India Lima, Join downwind for Runway 22, QFE* 1018’ The ground station wouldn’t waste transmission time with the word ‘Over’ – the message is clearly directed to a specified recipient and no one else is expected to respond (note the shortening of the aircraft callsign). I’ve chosen an example from General avaition because when the films using the dreaded ‘Over and Out’ were made, airline travel was in its infancy and very similar to normal General Aviation today.

I’ve mentioned QFE above… It means the barometer pressure above the ground level of the aerodrome and is essential to set the altimeter in the aircraft to show 0 feet on the ground and the correct height for the circuit around the aerodrome. It is one of many ‘Q*’ codes set up to supposedly simplify communications of which few remain in day to day use. Another that remains in regular aviation use is QSY…

I’m departing Stapleford and I’ve climbed to 1500 ft. My course is taking me towards Southend Aerodrome. As I leave the area in which I may reasonably expect Stapleford to need my information I should choose to change frequency to Southend. So I will call Stapleford and say something along the lines of ‘G-BBIL now clear, request frequency change to 128.95 for Southend’. This tells them where I’m going, that I know what frequency I should use and that I wish to change to that frequency at this point in time. They will normally reply, ‘G-BBIL, Cleared change to on-route frequency’. Note again, no Over or Out – it’s understood that I won’t be talking to them again unless I can’t raise Southend.

Now, it’s often actually OK to just say – ‘Stapleford, G-BBIL request QSY* to 128.95’… And they’ll almost certainly just acknowledge that as an Over and Out 😉 Well, actually a G-IL, cleared to QSY, which amounts to the same thing 🙂

* please look up the Q codes on Wikipedia to save my aching fingers 😉