"What's our vector, victor?"

Jason
  • "What's our vector, victor?" Jason

    In Airplane there is a famous sequence:

    Roger Murdock: Flight 2-0-9'er, you are cleared for take-off.
    Captain Oveur: Roger!
    Roger Murdock: Huh?
    Tower voice: L.A. departure frequency, 123 point 9'er.
    Captain Oveur: Roger!
    Roger Murdock: Huh?
    Victor Basta: Request vector, over.
    Captain Oveur: What?
    Tower voice: Flight 2-0-9'er cleared for vector 324.
    Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.
    Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?
    Tower voice: Tower's radio clearance, over!
    Captain Oveur: That's Clarence Oveur. Over.
    

    Regardless of the silly dialogue, when the captain asks "What's our vector, Victor?" what is he referring to? Does the scene refer to actual issues that one might discuss with air traffic control?

  • A vector refers to a heading given by Air Traffic Control.

    If you want to start learn aviation phraseology, there might be better sources out there:

    There is some resemblance of reality but a number of things are mixed up.

    Instead of replying with a 'roger', safety critical information is read back. This allows ATC to confirm that the instruction is clearly understood and if necessary they can correct errors.

    The scene describes a take-off. In normal life, and assuming this is controlled airspace, the crew will like to know what to do after getting airborne before they start their take-off roll. There is no point in taking off if you are not allowed to fly in the airspace above the airport. That is why the departure clearance (here "vector 324") will be issued first. Vectors will be given as "heading". Very often the departure clearance is a standard route instead of vectors. (e.g. LEKKO two alpha departure). On large airports, departure clearances are given on a separate frequency to avoid congestion on the ground and tower frequencies.


    Departure clearance

    Tower: Fiction two zeroh niner, after departure, turn right heading three two four, climb and maintain six thousand feet.

    FIC209: After departure heading three two five, 6000 ft.


    Take-off clearance

    Tower: Fiction two zeroh niner, runway 27, cleared for take-off

    FIC209: Cleared for take-off runway 27, Fiction two zeroh niner.


    Hand over to departure frequency

    Tower: Fiction two zeroh niner, contact departure one two three decimal niner

    FIC209: Departure on one two three dicimal niner, Fiction two zeroh niner.

    FIC209: L.A. departure, Fiction two zeroh niner one thousand climbing six thousand.

    Departure: Fiction two zeroh niner, radar contact, maintain present heading, climb and maintain ten thousand

    FIC209: climbing ten thousand, Fiction two zeroh niner

    Note that, when on the tower frequency, the words "take-off", and "cleared" are only used when the actual take-off clearance is given. This is to avoid (catastrophic) confusion. Since "After take-off" is cannot be used, instead the phrase "after departure" or "when airborne" is used.

  • A vector in general is defined by a position and a direction. For an airplane the position is the actual airplane and the direction is expressed as a bearing from magnetic north on a horizontal plane. In short, it is the direction you are flying or directed to be flying.

    Example:

    "Jetlink 1234, Cleveland Center, turn left heading 250 for traffic"

    In which case the vector assigned by ATC is 250 degrees, or 20 degrees south of magnetic west.

    To answer the question "What is our vector, Victor?", Victor should state the heading they have been assigned to fly from ATC.

    An alternative question would be "What is your heading?" and then you would answer with the direction you are currently flying.

  • I'm a little late to this question, but want to add a little for people who aren't familiar with an aircraft heading.

    As you said, the dialog is intentionally silly (and not entirely accurate) but most of what they are saying is loosely based on reality.

    The short version is that a vector is where an air traffic controller is talking to an aircraft that is visible on radar, they know where they want the aircraft to go, and they assign a direction for them to fly in order to get there. This gets the aircraft where they want them without the aircraft needing to navigate on their own, and often allows them to take a "shortcut".


    The longer version:

    A vector as defined in the Pilot Controller Glossary is:

    VECTOR - A heading issued to an aircraft to provide navigational guidance by radar.

    (See ICAO term RADAR VECTORING.)

    Of course, that leads to:

    RADAR VECTORING [ICAO] - Provision of navigational guidance to aircraft in the form of specific headings, based on the use of radar.

    Which then leads to:

    HEADING - ...

    Wait a minute... They don't define it! Okay, for those people that aren't pilots, a heading is the direction that an aircraft is flying. They are three digit numbers corresponding to the 360 degrees in a circle wrapped around a compass rose:

    Compass Rose

    While technically a heading is to the nearest degree, ATC will only ever assign headings rounded to the nearest 5 degrees. So, after North, the usable headings would be: 005, 010, 015, 020, etc. all the way around until you get to 355 and then 360. After that it wraps around again.

    So if air traffic control wants you to fly North East, they will tell you to fly a heading of 045, South would be 180, and North would be 360 (fun fact, 000 is not a valid heading).

    When ATC assigns a heading for a vector, they always have to be cognizant of what happens if the radio in the aircraft fails. Obviously they wouldn't expect you to fly straight ahead in that direction forever, so they include the end result of the vector in the clearance. Usually they also include the direction of the turn for those pilots that aren't very good determining directions. ;-) For example, they could say:

    N1234, Turn left, fly heading 345, radar vectors to Fort Lauderdale International Airport.

    In this case, they expect the aircraft to start a left turn, roll out on a heading of 345 and continue to fly straight until they get another clearance. If the radio failed, they would turn direct to the airport.

    Sometimes they want the aircraft to fly a heading until they intercept a published portion of an instrument procedure. In this case, they would say something like:

    N1234, fly heading 045 to intercept <the procedure>

    The airplane would then fly the assigned heading until they get to the procedure and then fly the published procedure!

Related questions and answers
  • In Airplane there is a famous sequence: Roger Murdock: Flight 2-0-9'er, you are cleared for take-off. Captain Oveur: Roger! Roger Murdock: Huh? Tower voice: L.A. departure frequency, 123 point 9'er. Captain Oveur: Roger! Roger Murdock: Huh? Victor Basta: Request vector, over. Captain Oveur: What? Tower voice: Flight 2-0-9'er cleared for vector 324. Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence. Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor? Tower voice: Tower's radio clearance, over! Captain Oveur: That's Clarence Oveur. Over. Regardless of the silly dialogue, when the captain asks

  • REGHI UN480 ETIKI NATD DOVEY LACKS BERGH L454 OWENZ CAMRN CAMRN4 I asked a similar question in the past. This is what I want to know: What are the reasons which can cause a commercial flight to change its path mid-route? How it is planed and executed? I am sure the captain is the final authority on this, but who else is informed? 1Route Source: FlightAware. P.S.: I could not understand...Looking at the paths of the same flight on two different days, I noticed they flew very different paths. Short Path:1 YAY N184B TOPPS ENE PARCH1 Long Path:1 NIBAX G462 TUMAK UL602 ORSOL UL602

  • Let's say that we're directly west of CATLI and have been cleared direct CATLI for the RNAV approach. We load the approach into the GNS430 and proceed direct the fix. After crossing CATLI outbound for the hold-in-lieu-of-procedure-turn, we realize that we want to stay in the hold for a few more turns. How do I tell the 430 that I don't want it to sequence to ZAMGI upon arrival at CATLI?

  • Hi – Here’s the scenario: The flight starts night VFR, with broken ceiling at destination (class C airspace) and expected to improve according to the pre-flight abbreviated briefing. I'm IFR...): a). do I ask approach directly for the IFR clearance, and what is the officially sanctionned phraseology? Also: do I have to cancel IFR when Im on the ground/see the runway i.e. is the clearance... on the ground/view of rwy)? c). other? BTW: I did read How do you request a "pop up" IFR clearance? . In my scenario I have the time to call FSS, there is no emergency, I'm on flight following

  • On SIGWX charts, it shows pairs of symbols with, say, */** or **/**. I know what the symbols mean on either side, but why are there two, and what does the slash indicate? Would love good resources that explain more, too. Example chart here, from the FAA sample questions (caution: 37 MB download), Figure 20, over Southern California. Im also interested in knowing what a dot with R underneath means.

  • I'm from Brazil, and here we use the West/East rule, so we use an odd flight level when we fly between 0/360 - 179, and when we fly between 180 - 359 we fly in an even flight level. But what should you do in other countries? Where I can find those rules? I've heard that in Europe it's totally different, and that in some countries in Asia they use meters, instead of feet. Where can I find this information?

  • As a private pilot, I am familiar with tower, ground, approach and departure, but I am aware that there are other entities like clearance, pushback and center. If I were flying a commercial airliner, what is a complete, ordered list of entities (and a brief description of roles) I might talk with over a flight between two class B airports?

  • that in the current design, there's a great deal of space wasted over the passengers' heads. And that many of us passengers already do our best to sleep through flights. Hence my question: Is there any reason... and those who really need to work during the flight). The enclosed space would inherently reduce some of the risks of passengers being thrown around in turbulence or an emergency landing; safety belts (or cargo restraint webbing? I'm not sure I'm joking) could handle the remaining risk. No, I don't really think it would be commercially viable ... but I'm wondering whether folks who actually Know

  • I was once (like ten years ago) on a transpacific flight with Northwest from KIX/RJBB to KDTW on a Boeing 747 and our flight as delayed at the gate for about an hour because of some issue with a "floating horizon". Is that a malfunction with the attitude indicator? What exactly went wrong? It sounded like they fixed it by swapping out a component, maybe the instrument itself?

  • Suppose you're the co-pilot on a flight and during pre-flight, talking to the captain, you smell alcohol. Although you didn't see him drinking and the smell isn't strong, what does regulation stipulate you should do?

Data information