Ok, time for my timezone rant…
First though, do you know how you can tell if someone is a pilot?
They will tell you!
Oldie but goodie I know…
But as a pilot you get really good at a couple of seemingly inane subjects, weather (for obvious reasons) and time zones (for less obvious reasons). Today, let’s talk about time zones…it has become one of my quirks!
I will apologize now, because what I am about to tell you, once you know, you can never “not know.” And you may be forever bothered by knowing.
You may be asking yourself what am I talking about?
The vast majority of people, companies, media, you name it get time zones wrong.
Huh? What is so hard to figure out??
The first challenge is “Daylight” time relative to “Standard” time. I am sharing this today because I read a Sports Illustrated (maybe you have heard of them?!) article yesterday that inadvertently listed the time of the Eagles vs. Patriots NFL game this Sunday as 4:25pm EST. It won’t be EST (Eastern Standard Time) until November 5th, 2023. It is 4:25 EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) this weekend.
And this was a mistake made by Sports Illustrated!! I know, who cares right?? But, I lead a global coaching organization and the team is often scheduling calls in a variety of locations around the world… so believe me, WE DO!!
Further adding to the fascination, there are 24 hours in a day, so obviously there must be 24 time zones right?? Nope! Depending on who you ask there are 37 or 38 different time zones! Now factor in locations that observe Daylight Savings Time, versus not observing it, and it all gets very confusing! So how could there be 38 not 24? Well, some places don’t really honor the clock the rest of us use! I’m talking to you Sydney Ryan and Cindy Roma. You see Sydney and Cindy live in Newfoundland, Canada, and they don’t do time like we do…
Right now it is 11:16am EDT in West Chester, Pennsylvania but it is 12:46pm NDT, or Newfoundland Daylight time in beautiful St. Johns, Newfoundland! Yep, they don’t follow our clock. Crazy, I know but true. There are areas of the world that are 15 minutes off standard as well.
It gets even more confusing in London…cheeky monkeys that they are. London is the home to the world standard of time, Greenwich Mean Time, also known as UTC or Universal Time Coordinated, or Zulu time (pilots that one is for you). So, all of the time zones can be expressed as “differences” from UTC or GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). For half of the year London is on GMT and then to confuse the hell out of everyone they switch to a modified time in the summer, but instead of calling it “Daylight” time and using the ‘D’ like we do in most of the world (EDT, NDT, CDT, etc.) they call it British Summer Time, or BST. Yep, they use an ‘S’ which everywhere else means standard but in London means Summer, or Daylight. Well played, U.K., well played.
Wow, who knew this was so complicated…and fascinating!
We are not without our own quirks in the U.S. There are states and counties in the U.S. that just thumb their nose at Daylight Savings time, which as you can imagine causes some issues. Take Arizona for example. It’s always one time there – MST or Mountain Standard Time. So for half the year it is the same time in Denver, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City, and the other half the year Phoenix is the same time as PDT, or Pacific Daylight time. The most missed flights by passengers anywhere in the U.S. every year is in Phoenix on the first Sunday in November. Passengers “fall back” their clocks by accident, and think they have an extra hour in Phoenix. Oops, missed my flight!
The islands are the same, San Juan, PR and the U.S. Virgin Islands operate on AST or Atlantic Standard Time, all the time. No ADT in the islands.
Now to the pilot part, why does all this matter to pilots? As you can imagine, flying 400-600 mph across all these crazy time zones, the pilot would be adjusting their clock constantly! So aviation has standardized on UTC or Zulu time, and you simply adjust off of UTC where you are. Summertime, EDT, on the east coast is UTC -4, Los Angeles in February is Pacific Standard time, or UTC -8, etc. Weather forecasts, hold times, departure clearance times, etc. are mostly all given in UTC, and the pilot does their own calculations to local time which adds and subtracts from the confusion, but at least everyone knows the “standard” it is based on, and if you calculate wrong that is on you not the air traffic controller!
So, wow, crazy huh?? Now you know and next time someone says, “Hey, do you know what time it is?” the best answer is, “that is a really good question!!”
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