Side Note

Mayday, mayday! Who’s the winner of ‘Drag Race’?

Last week, a picture that circulated around in-flight attendant Facebook groups made the rounds on Twitter. User @tdobshinsky posted a printed message in which a flight attendant made a very eager request to ground control: Who was the winner of the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race?

When you’re a flight attendant, some of your favorite events can just pass you by if wi-fi or TV aren’t available. Thankfully, crew members can cut through the long flight time by having the results of an event sent directly to them. Ben Whatman, an Air New Zealand Australia in-flight service manager, was on a plane from Tokyo to Auckland, and wanted to know the Drag Race results. To solve this, he requested a message via the plane’s ACARS (aircraft communications addressing and reporting system) for the results of the show.

According to Skybrary, a flight information resource, ACARS transmits messages via radio link. Data from ground stations is received by a “Management Unit,” an on-board router that can also transmit data. It can be hooked up to a deck printer, to get the message text on physical paper. Usually, ACARS is used for more formal requests related to air traffic and such, but clearly there are exceptions.

His employers didn’t seem to mind, at least not in public: Air New Zealand responded to the tweet, with a festive “#YaasQueen.” Although Whatman did not respond to a request for comment, it seems that this practice is not too unusual. According to Tyler Dobshinsky’s tweet, pilots often request sports scores from the ground. (Dobshinsky declined a request for for comment, due to his airline’s media policy.)

Most planes do have wi-fi or TV, but there are still exceptions. On Reddit, one U.S. airline dispatcher shared his story about trying to find a score for a dedicated dad pilot, who wanted to know the results of his son’s soccer game. Sadly, his son ended up losing.

Thankfully, this was a much happier result. Aquaria even responded to Whatman, calling his request “the cutest thing ever.” Whatman replied, telling the winner: “Love you Aquaria! Was the best flight ever!”