Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

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There you are, sitting in your airplane, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere—maybe even miles from nowhere—it’s raining, and you’re reading back your clearance to the controller.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, now the voice in your headsets says, “Clearance void if not off by 13:30 UTC.”

The clock on your instrument panel (which is made by the same company that makes the “Close Doors” button on elevators—they don’t work, either) says 8:43.

What are you supposed to do?

Because of the confusion many pilots experience with time, whether it’s Coordinated Universal Time, Zulu Time, or Greenwich Mean Time, I suggest we begin a field evaluation of my new system called Measuring Your Time In Multiple Envelopes. The expected acronym—MYTIME—is designed to work everywhere.

To understand why we need take such a dramatic step, a Brief History of Time is in order.

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