When you listen
to ATC, at first it sounds like incomprehensible gibberish.
- get an ANR headset, especially if you don't have perfect hearing any more like
us old farts. It makes a huge difference.
- listen to ATC on a scanner or the internet, preferably at your home
airport. After a while, you realize that they are saying the same thing over
and over again.
- ATC tells you an awful lot of stuff that their rules say they have to, but
a lot of it is not very important. They bury the important stuff, kind of
like a practical joke. For example, let's say you are holding short of the
runway at Some Big Important airport, and ATC clears you to take off. It
might sound something like this:
"Cessna Alpha Bravo Charlie, cleared for
takeoff runway 29. The wind is from 310 at 5 gusting 6, there are clouds at
3600, 4900 and 8300 feet, the sky is green, there is an aircraft at 2000
thirteen miles to the southwest, I forgot my lunch, my wife locked her keys
in the car, maintain 1500, my dog needs house-training"
What do you need to remember from the above?
- cleared for takeoff, maintain 1500
everything else is unimportant. You climb through that altitude, which every
student pilot insists on doing, ATC will file a CADORs
on you which TC Enforcement will review. However, as far as we know, the
ATC's wife's car still has the keys locked in it.
All of the above
are about listening and comprehending the fast-talking ATC. Now onto you
talking on the radio. Every radio call you make will have the fundamental
form of the 4 W's:
††† Who you are talking to
††† Who you are
††† Where you are
††† What you want to do
Now, once you get good, you will realize that there are slicker ways to make
(e.g. IFR) radio calls, but the above structure is a great set of training
wheels for you learning to ride a bicycle.
Let's say you are going into Some Big Important Airport. Your radio call
might sound like:
††† Big Important Tower
††† Cessna Fox Alpha Bravo Charlie
††† 10 miles south at two thousand with
††† Inbound for full stop
About the only thing weird about the above is that you have Whiskey on board,
which is the ATIS you listened to, before you tuned in the Tower freq. That
means you know the wind, altimeter setting, runway in use, etc.
I should mention that as VFR you generally donít have to read back the entire
ATC instruction issued to you. All you have to do is acknowledge it with your
registration, and that's a really good idea when the freq (and ATC) is really
However, from flying IFR I have the habit of reading back the really
important bits - altitude and heading assignments, for example.
Let's say ATC responds to your initial radio call with:
"Cessna alpha bravo charlie, there are
in the circuit at the moment, altimeter two eight nine nine,
active is runway 95. Report over the tanks that used to be
painted silver, not above two thousand"
I would reply:
"Tanks two thousand, bravo charlie"
Remember there are 87 aircraft in the circuit, and every syllable counts.
Don't speak too quickly, otherwise you're wasting
your tenths of a second on the radio. Say it clearly with a minimum of words,
and say it once.
firstname.lastname@example.org†† Jan 2012