Say It Right! Radio Communications In Today’s Airspace (2008)
Tip: When using flight following or on an IFR flight plan, when changing to another controller’s frequency, do not use “With you at…”, or “Checkin in…”. Simply state your full aircraft identification and your altitude. If climbing or descending, state your final altitude. e.g. “Centurion 59049 eight thousand five hundred. Climbing one zero, ten thousand, five hundred.”
The only exception would be when a controller is covering two sectors and tells you, “Change to my frequency 1nn.nn”. In that case, switch frequencies and then say “With you on 1nn.nn”.
From the AIM 5-3-2
1. (Name) CENTER, (aircraft identification), LEVEL (altitude or flight level).
2. (Name) CENTER, (aircraft identification), LEAVING (exact altitude or flight level), CLIMBING TO OR DESCENDING TO (altitude of flight level).
NOTE−Exact altitude or flight level means to the nearest 100 foot increment. Exact altitude or flight level reports on initial contact provide ATC with information required prior to using Mode C altitude information for separation purposes.
Listen Up, Read Back, Fly Right – FAA Safety Video
The video emphasized using standard phraseology, but I noted that the pilot says “Descending to two thousand”. In general, saying “for” and “to” are to be avoided since they can be confused with “four” and “two”. In practice, lots of pilots do it so ATC is probably used to it. If a Cessna is cleared to climb to 4,500, the controller won’t think that they think they are supposed to climb to 44,500 if they say “for four thousand five hundred”.
If you think you’ve been forgotten, it doesn’t hurt to check. If you are holding short of a runway, and it seems like a long time has passed, chances are the controller hasn’t forgotten you but is on the phone with departure or is otherwise occupied. However, if you are told to “line up and wait” and are lined up on the runway, you should be especially vigilant. Definitely let the controller know if someone else has been cleared to land.
At our Class D airport one of the student pilots approached the airport at 5:15 when there was a lot of traffic in the pattern. He was told to fly to a nearby VOR. After about ten minutes of flying around the VOR, he contacted the tower and the acknowledged that they had forgotten about him.
VFR Communications Training Video from Sporty’s Pilot Shop
Tip: Fly runway heading means the magnetic heading of the runway, not the runway number. At Lunken the runway is 21 but if told to fly runway heading you should fly a heading of 206°—not 210°. Do not apply drift correction.
PILOT ATC COMMUNICATIONS VFR
If you are already a pilot, this is stuff you know. However, if you are new to flying, this is a good one-hour introduction to ATC. I like the way the flight instructor and controller explain how to do things the right way.
Tip: Four Ws
Who are you calling. Who are we. Where are we. What do we want.
Tip: Read back all runway hold short instructions.
Tip: Read back commands. Acknowledge information.
The only thing I disagree with in his presentation is that when he approached an uncontrolled airport he’ll say “Any traffic please advise.” Unless you are on an IFR flight plan and are being dumped into the airport environment from a short distance away, you really should be monitoring the CTAF from far away that you know what the traffic is at the airport. If for some reason, you are on an IFR flight plan, and can’t monitor the traffic, then it would be appropriate to ask for traffic. In that case, when you give your position, make sure you use locations that a VFR pilot would understand. They probably don’t know where the Final Approach Fix is or any of the GPS waypoints on the approach.
PILOT ATC COMMUNICATIONS IFR
Here’s another classroom lesson from Ryan Anderson and a controller
Tip: ARTCC sectors are defined by areas on the ground and also by altitude. So you can have Tower, Approach, Center Both Low Altitude and High Altitude ATC in one geographic area.
Tip: When being turned to the final approach course, you will always get Position, Heading, Altitude, Cleared for Approach, Runway
Tip: When you hit the outer marker, you’ll be told to contact the tower.
Tip: Do not confuse the lightning bolt/arrow with the maltese cross. The lightning bolt is the glide slope intercept, the maltese cross is always the FAF.
Now that you understand how to make radio calls, here’s few flights to show you how it’s done.
Ground School: Landing at Class C Airport | ATC Radio Communications
Tip: When making first contact to a really busy controller, just give your callsign. They’ll get back to you when they have time to handle your request.
One nit: §91.105 Flight crewmembers at stations. (b) Each required flight crewmember of a U.S.-registered civil aircraft shall, during takeoff and landing, keep his or her shoulder harness fastened while at his or her assigned duty station.
Ground School: Departing Class C Airport | Radio ATC Communications
Here’s Stevo ratcheting it up a notch in his TBM 850 into Tampa. Not a whole lot different from landing at any other airport.
Flight VLOG – Military Airspace / Class B Airport Arrival
Class Bravo Airspace Departure – VFR Radio Communications by MzeroA Flight Training
Tip: In a really busy airport, give them a cold call first—just Clearance Delivery and your callsign.
Tip: When you call for clearance give them your callsign, aircraft type, location, destination, cruising altitude, and ATIS.
Unlike other CFIs on this page, he uses lots more verbiage when reading back his clearance than they recommend. After listening to the other pilots, you might have some comments on his performance—lots of little mistakes. It’s a lot like I imagine how I’d perform in a Class B airspace.
Non-Towered Airport Operations
Gary Wing has lots of good videos, in this one he lands in Thermal, California.
Tip: Other traffic can’t read your tail number but then can see your colors. He uses Green Cub when making his calls.
Tip: Do some s-turns to check for traffic approaching you from the left or right—especially if you are flying a slow trainer-type aircraft.