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Say Again, Please: Guide to Radio…

Say Again, Please: Guide to Radio Communications (Focus Series)

by Bob Gardner

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As a student pilot, I can attest to how overwhelming it can be to communicate over the radio. I fly out of a towered airport, so on top of completing my checklist, getting information from ATIS, considering where I will be flying to, trying to remember to keep my right hand on the throttle at all times, I also have to think about how to communicate with ground and tower, repeat back what they say, and then execute what they've approved for me to do. I'm sure it will all become second nature with practice, but the "with practice" part is crucial.

Say Again, Please covers the types of radio communication required in different types of airspace. I found the book to be of limited usefulness. The book does not cover full sample communications for different procedures in different airspaces (notably: D, C, and B, where you really need to talk to people to fly around in VFR). There are snippets of things that you might say to tower or ground, with or without responses. Having more sample conversations would be *really useful* for common things like requesting departure from ground, or requesting a takeoff from tower.

The book is also really confusing when it comes to class E airspace. It would have been nice if the author said, in big bold text, that VFR flight does not require radio contact in E airspace. Instead, the author spends a ton of time talking about flight following. That's nice, but it made me scratch my head, because I fly in class E frequently (as do most VFR pilots) and only communicate with somebody when I'm a few miles out from class D and want to notify the tower to expect me. It's nice to know that communications are possible, but without caveats, that information was otherwise overwhelming.

Another thing that the author mentions is how you start communications by stating whom/who first (with whom you are speaking, who you are), but after you've been addressed by tower/ground/wherever, then you say your deal and put your N number at the end of your communication. He then provides a lot of sample communications, after contact with tower/ground, with the N number at the beginning of the communication. I'm sure this guy knows what he's doing considering he's been a pilot for longer than I've been alive, but without rationale this just served to further confuse me.

Otherwise, this book makes a pretty decent reference. I can't say that it has helped to improve my radio communication, but it does help to reinforce the importance of reading charts, the AIM, NOTAMS, the A/FD, listening to liveatc.net, etc. I would not recommend this book to a very beginner student pilot (including myself!), but perhaps to those ready for cross-country flights and beyond in skill level. ( )
  lemontwist | Jun 15, 2018 |
Gardner begins with some advice about radios and headsets, and then gets to their use. You should always listen before you talk, you should learn to tune your radio by counting clicks in order to keep your eyes outside where they should be, don’t add last minute thoughts to a transmission, and answer the majority of them with “Wilco,” I will comply. His advice is succinct, and he gives clear explanations about why you should act as he advises. What follows is a summary of his advice.
He organizes the book according to airspace, from Class G to E to D to C to B to A and then chapters on Automated Flight Service Stations and on IFR communications. There are appendices on communications facilities, airspace definitions, and clearance shorthand, as well as a glossary of terms.
In UNICOM territory, Gardner advises switching to the UNICOM frequency ten miles out, listening, and then announcing one’s intentions, and then announcing while turning downwind, base, and final. The MULTICOM frequency, for airports with no UNICOM, is 122.9. Plane to plane frequencies are 122.75 and 122.85.

In Class E airspace, where the ordinary pilot will spend most of his time, prepare a flight plan and file it with 1-800-WX-BRIEF. Tell people you are taxiing. “Don’t be in a hurry to switch from the UNICOM frequency.” But when you do, open that flight plan. Call the FSS you filed it with and tell ---Radio to open your flight plan at the time you took off, and ask for the Center frequency for the area.
If you encounter controlled airspace, either fly above it (the indicated altitude plus the field elevation plus a couple of hundred feet) or ask permission to fly through. If it’s Class D, notify the tower when you’re clear of the dashed line.
Class D Airspace
Airports have blue symbols; Class D is surface to 2500 feet AGL normally when tower is in operation and area inside the blue dashed line. 2-way radio communication is required. Contact ATIS first, and give information letter. Ground control frequencies are almost always 121.something. Make sure your beacon is on before calling ground, and give location as close as you can. Stay on ground control until ready for takeoff. Read back “hold short” instructions. “Position and hold” means expect takeoff clearance very soon or ask. If you get instructions to run up at an intersection, be sure to include your position when calling for takeoff.
Stay on tower frequency to the Class D boundary. A takeoff or landing from a satellite airport within Class D requires establishing communication with the primary tower.
If the controller says “zero degree entry,” you will fly directly into the downwind leg.
Once on the ground you can contact FSS on the standard frequency, 122.2 (123.6 for non-tower airports) to close your flight plan.
Tell the controller “unfamiliar,” and s/he will give you recognizable reporting points. The controller doesn’t much care what your altitude is on your initial call, but other pilots might. don’t maneuver without tower clearance—reduce airspeed instead. Don’t hesitate to ask for base entry or “straight in to downwind.” “Report two mile left base” means two miles from the centerline.
Always be at the pattern altitude before entry. The controller might call your base, or if you don’t see the airplane on final you might say, “call my base.”
Add “negative” and “unable” to your vocabulary, and use them.
A controller might instruct you to “land long” or “land on the last half,” or you can request that yourself. At an airport with parallel runways, keep your base to final turn short of encroaching on the other runway. If instructed to go around at pattern altitude, do so, or if told “overfly the west taxiway,” ditto.
At night, you can ask for “approach lights and the rabbit” if you know they’re there.
Tell the tower you’re full stop if s/he says “cleared for touch and go” or “cleared for the option.” If you get hold short on landing, know or ask for “landing distance” and say “unable” if you can’t land in that distance.
If leaving from an airport within Class D airspace, you must contact the primary tower if possible before takeoff. If landing there, you must call the primary tower.
The best place to cross an airport is overhead and at right angles to the threshold of the active runway.
UNICOM in Class D is for fuel and car information. always use the CTAF, even if the tower is not in use.
Class C Airspace
Where the airspace is congested and radar control is available we have Class C, which requires establishing two-way communication with the controlling facility. The chart will indicate if the Class C is 24 hours or just part-time. You must have a Mode C transponder, and it’s a good idea to acknowledge the code you are given on initial contact. The outer area extends 20 nautical miles; between this line and the shelf ten miles out you should call approach control with call sign, position, altitude, and field you are landing. Comply with any heading or altitude changes, and the approach controller will give you the tower frequency when it’s time to contact the tower. If it’s a strange airport you can say, “unfamiliar, request vectors to the pattern.”
When you depart, establish two-way communication with ground control and tower, or first with clearance delivery if there is a frequency in the A/FD. You may receive specific instructions about heading and altitude from the tower, and the tower will say contact departure control on a particular frequency. Let the controller you are talking to know when you leave the shelf area (10 miles out) or else s/he must continue to provide traffic advisories until you leave the outer area (20 miles out).
Just as in Class D, you must ask for a Special VFR clearance if the ceiling is below 1000 feet or the visibility less than 3 miles.
When departing a satellite airport in Class C, you must contact ATC as soon as practicable after takeoff, when you will be given a code. If you intend to land at a satellite airport, advise ATC on initial contact.
Remember that a column of airspace extending from airport elevation to 10,000 feet MSL and 20 miles in diameter extends above the primary airport in every Class C airspace. The only direct impact this has on your operation is that you must have a Mode C encoding transponder when transiting this column of airspace. The bottom 4,000 feet of this column of air (or as charted) is the Class C airspace where two-way communication with ATC is required.
Terminal Radar Service Areas (TRSAs) show up on sectionals as black circles. Take advantage of their services. When departing in a TRSA, use normal Class D airspace departure procedures, and when airborne, ask the tower for frequency change to the radar control frequency, where you will ask for traffic advisories. Don’t leave the TRSA frequency without asking the controller for the local Center frequency; you might be able to switch over for flight following.
Class B Airspace exists at the very busiest airports and requires a specific clearance before any operation within its boundaries. If you need to avoid it, stay at least one mile away from its boundaries and at least 1,000 feet beneath its floor. Class B is divided into sectors, so frequency changes might be necessary as you cross sector boundaries.
Try to copy the ATIS from as far away as possible, so you know about runways in use, frequencies, etc. If you want just to fly through, identify yourself, give location and altitude, and state your intention. If the frequency is very busy, just say, “---- Approach, Cessna 7196S, request.” Always remind the controller you are VFR.
If you are landing at the primary, say so initially. Try to call from one of the charter VFR reporting points, or report by direction and distance from the primary. Wait to enter until you hear “cleared to operate in the ---- Bravo airspace.” The approach controller may ask you to squawk IDENT if you are on code 1200, may assign a discrete code, or may leave you on the code assigned by Center. The controller can assign headings and altitudes that will keep you clear of IFR traffic and you must comply unless the change will take you into a cloud; in that case, say “unable to maintain VFR on that heading [at that altitude].” Once you have been handed off to the tower operator it’s just like any other controlled airport.
Departing, call Clearance Delivery after listening to ATIS. You’ll get a clearance with heading, altitude, departure frequency, squawk, and instruction to contact ground. You need to be ready to take this clearance down and read it back. When you call ground, tell them you’ve got “departure instructions.” Don’t switch your transponder to the ON position until you’re on the runway and in position for takeoff. Wait until the tower tells you to go to the departure frequency, but you can always ask if it’s not forthcoming shortly after takeoff.
It helps a lot of you say “VFR” as often as possible.
You absolutely, positively must hear” cleared to operate in the Bravo airspace” before entry.
Flight Service Stations can be accessed by radio or by telephone: 1-800-WX-BRIEF. If you use a cell phone outside your area code, get a direct-dial number from the A/FD or a toll-free number from www.apoa.org/whatsnew/air_traffic/afss_tollfree.html.
An initial radio transmission must include your position and the facility you are using for communication: ---Radio, Cessna 7196S on 122.2 over Cunningham. The AFSS is your best source of information on the status of Special Use Airspace. Be sure to ask about Temporary Flight Restrictions. You can also call the military control tower to ask about a certain area. Plan to cross military training routes at a 90-degree angle; formations frequently spread out a mile or more from the centerline of the MTR. If you see one military airplane, look for others nearby.
For filing flight plans 1-800-WX-BRIEF works virtually everywhere. When you activate, give the actual time of takeoff. When you file, you don’t have to read the heading of each block on the flight plan—just provide the information that goes in the block.
If you are using flight following, position reports are unnecessary; if you are not, make position reports, or ask Flight Watch for weather information, which puts your position on record. Amend your flight plan if you need to. if you have the destination airport in sight and are assured of landing, call the AFSS and close your flight plan in the air. Otherwise use the airport facilities, or call long distance if you have to, but close that flight plan!
Many flight service stations offer direction finding services, and they need practice; call them up and say “would you like to give me a practice DF steer?” And the military operates Ground Controlled Approach facilities to talk pilots right down to the ground. Check with AFSS to see if a GCA is available. You need a safety pilot or instructor with instrument rating aboard to practice.
The enroute advisory service known as Flight Watch provides weather information. Its frequency is 122.0. Flight Watch is the means through which pilot reports are collected and disseminated.
The IFR Communicator doesn’t apply much, but Gardner says IFR one must be constantly listening for a call from the controller. But even VFR one must copy clearances, and he suggests using C-R-A-F-T down the left side of a sheet for Clearance
Route—which might be runway heading, or turn to a heading
Altitude—usually a straight climb but possibly restrictions
Frequency—this will be departure control or Center
Transponder Squawk.
VFR, there will be little complicated about Clearance and Route. The frequency change can be written down ahead of time (if there are two, write them both and cross out the wrong one). Another handy trick: make four columns on a 3x5 card headed FREQ, ALT, HDG, and SQUAWK. Cross out the last one as you write in the new one, so you can always read the last assignment.
When reporting a change of altitude, avoid “to” and “for,” which can be mistaken for “two” and “four.” “leaving 4,000, climbing 6,000” or “leaving 8,000, descending 4,000.”
If the radio fails, set your transponder to 7600, remain outside of or above the Class D surface area until you determine traffic flow, then join the pattern and look for light signals. Or, just land at an uncontrolled airport and telephone the destination tower to tell them what you look like and when you’ll arrive. ( )
  michaelm42071 | Sep 4, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 156027428X, Paperback)

Providing a clear, conversational approach to radio communications, this sourcebook for pilots and aviation specialists features typical transmissions in order to explain how the air traffic control system works and presents simulated flights to demonstrate the correct procedures. Topics cover every aspect of radio communication, including basic system and procedural comprehension, etiquette and rules, visual flight rules, instrument flight rules, emergency procedures, ATC facilities and their functions, and a review of airspace definitions. Beginners and professionals alike will find this an invaluable resource for communicating by radio.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:23 -0400)

This guide to talking on an aircraft's radio teaches student pilots what to say, what to expect to hear, and how to interpret and react to clearances and instructions.

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