Aviation Communications - An Introduction to the Procedures

Introduction to Aviation Communications

Throughout these articles, the following terms are in transition, or have been superceded where someone may not be familiar with the current terms.

  • Mode C - Currently, Mode C is being phased out as replacement with Mode S is in progress. Though there are still many Mode C transponders in use, and will likely remain for a long time to come since there is no requirement to change except for commercial operators.
  • SID - SID was the old term for "Standard Instrument Departure which are now known as DP for Departure Procedure.
  • DP - See above
  • Position and Hold - This term, which made perfect sense has been superceded by Line up and wait, which was a european term. The FAA thought that it would be better to use a term that was common throughout the rest of the world.
  • Lifeguard - Lifeguard was the old term for air medical flights during their urgent legs, usually helicopters, which has been superceded by the term, Medevac. You will still hear the old term as some pilots have simply failed to comply.

This book should be used as a guide for pilots either unfamiliar with certain procedures, uncomfortable with the communication process, or pilots who need examples for those communication procedures which they have not yet had experience. This could be normal communications at any airport in any class airspace, or Flight Plan filing, Flight Following, or any of the other communication procedures for which a pilot may need an example. Although it is written with the VFR pilot in mind, many communications examples are included for the IFR pilot as well.

Unfortunately, during the normal course of flight instruction comparatively little attention is focused on communication procedures. This is understandable because the requirement for a private pilot rating is only 40 hours of flight time. Most schools include 20-hours for ground instruction, and these times are what most students have budgeted for. In these hours there is insufficient time to cover every topic that the student must have knowledge of in depth. Some topics will suffer, and one of those is communications.

In the 20-hours of ground instruction each topic is covered to the point where the student can pass the necessary checks or tests, and then any more in depth knowledge is up to the students willingness to either pay for more time, or to study on their own.

There are many pilots who are only comfortable with communications in the vicinity of their local airport. Unfortunately most of these pilots fear communications with controllers so they avoid controlled airports altogether often flying a great deal out of their way. Some instructors have even been known to teach their students to avoid controlled airports when possible, and as a result some of these students gain a fear of controllers that is very hard to change. After consistent flying utilizing Flight Service, and practicing other communications, these pilots will begin to relax and even enjoy the communication process.

In all communications, whether announcing to traffic, or talking to controllers, the most important thing any pilot can do is just simply LISTEN to what is being said by others. Many radio calls are unnecessary and thereby only congest the frequency. This can be avoided if pilots just listen to the radio calls of others.

I hope that many rated pilots and student pilots alike, benefit from this book and further enjoy the freedom of aviation. In any case, the key is practice; whether you practice to yourself or by actually talking to controllers. END Jump to Top