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  Tuesday 16 October 2018 21:53 GMT  

Aviation Theory

Radio Techniques

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Pages : 1) Contact Proc | 2) Acft Callsigns | 3) Comm with Ground

The section from the AIM on radio procedures and phraseology is an excellent model and not much could be done to improve upon it. There are some sections which might not apply, but they are included for general information.
Therefore, here are the appropriate sections from Chapter 4, Section 2 - RADIO COMMUNICATIONS PHRASEOLOGY AND TECHNIQUES

4-2-1. GENERAL

  1. Radio communications are a critical link in the ATC system. The link can be a strong bond between pilot and controller or it can be broken with surprising speed and disastrous results. Discussion herein provides basic procedures for new pilots and also highlights safe operating concepts for all pilots.
  2. The single, most important thought in pilot/controller communications is understanding. It is essential, therefore, that pilots acknowledge each radio communication with ATC by using the appropriate aircraft call sign. Brevity is important, and contacts should be kept as brief as possible, but controllers must know what you want to do before they can properly carry out their control duties. And you, the pilot, must know exactly what the controller wants you to do. Since concise phraseology may not always be adequate, use whatever words are necessary to get your message across. Pilots are to maintain vigilance in monitoring air traffic control radio communications frequencies for potential traffic conflicts with their aircraft especially when operating on an active runway and/or when conducting a final approach to landing.
  3. All pilots will find the Pilot/Controller Glossary very helpful in learning what certain words or phrases mean. Good phraseology enhances safety and is the mark of a professional pilot. Jargon, chatter, and "CB" slang have no place in ATC communications.

The Pilot/Controller Glossary is the same glossary used in FAA Order 7110.65 , Air Traffic Control. We recommend that it be studied and reviewed from time to time to sharpen your communication skills.


  1. LISTEN before you transmit. Many times you can get the information you want through ATIS or by monitoring the frequency. Except for a few situations where some frequency overlap occurs, if you hear someone else talking, the keying of your transmitter will be futile and you will probably jam their receivers causing them to repeat their call. If you have just changed frequencies, pause, listen, and make sure the frequency is clear.
  2. THINK before keying your transmitter. Know what you want to say and if it is lengthy; for example, a flight plan or IFR position report, jot it down.
  3. The microphone should be very close to your lips and after pressing the mike button, a slight pause may be necessary to be sure the first word is transmitted. Speak in a normal, conversational tone.
  4. When you release the button, wait a few seconds before calling again. The controller or FSS specialist may be jotting down your number, looking for your flight plan, transmitting on a different frequency, or selecting the transmitter for your frequency.
  5. Be alert to the sounds OR THE LACK OF SOUNDS in your receiver. Check your volume, recheck your frequency, and MAKE SURE THAT YOUR MICROPHONE IS NOT STUCK in the transmit position. Frequency blockage can, and has, occurred for extended periods of time due to unintentional transmitter operation. This type of interference is commonly referred to as a "stuck mike," and controllers may refer to it in this manner when attempting to assign an alternate frequency. If the assigned frequency is completely blocked by this type of interference, use the procedures described for enroute IFR radio frequency outage to establish or reestablish communications with ATC.
  6. Be sure that you are within the performance range of your radio equipment and the ground station equipment. Remote radio sites do not always transmit and receive on all of a facility's available frequencies, particularly with regard to VOR sites where you can hear but not reach a ground station's receiver. Remember that higher altitudes increase the range of VHF "line-of-sight" communications.
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  1. Initial Contact
    1. The terms initial contact or initial callup means the first radio call you make to a given facility or the first call to a different controller or FSS specialist within a facility. Use the following format:
      (a) Name of the facility being called;
      (b) Your FULL aircraft identification as filed in the flight plan or as discussed under Aircraft Call Signs below;
      (c) The type of message to follow or your request if it is short, and
      (d) the word "Over" if required.


    2. Many FSSs are equipped with RCOs and can transmit on the same frequency at more than one location. The frequencies available at specific locations are indicated on charts above FSS communications boxes. To enable the specialist to utilize the correct transmitter, advise the location and the frequency on which you expect a reply.

    St. Louis FSS can transmit on frequency 122.3 at either Farmington, MO or Decatur, IL. If you are in the vicinity of Decatur, your callup should be "SAINT LOUIS RADIO, PIPER SIX NINER SIX YANKEE, RECEIVING DECATUR ONE TWO TWO POINT THREE."

    3. If radio reception is reasonably assured, inclusion of your request, your position or altitude, and the phrase "(ATIS) Information Charlie received" in the initial contact helps decrease radio frequency congestion. Use discretion; do not overload the controller with information unneeded or superfluous. If you do not get a response from the ground station, recheck your radios or use another transmitter, but keep the next contact short.

  2. Initial Contact When your Transmitting and Receiving Frequencies are Different
    1. If you are attempting to establish contact with a ground station and you are receiving on a different frequency than that transmitted, indicate the VOR name or the frequency on which you expect a reply. Most FSSs and control facilities can transmit on several VOR stations in the area. Use the appropriate FSS call sign as indicated on charts.

    New York FSS transmits on the Kennedy, the Hampton, and the Calverton VORTACs. If you are in the Calverton area, your callup should be "NEW YORK RADIO, CESSNA THREE ONE SIX ZERO FOXTROT, RECEIVING CALVERTON VOR, OVER."

    2. If the chart indicates FSS frequencies above the VORTAC or in the FSS communications boxes, transmit or receive on those frequencies nearest your location.

    3. When unable to establish contact and you wish to call ANY ground station, use the phrase "ANY RADIO (tower) (station), GIVE CESSNA THREE ONE SIX ZERO FOXTROT A CALL ON (frequency) OR (VOR)." If an emergency exists or you need assistance, so state.
  3. Subsequent Contacts and Responses to Callup from a Ground Facility
    Use the same format as used for the initial contact except you should state your message or request with the callup in one transmission. The ground station name and the word "Over" may be omitted if the message requires an obvious reply and there is no possibility for misunderstandings. You should acknowledge all callups or clearances unless the controller or FSS specialist advises otherwise. There are some occasions when controllers must issue time critical instructions to other aircraft, and they may be in a position to observe your response, either visually or on radar. If the situation demands your response, take appropriate action or immediately advise the facility of any problem. Acknowledge with your aircraft identification, either at the beginning or at the end of your transmission, and one of the words "Wilco," "Roger," "Affirmative," "Negative," or other appropriate remarks; e.g., "PIPER TWO ONE FOUR LIMA, ROGER." If you have been receiving services; e.g., VFR traffic advisories and you are leaving the area or changing frequencies, advise the ATC facility and terminate contact.
  4. Acknowledgement of Frequency Changes -
    1. When advised by ATC to change frequencies, acknowledge the instruction. If you select the new frequency without an acknowledgement, the controller's workload is increased because there is no way of knowing whether you received the instruction or have had radio communications failure.
    2. At times, a controller/specialist may be working a sector with multiple frequency assignments. In order to eliminate unnecessary verbiage and to free the controller/specialist for higher priority transmissions, the controller/specialist may request the pilot "(Identification), change to my frequency 123.4." This phrase should alert the pilot that the controller/specialist is only changing frequencies, not controller/specialist, and that initial callup phraseology may be abbreviated.

  5. Compliance with Frequency Changes
    When instructed by ATC to change frequencies, select the new frequency as soon as possible unless instructed to make the change at a specific time, fix, or altitude. A delay in making the change could result in an untimely receipt of important information. If you are instructed to make the frequency change at a specific time, fix, or altitude, monitor the frequency you are on until reaching the specified time, fix, or altitudes unless instructed otherwise by ATC.

   REFERENCE - ARTCC Communications, paragraph 5-3-1.


Read on in part 2: Aircraft Callsigns

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