Accurate Radio Calls: The Foundation of Aviation Safety!

“Mansfield Traffic, Skyhawk 12345, 8 miles west, inbound for landing, descending through 4000 feet, Mansfield.”

“New Bedford Tower, Arrow 56789, 10 north at 2700 feet, landing with Foxtrot.”

Both of these are good radio calls, calls that I would make, word-for-word. These calls convey the proper information and get my intensions across, while also providing all of the proper information effectively and efficiently.

Over the years of teaching students and providing flight reviews for certificated pilots, as well as through observing other pilots while flying, one of the areas where general aviation pilots lack (in terms of skills) in general is with radio calls. I don’t mean that it takes students too long to develop radio skills, I mean that GA pilots in general are not good at making accurate radio calls or using the radio properly really...

Of course, many Unicom and Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) frequencies are overrun with personal conversations from airplane to airplane, which drives me crazy… But the real concept where pilots need to be more vigilant is making accurate radio calls. Radio communications are not required at non-towered airports, but accurate radio calls increase the safety of our flying! So why in the world would you not make proper radio calls? Seriously, I’m waiting for a good reason… The increase in safety (from proper calls) comes from other pilots knowing exactly where we are and what we’re doing, making it easier for the see-and-avoid concept to keep us safe! Recently here at ReviewBeforeFlight we have been strongly advocating to make our own individual flying safer. A key component of increasing the safety of our flying is using accurate radio communications.

45 entry

“Taunton Traffic, Skyhawk 12345, 3 miles out at 1700 feet, on a 45 degree entry to the downwind for Runway 30 at Taunton.” Including the altitude with this report directs pilots of where to look for me specifically, plus it alerts other pilots on the 45-entry to where I am, exactly…

For example, if a pilot is approaching an airport on a 45-degree entry for landing, it makes sense for the pilot to report the distance away from the airport on the 45-entry. Too many times I have observed pilots making essentially a U-turn into downwind, yet still reporting they were entering “on the 45”. The pilot here makes the assumption that “the 45” is ANY midfield entry. This is not the case; the point of the 45-degree entry is to have an established course of multiple miles leading to pattern entry. Basically, the 45-degree entry is the on-ramp into the traffic pattern. Aircraft entering the pattern have the responsibility to fit into the flow of traffic, not to just enter the pattern and let everyone else deal with it…

The reason to make accurate radio calls is extremely obvious. When a pilot announces their position, this directs other pilots where to look for them. Thus forming the basis of the see-and-avoid method of maintaining safe flight for everyone.

It is extremely important that pilots report their position as accurately as possible. I believe that many pilots make inaccurate radio calls for 1 of 3 reasons:

  1. The pilot doesn’t know they are doing something incorrectly and believes they are making proper radio announcements.
  2. The pilot doesn’t care and is just going along with the flow, so to say…
  3. The pilot knows they are doing something wrong/non-standard (flying more of a 90-degree entry into the midfield downwind position than a 45-degree entry), but doesn’t want to say they are doing something incorrectly, so the pilot says they are doing the right thing, figuring it is better than owning up to a mistake.

None of these reasons is a good reason to make an inaccurate radio announcement. This is something that so many pilots take for granted, yet other pilots knowing where each other is, is the basis of what keeps us all safe up there. So remember, always make accurate radio calls, even if you are doing something non-standard. It is better to say where you are and what you are actually doing than to “fudge it” to get by without admitting to doing something wrong…

-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9

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