The secret to radio communications…

Often times student pilots, and new or less experienced private pilots, are held back by the big, bad radio. Frequently a sense of nervousness resulting from radio communication apprehension can bleed over into other facets of flying. This will result in a student, or newer private pilot who has good “stick skills”, showing impaired flying abilities because they are nervous about the radio, so it shows in other areas of their aviating.


A good friend of mine, Jeremy, about to announce a final turn in a Cessna Cardinal.

It is very common for radio communications to be something that holds back a student pilot at some point during his or her flight training. This common learning plateau is often self imposed and really is much to do about nothing…

The secret to radio communications is quite simple, don’t try to be perfect. That’s it…

Student pilots will often say things like, “I want to be like an airline pilot” or “My radio work needs to be perfect”. The issue with this is, just that, trying to be perfect is an unattainable goal. No one, and I mean no one is perfect on the radio. All of us, regardless of how long we have been flying have radio struggles from time to time.

Whether it is a missed radio call or saying the wrong tail number it happens to everyone. If I had a dollar for overtime I said “Skyhawk 43X” when I should have said “Skyhawk 38W”, well let’s just say I’d have a lot of dollars… But that is what happens when you’re a flight instructor and you fly the same aircraft all the time!

The goal shouldn’t be to be perfect on the radio, the goal should be to be effective on the radio. Mistakes happen, it’s natural. No pilot will ever eliminate all of the wrong phraseology, incorrect tail numbers, etc… But, every pilot can shoot to be effective on the radio.

A friend of mine says, “A good pilot is always learning.” He’s right. So once you become effective with your radio work you can shoot to always getting a little bit better. Maybe that means saying “taking off” instead of “departing” when announcing on a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). Or maybe it means remembering to give a courtesy call to the Class Delta control tower you are approaching instead of just starting in with the “Who, Where, What & Weather”…

One of the best things that any pilot can do is just listen and see what you can pick up. This can be done from any living room or Starbucks in the country by tuning into A wide variety of frequencies are available for listening, from local CTAF frequencies (in some cases) to approach control frequencies for some of the busiest airports in the world.

Photo Jul 20, 10 52 42 AM

The absolute best thing to do is to pick up an aviation handheld radio (transceiver) and head down to the local airport. Grab a spot where the ramp, taxiway(s), runway(s) and traffic pattern are all visible, or the best combination of those. The advantage to this is that you’ll actually be able to see where the aircraft are when they are making their reports. The other valuable lesson is you will see what a “good radio call” sounds like. If the radio call is “good” you should be able to differentiate the aircraft you’re seeing in the sky…

So remember, the secret to radio communications is to stop trying to be perfect. Instead, shoot to be effective, work to get a little bit better each time you fly, and know that you will make mistakes, no matter how often or how long in your life you are flying for.

-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9


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