In development. A training program that teaches student pilots how to speak the English words used by ATC.*

This will be a language program with a very narrow scope. It is intended for non-English speaking people. It is not a how-to-talk-to-ATC course for native English speakers.

To avoid the need to interpret the program’s instructions into hundreds of different languages, all instructions will be illustrated graphically. Here’s a sample of the prototype.

I’ll have more announcements about the product as it nears completion.

*It isn’t lost on me that the people who need this program may not be able to read this announcement. Anybody care to interpret it into 75 different languages for me?

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If you have ever felt butterflies in your stomach when faced with contacting Ground Control for taxi clearance, you have experienced something I call Taxi Clearance Anxiety. It’s a made-up term but the phenomenon has real consequences.

Some pilots go out of their way to avoid controlled airports with complicated taxiway layouts. Even high-time pro pilots feel Taxi Clearance Anxiety prior to calling for taxi instructions at the nation’s biggest baddest airports. I’m talking about places such as Chicago’s O’Hare or New York’s JFK.

If you fly long enough, sooner or later you are going to be faced with the choice of landing at or overflying a complex airport. It would be a shame to let Taxi Clearance Anxiety trip you up or prevent you from using an airport that is convenient for your route of flight.

In today’s show, I have tips and techniques to help you overcome your anxiety about contacting Ground Control for a taxi clearance.

What Happened to Expedite?

Have you heard ATC use the term “expedite” lately? I sure haven’t. There’s a good reason why most controllers don’t use the term very often, if at all. We’ll talk about what expedite really means and what you might hear instead on the radio.

All that, plus your Question of the week, which this time is a brain-crushing exercise. Fun for masochists and eager pilots alike! Onward.

Show Notes:

Taxi Clearance Anxiety

1. Before calling for taxi clearance, study the airport diagram but try to focus on that portion of the airport that lies between your parking position and the runway in use.
2. Listen to the ground frequency for a minute or 2 to get a feel for how Ground Control is handling other aircraft.
3. Get a pen or pencil and paper in hand before contacting Ground Control.
4. Write your taxi clearance using whatever shorthand notes work for you. For “hold short”, I use a “/”. I represent taxiways as uppercase letters. For example, Taxiway Lima would be written “L”. I write turn directions as lower case letters, i.e. “r” = turn right and “l” = turn left. So rR would read as “right on Taxiway Romeo”.
5. Once taxiing is underway, refer often to your notes, the airport diagram, and compare these to the taxiway signs ahead to make sure you keep on track.
6. If something doesn’t look right, ask Ground for clarification.
7. If you get lost, stop and ask ATC for help.
8. If all else fails, ask Ground for a “progressive taxi”. Don’t do this as a matter of habit when you can navigate around the airport without help.
9. I have extensive guidance and plenty of exercises for copying taxi clearances in my books Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots and in the Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots Workbook. Both are available right now at*


1. ATC rarely uses the term “expedite” anymore.
2. The move away from the term probably stems from a misinterpretation. Some incorrectly think it means “go fast”.
3. Expedite means, do something without delay.
4. These days, controllers are more likely to say “Without delay” instead of “Expedite”.

Your Question of the Week

This week’s question is more of an exercise. I’m going to give you a complicated taxi clearance and I want you to write it on paper using your own version of shorthand.

For this exercise, we are going to use the airport diagram at General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve included the diagram in the show notes for this show. The ATIS sounds like this:

“Milwaukee Airport Information Zulu, 17:54 Zulu weather. Sky clear, visibility 7 miles, wind 080 at 10, altimeter 29.98. ILS or Visual Approach, Runway 7R in use. Landing and departing 7L and 7R. Bird activity in the vicinity of the airport. All departing aircraft contact Milwaukee Clearance Delivery on 120.8 prior to taxi. Advise on initial contact you have received Information Zulu.”

You are currently sitting on the airport’s South Ramp near Taxiway R3 with your engine running. You have contacted Clearance Delivery and stated you received Information Zulu. Clearance assigned a transponder code for departure and told you to contact Milwaukee Control on 121.8 for taxi clearance. You’ve switched to 121.8 and listened for a minute to get a feel for how other aircraft are being routed for taxi. Unfortunately, the only aircraft that have talked on the frequency are airliners taxiing from the airline terminal. You are in a Cessna 172 on the South Ramp, so no help there.

If you have pen and paper ready, I’m about to play that clearance. If you aren’t ready to write, pause this show and get what you need. When you are ready to copy, hit play.

When you think you have the clearance copied correctly on paper, go to There you find a complete example of the correctly copied clearance along with a full explanation of how that copy was derived.

*Disclosure: I receive a small commission when you use links at to make a purchase at


The Difference Between ATC Clearances and Advisories

September 15, 2016

The following transmission from a tower controller has a clearance and an advisory. Can you tell which is which? ATC says, “Skyhawk 9130 Delta, Runway 16, line up and wait. Traffic will be crossing downfield.” When the controller said, “Runway 16, line up and wait,” he was directing Skyhawk 9130 Delta to do something. When […]

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Great Article on Radio Errors

September 8, 2016

Here’s a worthwhile read about radio errors, by John Zimmerman, at The issues raised in this article are just as prevalent today as they were when this article was written in 2012. Enjoy, or read it and weep, depending on your perspective.

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Contacting Flight Service; Searching for IFR Traffic in an Uncontrolled Pattern

August 30, 2016

If you can get all the aviation weather data you need online, do you really need to know how to contact Flight Service on the radio? It depends on who you ask. I say yes. A Flight Service agent can save time and point you in the right direction. An agent can quickly sift through […]

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Experience on the Radio Can Be the Worst Teacher

August 18, 2016

Experience means jack if you aren’t open to learning something new from your experiences. Fair warning, learning by experience without distinguishing good from bad can lead you to very dark and dangerous places. Nowhere is this more true than in an aircraft cockpit. Let me explain. I’ve been flying fixed wing airplanes since I was […]

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Making Mistakes on the Aircraft Radio

June 21, 2016

In this episode, we’ll talk about why you make mistakes on the radio and what it says about your performance as a pilot. I think my analysis will surprise you (in a good way). Also, some pilots have asked interesting questions about the details of reporting your position in an uncontrolled airport pattern. Just when […]

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Coming Up in Radar Contact

May 30, 2016

Next Radar Contact Show, “Mistakes Happen”. We all make mistakes when transmitting on the radio, even pilots like me with decades of experience. Last night, flying from Nagoya, Japan to Honolulu, I got mentally out of synch with the person at the other end of the radio. I made several transmissions that had no connection […]

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Aircraft Color in Place of Call Sign is a Bad Idea

April 24, 2016

“Town and Country Traffic, red and white Skyhawk, 4-mile final, Runway One Seven, Town and Country.” “Town and Country Traffic, blue and white Warrior, turning base, Runway One Seven, Town and Country.” “Town and Country Traffic, red and white Skyhawk, final, Runway One Seven, Town and Country.” Do you think saying your aircraft’s color scheme […]

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Next Radar Contact Show: Call Sign by Color, and Picking Up VFR Flight Following

April 21, 2016

If you’re using your aircraft model and color scheme to identify yourself in an uncontrolled airport pattern, I have a good reason to quit immediately. Let’s talk about that reason in the next edition of the Radar Contact Show. It’s been awhile since we talked about how to make initial contact with ATC when requesting […]

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