Aircraft Radio Transmissions Build Situational Awareness

Boulder Muni traffic

Three aircraft in, or near the BDU traffic pattern.

So there you are, flying along in flight, approaching the Boulder, Colorado Municipal Airport (BDU). You have good situational awareness (SA) of where you are, where you need to be, and how you are going to get there. The only element missing in your SA picture is where everyone else is. How are you going to figure that out?

BDU is a non-radar environment and it has no control tower, so there’s no one to point out traffic to you. Of course your Mark 1 eyeballs should be scanning carefully for traffic. Even before you get within visual range of the airport, you can begin to build a mental picture of where other aircraft are in the traffic pattern:

“Boulder traffic, Skylane 2 Lima Juliet is left downwind, full stop.”

“Boulder traffic, Beechcraft 367 Delta Echo is rolling on Runway 8, departing northeast.”

“Boulder traffic, Cessna 9924 X-ray is ten south of the airport, request airport information.”

“Aircraft calling Boulder, Boulder is landing Runway 8. The winds are 100 degrees at 8 knots. Altimeter 30.01. There are 2 aircraft in the traffic pattern.”

The Party Line

We tend to the think of the aircraft radio as a two-party communication device. You talk to air traffic control, and air traffic control talks back to you. It turns out, you can learn a lot of information that is relevant to your flight by listening to what is going on around you. This is especially true at airports using Universal Integrated Communication, or Unicom radio.

From Your Earball to Your Eyeball

One of the learning units I am creating for the Aircraft Radio Simulator is how to build SA using the aircraft radio. It will be a real-time game of Situational Awareness that should challenge you. It will also be a heck of a good time. Look for it soon.

Kids, It’s War Story Time

Speaking of fun, in the next article, you are going to hear a war story straight from the Book of Strange. I’m going to tell you about how me and some other fighter pilots developed a wartime strategy that kept us from colliding with each other at night, lights out, with no radar. Yes, it has everything to do with talking on the radio, so don’t miss it.

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