Ask an Air Traffic Controller: Breaking Down Barriers

M.T. an air traffic controller with more than 30 years of experience, talks to you about life at the other end of your aircraft radio. In this audio series, he’ll answer questions and tell stories about how an air traffic control center helps you safely fly from A to B.

In this first episode:

  • Explore the relationship between air traffic controllers and pilots, especially low-time and student pilots.
  • You will hear why air traffic controllers really want to talk to you as you fly, even if you are out for a Sunday drive under Visual Flight Rules.
  • I think, by the time this first talk ends, you will feel differently about air traffic control, especially if you have felt hesitant to contact ATC in the past.

Post-Show Notes:

Good episode? Know what’s missing? You. In future episodes, M.T. will answer your questions, not mine; but you have to ask to get an answer. Write your questions in the comment box below, or write to me directly at

Next show:

We’ll role play initial contact with ATC for VFR flight following.
How ATC can help a pilot who becomes lost.
Answers to your questions.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John Gilbert April 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm


Thank you for this website!! I am just starting out in my flight training (all 12 hours of it so far), and my primary field is pilot controlled. So far, I haven’t actually talked to anyone in any ATC capacity. Frankly, its a little scary – I understand what is said, I am just unsure as to what I need to be saying.

I live near a city with a major airport, and will encounter ATC sooner rather than later. So, I consider these podcasts and the simulator a necessary part of my training.

After listening to this podcast, I do feel better about calling ATC, and using it as a service. I am still not sure how the script goes, but I’ll take care of that as I go along. Hopefully, your exercises and examples will fill in those gaps in my knowledge.

Thanks again!


JeffKanarish April 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Hey John,

Thank you for your kind comments. You will get the script down in time. Everyone does. It just takes practice. In the meantime, if you need information for your particular situation, and I haven’t provided it at the website, just ask. I’m an email, a comment, or a voice message away.

Also, if you haven’t done so, consider taking a minute to comment on the Aircraft Radio Simulator over at the Insider’s page. Any comment or question at the Insider’s page will enter you in the drawing for the Plantronics computer headset.

Thanks again for your feedback.



Phil May 9, 2020 at 6:33 am

Question —> can l still request VFR flight-following even though l am not ADS-B equipped yet ?


JeffKanarish May 9, 2020 at 2:10 pm


Yes, you may. ATC isn’t using ADS-B yet for any air traffic control service. However, you must remain clear of any airspace in which the FAA has made ADS-B Out mandatory. Don’t ask me how the FAA will ensure compliance since ATC isn’t using ADS-B as of 5/9/20.


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