Radar Contact Audio Show

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Note: Radar Contact Shows #35 and newer are now archived at iTunes at the Radar Contact podcast.

Radar Contact #34 for 20 November 2013: Sterile Cockpit Means Quiet!

“Shhh! I’m trying to use the phone radio” Borrowed from “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure.” In this week’s show, we are going to talk about something called sterile cockpit and how it helps you communicate with ATC. No, Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee, will not be making an appearance, but we can learn something from him. Never thought I’d say that in an article.

We will also have the results from your test of the Aircraft Radio Simulator’s speech recognition module.You did test the module didn’t you? I thought so.

All that, plus your Question of the Week. Coming up, right here in Radar Contact . . . unless I get distracted and forget to. . . What was I talking about?

dontDistract

Don’t distract me!

Show Notes:

  1. Your brain and my brain has a built-in filter that eliminates distractions, to a point.
  2. Despite its mental filter, your brain can be tricked into paying attention to the wrong thing at the wrong time. We call that a distraction.
  3. Our listening behavior is most vulnerable to distractions when we rely on listening passively.
  4. In an airplane, distractions can result in anything from a temporary annoyance, to a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations, to an accident.
  5. The key to avoiding distractions is to apply active listening or what I call intentional listening.
  6. Intentional listening results from a decision to pay attention to every radio transmission whether it applies to your flight or not.
  7. When working low to the ground or in busy airspace, make your cockpit sterile: Avoid all non-essential work in the cockpit. Eliminate all conversation that does not involve safe aircraft operation.
  8. Sterile cockpit plus intentional listening = zero missed radio transmissions from ATC.
  9. Last month, you tested the speech recognition module of the Aircraft Radio Simulator. The results of your test were not good enough to move forward with further development of the speech recognition feature.
  10. I will continue to work on an Aircraft Radio Simulator that provides an immersive experience that guides you in your exploration of how to communicate with ATC.

Your Question of the Week

You are approaching your destination airport within very busy Class C airspace. Approach control is giving you radar vectors for sequencing to a straight-in final approach at your destination. You have already taken several heading changes from approach and you are still not headed directly for the airport. Suddenly, your number 2 communication radio, which is tuned to the emergency frequency 121.5 produces this transmission, “Pan, pan, pan. Any aircraft, this is Piper 927CX on Guard. I’m lost and I need assistance.” Here’s your question.

Knowing that you are in a very busy section of airspace and taking extensive vectoring from ATC, what should you do about the radio transmission on the emergency frequency? When you think you know the answer to that question, go to the link ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer to the question along with a full explanation of how that answer was derived.
 

Radar Contact #33 for 8 October 2013: Airport Traffic Pattern Position Reports

A-10
This photo has nothing to do with this article. A photo of an A-10 just increases the overall quality of the website.

You are approaching an uncontrolled airport traffic pattern and you need to know where other pilots are in the traffic pattern. How do you get that information? Two ways. You call on the radio for an airport traffic advisory. You also listen to the flow of position reports from other pilots established in the airport pattern. What you do not do is say, “Traffic in the area, please advise.” I’ll explain why in this week’s show.

Flight levels are those altitudes at or above 18,000 feet MSL, right? In the United States, yes. Everywhere else? Not necessarily. In this week’s show we’ll talk about flight levels because if you fly outside of the United States, you don’t have to be in a jet to reach a flight level. You may enter the flight level regime as low as 4,000 feet in some places.

Wanna be a test pilot? Here’s your chance. I’m running a test of the most important component of the Aircraft Radio Simulator today. You get to take it on a test run. I’ll explain how in this week’s show.

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Show Notes:

  1. The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) says, “Traffic in the area, please advise” is not a recognized Self−Announce Position and/or Intention phrase and should not be used under any condition.” (Chapter 4, Paragraph g. 1.)
  2. “Traffic in the area, please advise” is not necessary anyways. Just listen to Unicom at an uncontrolled airport and you’ll get all of the information you need from other pilots’ position reports.
  3. If the radio is silent for a long period of time, that is a traffic advisory in itself–there’s likely no aircraft in the airport pattern.
  4. Position reports and traffic advisories are no substitute for disciplined and continuous clearing for traffic while in an airport pattern. There may be pilots in the airport pattern operating without a radio or pilots in the pattern operating without a brain.
  5. In the U.S. flight levels begin at 18,000 feet MSL unless the local altimeter is extremely low.
  6. Outside of the U.S. flight levels may begin at other altitudes, depending on the country in which you are flying.
  7. In Europe, ATC says flight levels with double zeros differently than in the U.S. U.S. ATC: “Climb and maintain flight level two zero zero.” European ATC equivalent: “Climb and maintain flight level two hundred.” (20,000 feet with the altimeter set to 29.92 inches or 1013 Hectopascals.)
  8. I talked about all this recently at my Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/atc_jeff.
  9. My Twitter feed is all about radio procedures, tips, and techniques with some miscellaneous info about flying. If you follow me on Twitter, I won’t waste your time with off-topic tweets.
  10. A test of the Aircraft Radio Simulator’s speech recognition module is now online and available to try out.
  11. Read all of the instructions at the test page before trying the test. Following the directions will produce accurate test data.
  12. Please tell me about your results by using the 3-question survey at the end of the test. If the pop-up is suppressed by your computer’s pop-up blocker, click the link near the top of the test page to produce the survey.

Link to a video of me testing the Aircraft Radio Simulator’s speech recognition module: video link
Link to the test module: http://atcpractice.com/webaudio3.html

Your Question of the Week

You have just completed your engine run-up near the runway at an uncontrolled airport. You are holding short of the only runway for Hometown Airport. This airport has a published left traffic pattern for Runway Two and you are facing the left downwind as you prepare to enter the runway. Just as you are about to advance the throttle of your aircraft to take the runway you hear someone key their microphone and say on Unicom, “Hometown traffic, Aerostar 304 Uniform Mike, base leg, Runway Two, Hometown.” You scan the base leg and see nothing. You check the final approach path and see nothing. You check the downwind leg and see nothing. Here’s your question. Remembering there is only one runway at this airport, what would you do at this point?

When you think you know the answer to the question go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find the full answer along with a complete explanation of how that answer was derived.

As always, if you have questions of your own, you may always reach me at jeff@ATCcommunication.com.

Radar Contact #32 for 12 September 2013: Finding Your Way to Talk to ATC

767s
Round dial versus glass. Boeing 767-300 (top) and Boeing 767-400 (bottom).

Learning to talk to air traffic control on the radios can be tough. Learning to talk to ATC on the radios while learning to fly a new airplane is even harder. Learning to talk to ATC, while learning to fly a new airplane, in a foreign country is possibly the most difficult of all. In this week’s Radar Contact Show, we are going to look at that most difficult situation. We will crack the code on how to talk to ATC even when learning to fly in a foreign country.

Communication with ATC by text message? It’s already here and it may be coming to your cockpit in the near future. Find out how it works and how it will affect you in this week’s show.

“November 9275 Hotel, say your aircraft type code and suffix.” Do you know how to answer that? We’ll crack the code together.

May I ask you a question? Too late. I already asked one! Though it’s a matter of opinion and certainly technique-only, I believe there is a right way and a wrong way to make a request with ATC. We will look at the difference.

I have so much of the good stuff in this week’s show it will make your head spin. That’s okay though. We’ll throw in full rudder opposite the direction of spin and set the aircraft right again. Here we go. . .

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Show Notes:

  1. Upgrading from the Boeing 767-300 to the 767-400 was not that difficult. It was simply a matter of getting used to new instrument displays in the cockpit and a few differences in systems operation.
  2. What proved harder was learning the radio work for ocean-crossing and for flying in Europe.
  3. Take a look at the taxi diagram for Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain.Clicking this link opens the airport diagram in a new window.
  4. Radio work becomes easier as you practice and as you give yourself permission to make mistakes.
  5. Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) is communication with ATC by text messaging. It is used everyday by aircraft crossing the ocean. CPDLC may have some good uses in your cockpit, especially for non-urgent communication with ATC.
  6. Your aircraft’s type code can be found at the FAA’s website. At the index page, click on the first letter of your aircraft’s manufacturer and then find your specific aircraft model in the list on the new page.Here is the link which opens in a new page or tab.
  7. The International Civil Aeronautical Organization (ICAO) is the originating source for aircraft type codes. Here is the link to the ICAO’s list of aircraft by manufacturer. Find your manufacturer in the list and then click on the manufacturer’s name to see the different models of aircraft and their codes. Here is the link to the ICAO listings.
  8. Sometimes ATC will ask you for your aircraft’s suffix.
    AIM Table 5-1-2
  9. Development of the new Aircraft Radio Simulator, written in HTML5 and Javascript is coming along nicely. I will have a test module demonstrating the voice recognition capability of the sim available for you shortly.
  10. If you need to make a simple request of ATC, just ask. You don’t need to introduce the request unless the request will be long and complicated.
  11. If you need to ask ATC a general question, first ask the controller if he or she has time for a question.

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying VFR cross-country while talking to ATC for flight following. Earlier, you had filed a VFR flight plan and you listed your aircraft with a suffix of slant Alpha, meaning your aircraft has a transponder with Mode C and you also have DME in your navigation suite. About halfway to your destination, you notice the DME display on your instrument panel goes blank. You try tuning in different VORTACs in your area, and although you receive radial information off each VORTAC the DME display remains blank. You are absolutely certain your DME system has gone inoperative. Here’s your question: Given your filed flight plan and the fact that you are flying VFR, are you required to notify ATC that your DME has become inoperative?

When you think you know the answer that question, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer to this week’s question along with a complete explanation of how that answer was derived.

Radar Contact #31 for 30 July 2013: How to Switch from Approach to Tower Control

VHF Radio
“Chestnut 372 Victor Charlie, you’re six miles north of the airport. Contact Propinquity Tower on 119.6.” That is how the switch from Approach Control to Tower Control should sound. Does it always happen that way? We’ll rip it apart in this week’s show and see what the pieces tell us.

Last time in our story, I asked you some important questions about how you would use the Aircraft Radio Simulator. Yeah, I’m talking about the software I’ve had in development since the Late Pleistocene Epoch. I’ve got your answers from the survey on this subject. The results are going to surprise you.

Got a good question for you about how the ILS hold short line affects pilots flying VFR. That’s right, sometimes IFR approaches affect VFR.

All that, plus listener emails and that twice-a-month brain cramp, Your Question of the Week. I’d tell you more but time is a-wasting and we’ve got a huge show to navigate. Roll the mp3 player!

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Show Notes:

  1. A listener writes: “I am 10 miles out [from the airport], usually where I am making my call to Tower to notify them that I am inbound for landing, but I am still stuck on ATC [approach control] for flight following. . . Had I not terminated Flight Following, would Longview Approach have sequenced me in, and had me contact the Tower, say 5 or so miles out?”
  2. Approach Control or ARTCC will always switch you to tower control before you enter Tower’s airspace. This applies whether you are flying VFR or IFR.
  3. You normally maintain your discrete transponder code when switching from Approach to Tower because most towers have their own radar display in the tower cab.
  4. Your discrete transponder code allows the tower control to view vital information about your aircraft on the tower’s radar display.
  5. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you believe the controller has forgotten or overlooked your flight, do speak up. You and the controller are both working for a safe flight. Help each other out.
  6. The results of a survey regarding the Aircraft Radio Simulator are in, and no, I cannot offer the final version of the simulator for free. I explain why in this segment of the show.
  7. You only need to hold short of the ILS hold short line when tower tells you to do so. There are very specific criteria Tower uses to activate the ILS hold short line. If Tower does not tell you to hold short of it, taxi like it isn’t there.
  8. The question about the ILS hold short line comes from my Twitter feed. You may follow me at twitter.com/jeff_atc for more tips and techniques when talking with ATC. Use the Twitter icon in the upper right corner of this website or use this link.
  9. Do you have experience with any of the following flight schools: ATP, Aerosim, Wayman, Dean, ADF? If so, get in touch with me at jeff@atccommunication.com. There is a listener in Venezuela who is interested in attending one of these schools and he needs more information.

Your Question of the Week:

You are departing VFR from a Class Charlie airport. Before you taxied out to the active runway, the clearance delivery controller in the airport tower gave you a discrete transponder code to squawk and a frequency to contact departure control.

You have lifted off of the runway and you are climbing away from the airport. The last thing the tower controller said to you was: “Cleared for takeoff.” You are now 7 miles from the airport, well beyond the boundary of the tower’s airspace, and you have not heard anything further from the tower controller. What, if anything, should you say on the radio?

When you think you know the answer to that question, go to the link atccommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer along with a full explanation of how that answer was derived.

Radar Contact #30 for 9 July 2013: Land and Hold Short, Kimosabi

whiteHorse

Hi-yo Silver!

In this week’s show we are going to saddle up with the Lone Ranger and break out a lasso, I mean, LAHSO. I know, we should quit horsing around and get down to business.

Speaking of business. You have a very important business decision to make for me. Do we go forward with the Aircraft Radio Simulator, or should we short circuit the program and let it vaporize? You make the call, and I’ll tell you how to do it in this week’s show.

We’ve got masked heroes on horseback; we’ve got fireworks and exploding software; we’ve got your question of the week. I ask you, where else can you go for such fired-up enthusiasm over something as routine as talking on the aircraft radio. Right here, that’s where. Hi-yo Silver! Away!

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Show Notes:

  1. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for all those who were injured in the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214. It’s tragic that 2 people died in the crash and 168 people were injured. Focusing on the positive: It is impressive that the flight attendants were able to guide the evacuation of more than 300 people from the Boeing 777.
  2. There is a complete replay of the San Francisco Tower radio communication during and after the Asiana Airlines crash. You can find a link to it at my Twitter feed. Go to Twitter.com/atc_jeff. If you have not already signed up for my Twitter feed, you can do so by clicking the Twitter icon in the upper right margin of ATCcommunication.com.
  3. ATC’s Land and Hold Short (LAHSO) program is designed to improve traffic flow at busy tower-controlled airports. When used, it allows air traffic control to land aircraft on a runway and slow to a stop or exit the runway prior to reaching a designated intersection.
  4. When an aircraft lands and holds short of an intersection, it allows ATC to cross other airplanes through that intersection without concern for a traffic conflict with the landing aircraft.
  5. You do not have to accept a LAHSO clearance if you are not familiar with the LAHSO procedure or the airport layout, including any signs, runway markings, or lighting associated with the procedure.
  6. The FAA’s Airport Facility Directory lists information on an airport’s LAHSO program, including the runway affected, the land and hold short point, and the available landing distance measured from the runway’s threshold to the hold short point.
  7. lahso

  8. You also do not have to accept a LAHSO clearance if either you or your aircraft is not capable of stopping prior to the intersection named in the LAHSO clearance. To make this determination, you have to know how much runway distance is available from the threshold of the runway to the intersection you are expected to hold short of.
  9. If you are familiar with the LAHSO procedure for the runway in use, and if you and your airplane are capable of stopping prior to the named intersection, you should accept the LAHSO clearance.
  10. Once you accept a LAHSO clearance, you are required to comply with the clearance unless you are able to get an amended clearance prior to landing.
  11. A LAHSO clearance will include a clearance to land and the words, “Hold short of,” along with the runway, taxiway, or point you are expected to hold short of.
  12. Compliance with a LAHSO clearance does not necessarily mean you will land and stop on the runway prior to the named intersection. It only means you will not cross through that intersection. It is perfectly acceptable, and usually expected that you will slow to a safe taxi speed and exit the runway prior to intersection named in the LAHSO clearance.

Your Question of the Week:

You are on a 7-mile final approach to Runway 22 at a tower-controlled airport. The airport’s ATIS broadcast said Land and Hold Short Operations are in effect for Runway 22. You are flying a large aircraft that requires a minimum runway length of 4,700 feet for landing. Runway 22 is longer than 4,700 feet. The tower controller says to you, “November 338 Golf Lima, Runway 22, cleared to land. Hold short of Taxiway Charlie.”

You know there was a LAHSO program published for this runway because you read about it in your preflight planning session. You also learned in your preflight study that the available landing distance on Runway 22 from the threshold to the intersection of Taxiway Charlie is 4,400 feet.

Here’s your question. What is the radio transmission you would make in reply to Tower’s clearance?

When you think you know the answer to the question, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers.

Radar Contact #29 for 23 June 2013: FAA to Pilots: Know the Radio Standard Phraseology

At your service.
 
Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming. A couple of weeks ago, the FAA published two draft proposals that will change the way you and I will train for our Private Pilot Certificate and for our Instrument Rating. If the wording in the proposals gets integrated into the regs, you will have to demonstrate to your FAA examiner that you can reliably communicate with ATC using standard radio phraseology. Is it enough to write this requirement on paper? Will pilots use standard phraseology after they pass their checkride? Find out in this week’s show.

Contrary to popular belief, there are no terse regulations relating to a Tersa. In fact, a Terminal Radar Service Area has no regulations specific to the airspace. You still have to know how to communicate with ATC when operating inside of a Tersa. I’ll show you how.

Ummm. Uhh. What will I talk about next? Umm. Uhhhhhhhhhhhh. You’ll have to tune in to uhhhhhh, find out. Run that, uhh, thingamabob that plays this podcast.

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Show Notes:

  1. Up til now, all you needed to know about radio communication in order to get your private pilot’s certificate or your instrument rating was how to squeeze the transmit key on your microphone and speak. Now, according to a new proposal put out the by FAA 2 weeks ago, you may have to demonstrate you know standard radio phraseology when communicating with ATC during your checkride.
  2. The link to the FAA’s draft proposals for new training and certification standards, and pilot comments, is here.
  3. Unless the FAA enforces the new standard after a pilot passes his checkride, the training and certification standards won’t change a thing. In my opinion, absent enforcement, only pilots with self-discipline will continue to use standard phraseology after the checkride is passed.
  4. There are no specific rules governing flight inside a Terminal Radar Service Area (TRSA.) Part 91 is always in effect, but there are no airspace regs for TRSAs.
  5. You do not even have to talk to ATC if you fly VFR inside a TRSA as long as you stay out of the Class D airspace inside the TRSA.
  6. If you do make contact with ATC, you can say “Negative radar service” to avoid having to follow ATC instructions outside of the Class D.
  7. If you do participate in radar service, you will get radar sequencing to the primary airport as well as separation from all other participating aircraft.
  8. When you hear a pilot say “Uhh” on the radio, that’s a sign the pilot started transmitting before he knew what to say. It’s unprofessional and it takes up value air time on the radio.
  9. The best way to avoid brain lock when keying the microphone transmit button is to practice your radio calls before you fly.
  10. I have a new workbook, Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots Workbook, on sale at Amazon.com. The workbook trains your brain for VFR radio work.
  11. Using the workbook, you’ll read a flying scenario, visualize the circumstances, write the correct radio call, and then practice saying the radio call out loud. It’s multi-modal training for your brain that ensures long-term memory of vital radio transmissions.

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying VFR in a Terminal Radar Service Area. You are inbound to the primary airport inside the TRSA and you are taking radar vectors from air traffic control. The approach controller advises you that you are seven miles in trail of another aircraft, who is also inbound to the airport. ATC calls that airplane you are following and says, “Descend and maintain 4,000.” Here’s your question: Given the radio transmission you just heard from ATC, is the airplane you are following operating VFR, operating IFR, or is it impossible to tell.

When you think you know the answer to that question, go to the link ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer to this week’s question, along with a complete explanation of how that answer was derived.

Radar Contact #28 for 29 May 2013: Terminology Affects Phraseology

Aloha! I’m back from vacation and ready to talk radio procedures with you again. This time, we are going to address some questions about radio work raised by the pilots who edited my newest book. They had questions. I had answers. You’ll get to hear the whole discussion in this week’s show.

The book? It’s about a week away from hitting the shelves. I’ll tell you all about it when you hit the starter switch for the show. Clear prop!

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Show Notes:

  1. What is the difference between a rejected landing, a discontinued takeoff, and how do both situations affect what you say on the radio? The key words are “Abort” and “Go around.”
  2.  

  3. What’s wrong with this exchange? ATC: “Cessna 9130 Delta, turn right heading two four zero, descend and maintain four thousand.” Pilot: “Cessna 9130 Delta, descend and maintain four thousand. Right heading two four zero.”
  4.  

  5. The AIM, Table 4-1-1 clearly states you should announce your position in an airport traffic pattern as you enter the next leg of the pattern.
  6.  

  7. When you check in with ATC on the radio, and you are in the middle of climbing to or descending to a specific altitude, the words to use with ATC are: “Climbing to,” or “Descending to.” Those quotes come from AIM 5-3-1 b. 2. (a): “When operating in a radar environment: On initial contact, the pilot should inform the controller of the aircraft’s assigned altitude preceded by the words “level,” or “climbing to,” or “descending to,” as appropriate; and the aircraft’s present vacating altitude, if applicable.”

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying in a tower-controlled airport pattern. You have just rolled out on a 2-mile final approach to Runway 26. Just as you do this, you hear Tower say to another airplane, “Cessna 9130 Delta, Runway 26, line up and wait.” As you look ahead to the runway, you see a Cessna 172 roll out onto the runway, turn the corner, point down the length of the runway and stop.

You are now on about a mile and quarter final when you hear Tower clear that airplane for takeoff. That airplane begins its takeoff roll. You are on a three-quarter mile final when you hear the pilot of that other airplane say, “Cessna 9130 Delta is aborting. I’ll be stopping on the runway.”

Here’s your questions. First, what do you expect Tower to say to you after acknowledging that other pilot? Second, what do you say in reply; and then what do you do?

When you think you know the answer to those questions, go to the link ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find all of the answers along with a complete explanation of how those answers were derived.

Radar Contact #27 for 30 April 2013: ATC Radio Basics

Eroute Center Frequency

Enroute center postage stamp box.

Lately, we’ve been covering more advanced topics in radio work with ATC. In this show we are back to aircraft radio basics. Why? Recent experience tells me some pilots don’t have the fundamentals nailed down. It’s time to haul out the hammer and smack some basic nails into the base of the construction project you and I have been building.

Put on your hard hat or whatever you use to protect your cranium and let’s get to work.

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Show Notes:

  1. When you make initial contact with a new air traffic controller, you should begin your radio transmission by stating the controller’s identity.
  2. The controller’s identity is the name of his facility plus his facility’s ATC type.
  3. Once you have determined you are talking to the correct ATC agency when making initial contact, do not repeat the ATC identity in each follow-up radio call.
  4. Whether stating your full call sign or your abbreviated call sign, always, always, always include the prefix or your make model or type and the remaining digits and letters after the prefix. Always.
  5. Some pilots incorrectly include both their aircraft’s make model, or type plus the letter November when saying their call sign.
  6. Here’s the trick to listening to the radio. Don’t multi-task. If a radio call comes in for you, stop doing busy work and listen.
  7. Another technique I use to help me hear and absorb radio calls from ATC is to try and anticipate what might be coming next.
  8. Keep your ears open to what ATC actually said, not what you expect to hear.
  9. I’ll have an announcement in an upcoming show on how to get your hands on the published version of my workbook on radio procedures and technique.

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying across southern Mississippi, talking to Houston Center. You are using Houston Center for VFR flight following. You notice the frequency has been dead silent for the last five minutes, so you decide to check in with Houston to make sure you are still in radio contact. You say, “Cessna 9130Delta, radio check.” There is no answer, so you try again, this time reducing the radio’s frequency squelch until you hear static: “Cessna 9130 Delta, radio check.” Again, no reply from Houston.

You can see your radio is powered, the transmit light illuminates when you press the transmit button, and you can hear the sidetone of your own voice in your headset when you transmit. The radio and your headset connection is good. You have apparently flown out of radio range of the controller you had been talking to. What you need now is a new radio frequency for ATC that works for your location.

You remember that I told you you can look up the frequency for enroute centers on a low altitude enroute chart, but the only chart you have in the cockpit is a sectional chart. The sectional does not show frequencies for enroute centers. Here’s your question: What can you do to determine a good frequency for Houston Center for your location?

When you think you know the answer to that question, go to the link: ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer to this week’s question as well as a complete explanation of how that answer was derived.

Radar Contact #26 for 8 April 2013: How Far Out to Contact ATC

headIf you grew up in the 1970′s or 1980′s “Far out” means something to you. Far out also means something to you if you plan to work with air traffic control. In this show, I’ve got a rule-of-thumb that determines how far out from the edge of controlled airspace you should try and make contact with ATC. Far out!

How about something useful that’s free! Okay, whatta ya got? I have got a free 220-page workbook for you that teaches how to think your way through any radio transmission to air traffic control. The workbook, a companion to my original book Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots, is a compete training package. Listen to the show to learn how you may get a free copy of the workbook.

See questration? Maybe, maybe not. On April 6, 2013, under a federal program of sequestration, the first of more than 140 airport traffic control towers was scheduled to close. Now, the FAA says, “Maybe not.” Tune in to hear what it all might mean to you and your airplane.

This week’s Question of the Week is not a question. It’s a very cool audio quiz. I’m going to play a series of radio exchanges between a pilot and ATC. Can you pick out the correct and incorrect radio transmissions made by the pilot? Test your listening and evaluation skills right here. It’s all part of a very different and intriguing edition of Radar Contact. Let’s go!

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Show Notes:

  1. I recommend contacting ATC 5 miles before crossing into controlled airspace.
  2.  

  3. If you don’t get ahold of ATC before reaching the boundary of controlled airspace, enter a holding pattern outside of the airspace.
  4.  

  5. In some cases, all you have to do is make radio contact with ATC and that is good enough to enter the airspace.
  6.  

  7. You can determine the boundaries of controlled airspace by looking at the depiction of the airspace on a sectional chart.
  8.  

  9. Class Bravo airspace is different from other types of controlled airspace. You must be specifically cleared to enter Class Bravo before entering.
  10.  

  11. Want a free 220 page workbook on radio training from me? You will have to do just a little bit of editing work to get one. If you would like to be part of a team of 10 pilots that help me edit the workbook in exchange for a free copy, write to me at jeff@ATCcommunication.com by April 15, 2013.
  12.  

  13. If you think you would like to get a copy of the workbook, don’t delay. I’m going to snatch up the first 10 qualified pilots or student pilots who write to me and then the door closes.

Your Question of the Week:

Listen to the following 10 radio exchanges between ATC and a pilot. Try to determine if the pilot makes a correct or incorrect radio transmission in each of these instances. I’ll identify each set of radio exchanges by number. You may mentally note, or write down, whether each numbered exchange has a correct or incorrect transmission in it. Hint: Some of the errors the pilots make are subtle and tricky. You may need to replay some of these radio exchanges.

When you think you have identified all of the errors, go to http://ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find an answer key identifying each correct and incorrect response, as well as a full explanation about why each radio call was either correct or incorrect. This one is extremely tough. Good luck.

Radar Contact #25 for 19 March 2013: ATC Will Not Separate VFR Aircraft In Class C

closedTowerATC won’t separate VFR aircraft flying in Class C airspace? Is that really true? Good luck, Skippy. You’re on your own. I hope you don’t hit another aircraft. . .

I’ve got to be kidding you, right? I’m not kidding. Radar controllers do not provide VFR aircraft with separation from other aircraft operating in Class Charlie airspace. But, despite this, you are not putting your life on the line when you enter Class C. I’ll explain why in this show.

Also in this show, a live phone conversation with a pilot who had a great question for me about using Clearance Delivery when flying VFR. (How can a phone conversation be live if it’s recorded?)

Plus, a thought-provoker about sequestration; some good news for you about an upcoming workbook; and of course, your Question of the Week.

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Show Notes:

  1. ATC will provide sequencing for you when flying VFR in Class C airspace unless you tell the controller, “negative radar service.”

  2.  

  3. ATC will separate IFR aircraft from your aircraft using either vertical separation standards, visual separation, or “green between” your aircraft and the IFR aircraft.
  4.  

  5. While ATC will not adjust your speed or altitude to create standard separation between your aircraft and other VFR aircraft, you will still get traffic advisories and alerts from ATC when other aircraft conflict with your flight path.
  6.  

  7. I talk to a pilot about how Clearance Delivery may apply to a pilot flying VFR from a Class D airport. Generally, at Class D airports, Clearance Delivery is used to give route and departure instructions to pilots departing under IFR. Listen to the airport ATIS for any exceptions to this standard practice.
  8.  

  9. Sequestration is upon us. How will it affect where you fly. Write to jeff@atccommunication.com and tell me.
  10.  

  11. Soon, you will able to volunteer to receive a free copy of a new workbook. The workbook will help you mentally prepare to make a radio call to ATC. Look for details in the next edition of Radar Contact how you can volunteer to be an editor of the workbook and receive your free copy.

Your Question of the Week:

To provide traffic advisories and alerts, ATC has to know 3 important pieces of information about your aircraft.

First, ATC needs to know who you are. This is your call sign, of course. Second, an air traffic controller needs to know where you are. Your position includes your aircraft’s location over the ground and your aircraft’s altitude. Third, ATC needs to know where you are going so the controller can project ahead to see if your flight path might conflict with another airplane’s flight path.

Once your aircraft is in radar contact, your aircraft’s identity and location will be updated each time the controller’s radar sweeps across your aircraft and interrogates your transponder. Your flight path is also tracked by radar so ATC can project where you are headed. Mode C on your transponder updates your altitude. When you switch from one controller to the next, your transponder ensures the new controller receives all of the same information provided to the previous controller. Here comes your question: If radar updates your aircraft’s identity, location and flight, and your transponder’s Mode C reports your altitude to ATC, why does ATC require you check in with each new controller by stating your current altitude?

When you think you know the answer to the question, go to http:ATCCommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer along with an explanation of how that answer was derived.

Traffic 12 o'clock, 1 mile, opposite direction, 1,000 feet below you.

Traffic 12 o’clock, 1 mile, 1,000 feet below you.

 

Radar Contact #24 for 26 February 2013: ATC Traffic Advisories

Here’s a free gift from ATC! VFR traffic advisories: all of the goodness with none of the fat of regular air traffic control. Look for it, by name, at your nearest air traffic control center. In this show you and I will talk all about VFR traffic advisories–what to expect and how to respond to ATC. It’s a show packed full of techniques and procedures you can use on your next flight.

Also in this show, a new twist on questions and answers. I’ll have an opportunity for you to get in touch with me and talk, one-on-one, about your radio questions and concerns. We’ll also consider another question–your question of the week. Look out! Literally, it’s a question about looking out; and the answer is not easy.

Before we get started, a heads up for this edition of Radar Contact. We’ll be talking primarily about VFR traffic advisories while using ATC’s flight following services. Flight following does not restrict your freedom to climb, descend, or turn at your own discretion. When you participate in radar sequencing and separation services in Class C and Class B airspace, you might not have as much freedom to maneuver as you would in the scenarios I cover in this show. Never fear, though. I’ll go over your options in Class C and B in another show.

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Show Notes:

  1. When ATC calls out traffic, you will get clock position, distance to traffic, aircraft type or model (if known), direction of travel, altitude of the traffic (if known).
  2.  

  3. Your response to the traffic callout depends on whether you see the traffic.
  4.  

  5. See the traffic? “Traffic in sight.” Don’t see the traffic? “Negative contact.”
  6.  

  7. Some pilots use the military terms: No joy (traffic not in sight); or, Tally Ho (traffic in sight). These are not intended for civilian use.
  8.  

  9. Many pilots use the non-standard term for traffic not in sight: “Looking,” or, “Searching.” ATC accepts these, but they are not terms used in the Aeronautical Information Manual.
  10.  

  11. If you don’t see the traffic and ATC believes it might be a conflict, ATC will suggest a heading to avoid the traffic.
  12.  

  13. Although you are not required to follow ATC’s heading to avoid traffic, I recommend flying the heading unless you have a compelling reason to avoid the traffic by some other action.
  14.  

  15. When traffic is no longer in conflict with your flight path, you will hear ATC say, “Traffic no factor.”
  16.  

  17. If you email a question to me about radio procedure or technique, I will answer you. If your question is really good, I’ll invite you to talk it over by Skype or by phone and record that discussion for airing on a future edition of Radar Contact. If your question is chosen, you’ll also win a free 30-minute coaching session with me on radio work, VFR or IFR!
  18.  

  19. If you have been thinking about writing a review of Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots, now is as good a time as any to head on over to the book review area at Amazon.com (convenient link!) and write that review. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate. A few words to help your fellow pilots would be greatly appreciated.

 
Errata: In the show, I give an example in which you are flying on V-234, towards the Hutchinson VOR. The first time I mention it in the show, I misspeak and incorrectly call the airway V-132.

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying in the traffic pattern at a tower-controlled airport. As you turn to crosswind the tower controller says to you, Grumman 6 Hotel Mike, “As you roll out of your turn, traffic will be a Cessna 172 at your 11 o’clock and 3 miles, entering the downwind. Report that traffic in sight.” As you roll wings level on the crosswind leg, you see a Cessna 172 at your 1:30 position at a distance that appears to be greater than 3 miles. The wind at your altitude is calm. Here’s the question: “What do you say to Tower?”

When you think you know the answer to that question go to the link ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer, along with an explanation of how that answer was derived.

Radar Contact #23 for 9 February 2013: Using the ATC Translation Dictionary

1303coverIn this show, were going to talk about how and why standards are so important. We’ll throw in a couple of simulated radio conversations, and some lessons learned. I’ll talk a bit about a book review in AOPA’s Flight Training Magazine, and then you’ll hear an unbelievable ATC clearance I got from the approach controller in Managua, Nicaragua. All that, plus your Question of the Week. Strap in and cinch down the safety belts. It’s gonna be a turbulent ride through some rough air.

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Show Notes:

  1. If you don’t speak the local language, you can never be 100% sure if you are communicating accurately.
  2.  

  3. When speaking with ATC, you’ve got to know the language. That means knowing and sticking to the standards in the manual.
  4.  

  5. As student pilots, we are taught the ATC language using a very informal method. What you get is a mixed bag of standards out of the Aeronautical Information Manual, plus non-standard phrases picked up by listening to other pilots. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it gets you in trouble.
  6.  

  7. My job is to teach you the standards. We learn by plugging the standards into the real world. The teaching scenarios I give you may be invented, but the phraseology always comes straight from the manual.
  8.  

  9. My book, Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots, was reviewed in the March 2013 issue of Flight Training Magazine. It was a fair review with a few minor criticisms. The reviewer said I admitted some of the real-world scenarios in the book differ slightly from the Aeronautical Information Manual. Not true. Everything in the book applies the standards from the AIM or the Air Traffic Controller Manual.
  10.  

  11. Just a few days ago, I got this crazy clearance from the approach controller in Managua, Nicaragua. Count how many instructions this controller spits out in one breath. It’s hard to believe, but it really happened.
  12.  

  13. Work has resumed on the Aircraft Radio Simulator after a long hiatus. I’m converting the entire program from Flash to HTML5. It will be compatible with all web browsers and work on Apple products. A new voice recognition module will let you speak and receive intelligent responses from simulated ATC. I have no prediction when it will be finished, but I’ll release test modules as able.

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying VFR in Class C airspace, receiving radar sequencing and separation from Approach Control. The approach controller says to you: “Maintain 4,500. Traffic you’re following is a Beech King Air, one o’clock and five miles, northbound, 5,000.” You see the traffic and say to Approach Control, “Traffic in sight.” The approach controller tells you to follow that traffic to the airport. You then fall in line, five miles behind the King Air.

A minute later, you hear Approach Control say, “King Air 53 X-ray, descend and maintain 3,000.” The airplane you are following acknowledges that radio call and begins a descent.

Here’s the question: Since you were told to follow the King Air, should you also descend to 3,000 feet?

When you think you know the answer to that question, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer and a full explanation of how that answer was derived.

Radar Contact #22 for 18 January 2013: Cancel Takeoff Clearance

runwayWideThere is so much information packed into this week’s edition of Radar Contact, I don’t know where to begin.

We’ll be talking about radio calls from ATC that confuse even experienced pilots. I’ll cover those with you so you will know exactly what to do should ATC ever give you one of these clearances.

There is something strange in the route ahead. Who you gonna call? Flight Watch. I’ll tell you how to do that in this weeks’s show.

Clearance Delivery? Isn’t that something for I. F. and R. pilot’s? Nope. If you fly VFR out of a Class C airport, you will probably have to ring Clearance Delivery’s bell before you taxi. Here is how to do that.

All that, plus good stuff for flight schools and flying clubs; followed by the always popular Question of the Week. That’s a lot to cover in 21 minutes. We had better get started. . .

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Show Notes:

  1. There are certain clearances given by ATC that you won’t hear very often. When they do come up, a lot of pilots, even experienced pilots are confused about what they mean.
  2. Case in point: “Shortened.” A tower controller will add the word shortened for all runway clearances when a runway’s length has been reduced for construction or other reasons.
  3. “Taxi without delay.” Many pilots, and some controllers, think that clearance means taxi quickly. It doesn’t mean that at all. It means start taxiing immediately.
  4. “Expedite” is also misunderstood. On the ground, it means start now. In the air, it is usually applied to a clearance to descend or climb. In that case, it means, fly at your maximum rate of descent or climb.
  5. “Cancel takeoff clearance is a very serious instruction. You should comply with that clearance immediately. Prompt compliance may save your life. I have an personal experience that illustrates the life-saving potential of this clearance.
  6. Flight Watch, in my opinion, can give the most complete picture of weather conditions along your route of flight. Contacting flight watch does not have to be complicated. We’ll cover how to do it, next.
  7. Clearance Delivery, it’s not just for IFR. If you depart Class C and choose to participate in Basic Radar Service for VFR Aircraft, you are going to need to contact clearance delivery.
  8. When contacting Clearance Delivery, all you need to provide is “VFR,” the general direction you’ll be flying as you depart through the Class C, your planned initial cruising altitude, plus the latest ATIS identifier code: “With Information Kilo,” for example.
  9. Clearance delivery will come back with a transponder code, any special instructions for departure, plus the departure frequency you will use after takeoff.
  10. If you used and commented on Clearance Magic, thank you for the nice feedback. As a reminder, Clearance Magic is my program that teaches you how to copy IFR route clearances with ease and accuracy, every time. It’s available in the left-hand margin of any page at this website.
  11. I am now offering volume discounts on my book Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots for flight schools and flying clubs. Check out the details by using the “Flight Schools and Clubs” tab at the top of any page of this website.
  12. The Flight Schools and Clubs tab also gives you details about how you can book me to guest lecture in your flight school’s classroom, or schedule me to speak to your flying club.

Question of the Week

You are taxiing out to Runway 8 Left at Pueblo Memorial Airport in Colorado. You are currently taxiing on Taxiway Alpha and Ground has told you to hold short of Runway 35, which crosses Alpha. Ground tells you to then monitor Tower’s frequency. Presumably, Tower is going to tell you when you may cross Runway 35 and continue to the end of 8 Left.

You make the switch to tower’s frequency, and just as you do, your aircraft’s engine starts running rough. You quickly switch your ignition from both to left magneto only and the engine still sounds rough. You try the right magneto and the engine starts to cough like it’s about to quit. As this happens, Tower comes on the radio and says, “Cessna 9130 Delta, Pueblo Tower, traffic is on a 2-mile final. Without delay, cross Runway 35. ” What do you do now, and what do you say in reply to Tower?

When you think you know the answer to that question, go to the link atccommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer along with an explanation about how that answer was derived.

Radar Contact #21 for 2 January 2013: Runway Intersections and Back Taxi

Yeager Airport, Charleston, W. Virginia (Charlie West)
Yeager Airport, Charleston, W. Virginia (Charlie West)

Quick, what does back taxi mean?

a) The seat you should take when boarding a New York City Yellow Cab.

b) A ground controller’s clearance to taxi against the overall flow of taxiing traffic on the airport.

c) A tower controller’s clearance to taxi on the runway opposite the direction of takeoff.

When cleared for takeoff, where do you begin your takeoff roll? If you say, “At the beginning of the runway,” you may be right. You may also be wrong.

Fly runway heading versus depart straight out. What is the difference between these two tower clearances?

Get the answers to all of these question in this week’s edition of Radar Contact. Plus one more question you’ll have to figure out for yourself. It’s your question of the week. Come spend a few minutes with me and let’s ponder the mysteries of air traffic control.

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Show Notes:

    1. You can plan on departing on a runway from a point abeam a specific taxiway intersection when the ground controller includes a taxiway intersection in his runway assignment for your aircraft. For example: “Runway 23 at Alpha 1.”
    2. You can find out how much runway will be available for takeoff from any intersection by asking the ground or the tower controller.
    3. If your airplane requires more runway length to safely take off than would be available from an intersection, simply tell Ground or Tower that you will need “full length.”
    4. Some airport layouts only permit you to reach the end of a runway by taxiing on the runway itself. The phrase Tower will use that clears you to use the runway as a taxiway opposite the direction of takeoff is: back taxi.
    5. When departing a tower controlled airport, ATC may assign you to fly runway heading after takeoff. You can find a runway’s heading by looking at the airport diagram.

laxRunways

  1. If Tower tells you to depart straight out, that means you should adjust your heading after liftoff to counter the drifting effect of any crosswind. Crab into the wind to track over the ground along the runway’s extended centerline.
  2. If you have finished reading Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots, I sure would appreciate it if you would write a review at either Amazon.com or at BarnesandNoble.com. Your feedback not only helps me, it also helps other pilots make a decision to get a copy of the book.

Questions of the Week

You have just called for your taxi clearance at the Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia. Your airplane needs a minimum runway length of 4,000 feet for takeoff. (Take a look at the airport diagram.)

valdostaAirport

The airport is using Runway 17 for arrivals and departures. Runway 17 is 8,002 feet long. Runway 22 is also available for departures. The airport’s NOTAMs say the last 2,000 feet of Runway 22 is closed for repaving with 3,598 available for takeoffs and landings.

Valdosta Ground says to you, “Piper 948 Romeo Victor, Valdosta Ground. Runway 17, taxi via Hotel, then right on Alpha.” As you advance the throttle of your aircraft to begin taxiing you glance at the cockpit’s clock. The currently local time is 5:45 am. The sun will not be up for another hour and a half. There is no moon. Once you are under way, the only lights you see are the taxiway lights and the lighted airport signs showing taxiways and runways.

You reach the end of Taxiway A and perform an engine runup. Now you are ready to depart. You make the radio call, “Valdosta Tower, Piper 948 Romeo Victor is ready.” The tower controller replies, “Piper 948 Romeo Victor, fly runway heading, Runway 17, cleared for takeoff.”

Here’s the question, and it is a two-part question:

First, what specific heading does Valdosta Tower expect you to fly after takeoff?

Second, how can this heading prevent you from crashing during takeoff from the Valdosta Regional Airport on this pitch black morning? Hint: The answer has nothing to do with obstacles or traffic off the departure end of the runway.

When you think you know the answers to those questions, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers. That link will take you to a page where you can get the correct answer to both questions, along with a complete explanation.

Radar Contact Show #20 for 19 December 2012

Do some of that pilot stuff, Mav!
Do some of that pilot stuff, Mav!
In this show, we are going deep, very deep, into why it is so hard to talk on the radio and fly at the same time. The answer has something to do with unicycles and violins, and the F-14 (shown above). I know that doesn’t make sense right now, but it will in a moment. Just give me a little of your time, patience, and practice, and it will all work out in the end. You’ll see–and hear–in this week’s show.

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Show Notes:

    1. The number question I get asked at ATCcommunication.com is: Why can’t I fly and talk to ATC at the same time? The answer is: You aren’t ready to do that, just yet.

    1. It takes time, patience, and practice to learn how to talk and fly at the same time. There are no shortcuts.

 

    1. You may accelerate practice on the aircraft radio by practicing at home. I have 4 options for practicing: Chair fly; practice with a training partner; use the Aircraft Radio Simulator; use 122.75.

 

  1. Errata. In my new book, Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots, I incorrectly list 123.45 as the frequency to use when practicing radio technique. This is incorrect. Use 122.75 to talk airplane to airplane and to practice your radio work.

Question of the Week:

You are about to taxi out to the runway at a tower-controlled airport. Tower is using Runway 36 for departures. After you tell the ground controller you are ready to taxi, the ground controller says to you, “Cessna 9130 Delta, Runway 36 at intersection Mike. Taxi via Alpha and Mike.” Here’s the question, and it’s a two-part question.

First, what does the ground controller mean when he says, “Runway 36 at intersection Mike.”

Second, let’s say there are three taxiways that connect to Runway 36. Taxiways Lima, Mike and November. If Taxiway November intersects the beginning of the runway, also known as the approach end, and Taxiways Mike and Lima connect to runway at points further down the runway. Without looking at any printed material how could you tell exactly how much runway would be available for takeoff if you started your takeoff roll beginning abeam Taxiway Mike or Taxiway Lima?

When you think you know the answer to that question, go to this link for a complete answer as well as an explanation.

Radar Contact Show #19 for 1 December 2012

We’re jammin’:
I wanna jam it wid you.
We’re jammin’, jammin’,
And I hope you like jammin’, too.

Jammin’, Bob Marley

Is this a jar of jelly of a jar of jam? Either way, in the context of this post, it’s a lousy pun.

I wish jamming on the aircraft radio was as fun and upbeat as Bob Marley’s song. But it isn’t. When the radio gets jammed, it you puts you in a heck of a jam. How are you going to get through to ATC, especially when it’s absolutely critical to make contact? The causes, and the solution to radio jamming, in this week’s show.

Which of the following is correct? After landing you are expected to:

A. Pop a wheelie with your airplane.

B. Stop on the runway and break out the picnic basket for a leisurely lunch in the sunshine?

C. Get off of the runway at the first available exit.

The answer might seem obvious, but it isn’t. You have options. We’ll cover all of them this week.

Of course, if those questions aren’t enough for you, I’ll wing you in the noggin’ with our Question of the Week. Strap in and fire it up. We’re about to switch on the static and jam your mp3 player. I’m not kidding.

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Show Notes:

    1. The question is not what is causing jamming of your aircraft radio, it’s who is causing jamming of your aircraft radio. If it’s you, it’s time to do a little trouble-shooting, and right quick. Are your intentional transmissions blocking other pilots from speaking? Or, is your microphone button stuck in the transmit position? I’ve got the answers and the solutions.

 

    1. After landing, when slowed to a safe taxi speed, ATC expects you to turn off of the landing runway using the next available taxiway. Never turn off before you are slow enough to do so safely, no matter the circumstances.

 

    1. If Tower tries to push you off of the runway before you are ready, get an amended clearance.

 

  1. You can use any runway as a taxiway if you receive authorization from Tower to do so.

Question of the Week

You are 10 miles outside of Class D airspace. You are planning to enter the airport traffic pattern for landing. You switch to the control tower’s frequency, but just as you are about to transmit, you hear the noise of an aircraft interior playing continuously through your aircraft’s speaker. It sounds like someone is holding down the transmit key of their microphone. You wait a minute, but the problem continues and there’s no way of knowing how long it is going to last. You really need to land at this airport, preferring not to divert elsewhere. What do you do?

When you think you know the answer to that question, click this link to take you to page with the complete answer as well as an explanation and a plan for coping with a radio frequency that is being jammed.

Radar Contact Show #18 for 12 November 2012

 

The Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Florida.

 

Who is in control of your airplane when you are working with ATC? Is ATC in control, or are you in control? If that seems like a straight-forward question to you, tune in to the show. I’m about to chomp down on your notion of aircraft control and shake it until it cries for mercy. Plus, an excerpt from Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots you cannot read in the preview at Amazon.com or at BarnesandNoble.com. Of course, our question of the week, or, perhaps this week we should call it our dirty rotten mind game of the week.

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Show Notes:

1. It was a great weekend. I got to fly in my friend Robin’s Air Cam. With 2 100-horsepower Rotax engines pushing this plane around 80 knots, we flew low and slow in the open-air cockpit. Great fun!

Air Cam
Robin in his homebuilt Air Cam (foreground).
A friend in his floatplane version of the Air Cam (background).

 


That’s me up front and Robin in back.

 

2. When you link up with ATC, the whole concept of aircraft control gets shaken up. ATC has control, and you are pilot-in-command. Are you fighting for control of your aircraft, giving up control of your aircraft to ATC, or are you sharing control? Furthermore, what do you do when ATC makes a mistake with your aircraft? The question can be answered with a question: Query the controller.

3. My new book, Radio Mastery for VFR pilots is on sale at Amazon.com and at BarnesandNoble.com as a downloadable ebook. A print version should be out at Amazon.com this week. In the meantime, I’ll read an excerpt from the book that you cannot get from the “Look Inside the Book” feature at either website. By the way, although my reading is set to some decent blues music, music is not included with the book!

Question of the Week:

You are flying in your aircraft on downwind at a tower-controlled airport. Another airplane checks in on the radio with tower and reports a 5-mile final for the runway on which you will be landing. Tower clears that aircraft to land, and then says to you, “Continue on the downwind. I’ll call your base.” Put on your air traffic controllers cap and try to think like ATC. Does Tower need you to fly a longer distance on downwind, or does Tower want you to spend more time on downwind? Obviously, the problem with this trick question is, if you spend more time on downwind, you will fly a longer distance. Thinking about what the Tower controller needs, should you maintain your normal downwind leg airspeed and fly a longer distance, or should you slow to your slowest practical airspeed and try to fly as little distance as possible as you extend your time on downwind?

After declaring me a dirty rotten bastard for asking a trick question; and, when you think you know the answer, go to this link: http://ATCcommunication.com/answers for a complete answer as well as an explanation about how that answer was derived.

Radar Contact Show #17 for 30 October 2012

Cessna 9130D, traffic 12 o’clock and 5 miles, opposite direction, climbing through 5,000 unverified.

 

Hello. Remember me? I’m that guy who used to run a bi-monthly show called Radar Contact. If you are keeping score, it’s been 2 1/2 months since you and I last talked. The reason? I’ve been working on a new book for you. You’ll hear about that in this week’s show.

Also in this show, what the clearance “Make closed traffic” means; and, for IFR pilots, why a clearance to fly a standard terminal arrival route (STAR) is not the clearance you may think it is. There’s a big gotcha in that clearance that can bite you in the ass.

Of course, we’ll have our fan favorite, the question of the week. Ready? Let’s fire it up and see where the show takes us.

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Show Notes:

1. How many sections of Part 91 are devoted to radio communication? (A section is a portion of a federal regulation that covers one particular subject.) It’s a trivia question but the answer, and its implications are anything but trivial. Here’s the link to 91.123.

Audio Lesson 6: Being Dead Wrong on the Aircraft Radio

2. My new book, Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots is now available at Amazon.com and at BarnesandNoble.com.

3. “Make closed traffic” is an airport tower clearance that authorizes you to fly continuous circuits around the traffic pattern. If there is no published direction of travel for the runway in use, you are free to make either left closed or right closed traffic.

4. A standard terminal arrival route (STAR) into an airport provides a path, altitudes to fly, and in some cases, airspeeds to maintain as you descend from cruising altitude down to an arrival gate at an airport. Clearance to fly a STAR is not clearance to descend on that STAR, even if the STAR has published altitudes to maintain. Click here to examine the BUNNI 2 STAR.

Question of the Week:

You are flying a VFR cross-country. There are numerous puffy clouds at your cruising altitude of 5,500, but they are widely spaced. Maintaining VFR cloud clearances between these puffies only takes an occasional small heading change. You are currently under radar contact with Minneapolis Center for VFR flight following. The air traffic controller says to you, “Cessna 9130 Delta, VFR traffic 12 o’clock and 10 miles, opposite direction, Mode C indicates climbing through 4,000, unverified.”

You look straight ahead and slightly low and see nothing. You reply, “Cessna 9130 Delta, searching.” After a minute, the controller says, “Cessna 9130 Delta, previous traffic now 12 o’clock and 5 miles, opposite direction, climbing through 5,000 unverified.” You still don’t see anything so you say, “Cessna 9130 Delta, negative contact.” To which the controller says, “Cessna 9130 Delta, for traffic avoidance, suggest you turn right, heading zero four zero.” You look right and see a large puffy cloud at your 2 o’clock position and a half-mile. You figure the heading ATC just gave you will put your aircraft within 1,000 feet of that cloud. But you also consider you have traffic heading directly towards you at possibly your altitude. What do you do in response to ATC’s traffic avoidance heading?

When you think you know the answer to that question, click this link: Answer to Question Asked in Radar Contact for the complete answer and explanation.

Radar Contact Show #16 for 5 August 2012

‘Chestnut 493 Yankee Victor, contact Memphis Center on 127.85.’

When one air traffic controller passes you to another, you don’t magically pop into that new controller’s airspace like some low-budget special effect. The new controller knows you are on your way, well before you get there. When you are handed off from controller to controller, there’s nothing initial about making initial contact. You’ll see what I mean.

When is the FAA’s hear back program not a hear back program? When an air traffic controller hears your read back but doesn’t listen. What the book says is supposed to happen, and what actually happens, doesn’t always match. Who pays for it? It might just be you.

We all make mistakes. It’s kind of fun when an air traffic controller corrects his own error with a good sense of humor. It doesn’t happen too often.

No one laughs, though, when a pilot screws up a hold short clearance. It’s almost unbelievable how many times per month I hear professional pilots make this mistake. There’s zero tolerance for a failure to read back a hold short instruction as our example will show.

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Question of the Week

You are flying VFR over Central New Mexico, while talking to Albuquerque Center. You are currently in radar contact with Albuquerque, and you are flying along a Victor Airway just above the airway’s minimum obstruction clearance altitude. As you pass through a gap between the mountains, the controller at Albuquerque Center says, “Radar contact lost. Report over the Silver City VOR.”

Here’s the question, and it is a two-parter: First, has Albuquerque Center terminated radar service for your flight? Second, what would you say to the air traffic controller as you crossed over the Silver City VOR?

When you think you know the answers to those questions, go to the link ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find the correct answers to both questions, along with an explanation about why those answers apply.

Radar Contact Show #15 for 19 July 2012


One day, many years ago, I was flying a civilian, general aviation aircraft northwest of Atlanta under VFR. To my surprise, a U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagle swooped down, and leveled off at my altitude, about a 1/4 mile off my left wingtip. True story. I was flying only 130 knots indicated, so I was surprised to see the fighter jet could slow down to hold position with me.

The pilot of the jet gently banked towards me and moved within a couple of hundred feet of my aircraft. He was so close that I could see the pilot waving hello. Then, just as quickly, the pilot lit his afterburner and shot out of there like, well, like an F-15 in full blower. It was over so quickly, it was almost like a UFO encounter, but as I said, true story.

In today’s show, we’ll talk about what it means when a fighter jet falls into formation with your airplane. The circumstances will probably be quite different than my encounter. You’ll see what I mean when you listen to the show.

When you enter Class C airspace, you are messing with radar control by ATC. It pays to know what’s coming; and to know what to say to the air traffic controller. We’ll have at it in today’s show.

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Question of the Week:

You are flying towards an airport with a control tower that is contained by Class D airspace. However, the Class D airspace that defines the control tower’s area of control is coverlapped by Class C airspace.

A good example of this is the New Smyrna Airport on the east coast of Central Florida. The north, east, and west side of the New Smyrna’s Class D airspace is overlapped by the Class C airspace surrounding Daytona Beach International Airport. So here’s today’s question, and if you are currently enrolled at, or have graduated from Embry-Riddle University at Daytona Beach International, don’t shout the answer out loud and ruin it for everybody else.

When your intended destination airport is in Class D airspace, which is overlapped by Class C airspace, will ATC provide you with Class C radar service, that is sequencing, traffic advisories, and safety alerts, when your airplane is inside of the secondary airport’s Class D airspace?

When you think you know the answer to that question, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers for the correct answer, as well as a complete explanation.

Radar Contact Show #14 for 4 July 2012

PIREP: Birds 3/4 of a mile off the departure end at 700 feet.

It turns out, in some situations, the most important part of your aircraft radio is not the microphone connection. It’s the speaker connection. You’ll see what I mean at the top of the show.

You can be a life-saving hero with one simple radio call. Find out, how to keep other pilots from blindly running into trouble.

That’s all coming right up after a ridiculous but true story about how one pilot got himself in trouble with ATC by being friendly on the radio.

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Show Notes:

  1. Somedays, it just doesn’t pay to be upbeat. Especially when you say one thing to ATC and ATC hears something else entirely.
  2. Simultaneous operations on intersecting runways is a high-threat environment. You can save your own hide by listening to the radios carefully.
  3. Build a mental picture of the traffic situation around an airport by listening to radio traffic between ATC and other aircraft.
  4. A PIREP may just save another pilots life.
  5. A PIREP is a short and simple radio call that warns other of potential hazards.
  6. Only make a PIREP after you are well-removed from any danger and your aircraft is stabilized in normal flight.

Question of the Week

You are inbound for landing in your Cessna 172. When you tuned in the ATIS frequency, you heard, “Simultaneous operations on intersecting runways are in effect.” Tower has told you to enter a 2-mile left base leg for Runway 36. The intersecting runway, Runway 9, crosses your runway at exactly it’s halfway point.

You report entering a 2-mile left base and tower clears you to land, adding “Traffic is a Learjet 35 on a 3-mile final for Runway 36.” You don’t see the Learjet. At this point, should you request a right 360, request a re-entry for downwind, or continue your approach for your full stop landing?

When you think you know the answer click here: Answers to Questions Asked in Radar Contact

Radar Contact Show #13 for 15 Jun 2012

Which of these Cessnas is not like the other? Which of these Cessnas is not quite the same?

In this week’s show we are going to live dangerously. We are going to talk on a radio frequency when there is another aircraft on the same frequency with a similar sounding call sign. Ooh, scary! You think I’m kidding? Just you wait and see what happens.

We are also going to step inside your brain’s movie theater and crank up the flight projector. It’s going to be a cosmic trip down memory lane. When the house lights come up again, you are going to have some new ideas on how to prepare and execute your radio calls to ATC.

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Show Notes:

1. Predictability contributes to a safe and efficient flight.
2. You can make your radio work more predictable by something called flight projection.
3. Even when you plan your next several moves in your airplane, the plan may have to turn on a dime when the flight situation changes. Be ready and project through those changes.
4. Similar sounding call signs on the same frequency is more dangerous than you think.
5. When someone else on your frequency has a call sign that sounds similar to yours: Pipe down and pay attention; don’t abbreviate your call sign; don’t grab a clearance if you aren’t sure it isn’t intended for you; get clarification from ATC when needed–don’t guess.
6. Thank you, if you were one of the crowd who has gotten on board with Clearance Magic, the program for copying IFR clearances with ease and accuracy, every time.

Question(s) of the Week:

You are entering downwind in an airport traffic pattern. Tower says you are number 3 in the sequence for landing. Your airplane develops engine trouble and you need to get on the ground right now. You declare an emergency and get priority to land number 1.

After landing, the tower supervisor wants you to deliver a written report to her explaining why you needed to deviate from your original clearance and land immediately.

1. Does the request for a written report indicate you are in trouble with the FAA?
2. How long do you have to get the written report in the tower supervisor’s hands?

When you think you know the answers to these questions, click here: Answers to Questions Asked in Radar Contact.

Radar Contact Show #12 for 15 May 2012

The AIM section almost everyone ignores.

The Aeronautical Information Manual says be brief on the radio, yet some pilots use the radio like a personal chat line. The Aeronautical Information Manual also says, use your full call sign, including your prefix. Many pilots make up their own call sign rules.

Here’s a link to a free .pdf copy of the AIM.

In this week’s episode, we’ll talk about why the guidance in the AIM about radio use might save your butt some day. It begins with a weird arrival to Runway 22 at Puerta Vallarta. Then there’s this part about bad Atlanta drivers who wouldn’t know the difference between a turn signal lever and a hole in the ground. It ends with a rebel pilot who hides his true identity to keep a controller guessing. Makes sense? Tune in, and it will. I promise.

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Show Notes:

  1. The Aeronautical Information Manual says brevity on the radio is very important. I have a story about an arrival into Puerta Vallarta that illustrates why it can really mess up a good day if the radio is tied up with yackity-yack.
  2. There is the right way to use your call sign and there is the wrong way. Despite clear guidance about what is the “right way,” most pilots do it their way–which is wrong. Be a trend-setter and do it right. I explain how.
  3. Thank you to everyone who bought Clearance Magic over the last couple of weeks. The program for pilots learning IFR clearances is still on sale at IFRclearance.com.

Question of the Week:

Your call sign is Piper 5378 Yankee. You are flying VFR over the western United States in the late evening. The controller says to you, “Piper 78 Yankee, change to my frequency, 128.7.” You acknowledge this radio call and then tune your radio to the new frequency.

What is the radio call you would make to check in on the new frequency?

When you think you know the answer click Answer to Questions Asked in Radar Contact. That will take you to a page where you will find the answer, along with a complete explanation.

Questions for me? jeff@ATCcommunication.com

Radar Contact Show #11 for 29 April 2012

This week’s edition of Radar Contact is built on the questions I received from pilots who visit ATCcommunication.com. That’s great! It’s great for me, because it creates new material for the show. It’s great for you because you and I get to discuss the issues that are on pilots’ minds.

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Show Notes:

    1. True story: You are transitioning through an airport traffic area when the tower controller sends not one, but two other aircraft on a collision course with your airplane. Besides running away, what else can you do to fix the situation?

 

    1. True story: You are flying under Class B airspace, in very crowded skies, using VFR flight following. All of a sudden, you lose contact with ATC and cannot get it back. Your radio is okay, but the controller you were working with does not answer. What now?

 

  1. Announcing Clearance Magic: Copy IFR clearances with ease and accuracy, every time. This is a brand new product I just produced for sale. It’s designed to help pilots who fly IFR, and struggle to copy route clearances. Look for it on the sign-in page for ATCinsider.com, and at IFRclearance.com.

Question of the Week

You are currently using VFR flight following service from ATC. You have been assigned a transponder code of 1-5-1-0. After handoff to the next ATC sector, the controller says, “Reset your transponder. Squawk 6-5-0-1.”

First, why would a controller assign a new transponder code to your airplane?

Second, what is your primary concern when switching your transponder code from 1-5-1-0 to 6-5-0-1?

When you think you know the answer, click here for Answers to Questions Asked in Radar Contact.

 

Radar Contact Show #10 for 7 April 2012


A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from an Insider with ATCcommunication.com. Daniel wrote to me asking about a non-standard instruction given to him by a tower controller. The controller told him to fly “towards the numbers.” He couldn’t find that phrase anywhere in the Aeronautical Information Manual. It turns out, tower controllers say a lot of things that aren’t in the manual. It’s perfectly legal for them to do so.

In this show, you and I will cover what, how, and why airport tower controllers give instructions that are non-standard. We’ll also talk about what you can do when a tower controller says something that surprises you.

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Show Notes:

    • The Air Traffic Controller’s Manual allows controllers to use non-standard phraseology to ensure the safe and expeditious flow of traffic.

 

Radar Contact Show #9 for 7 March 2012

The Door is Always Open

One of my favorite singers is Keb Mo. He has a song called The Door. The refrain in that song goes: “I found out that the door was always open.”

The door is always open at Air Traffic Control. You just need to ask a question or make a request through ATC to get what you want. A lot of new, and even some experienced pilots, are hesitant to ask anything of ATC. You will find out, if you ask, that air traffic controllers are a good, hard working bunch of people who really do want to help you. No need to be intimidated. If you need something, speak up.

In this week’s show, we continue our interview with Jack Bowers, retired air traffic controller from the St. Louis TRACON. Jack tells a story about how he helped a pilot overcome a emergency and get the airplane safely on the ground. It’s a great story of an air traffic controller helping a pilot who asked for help.

Before we get to the show, let me remind you that the door is always open at ATCcommunication.com. I really enjoy hearing from you. It gives me a sense of mission to be able to help you. If you have questions, ask me and I’ll get right back to you. I’m here for you. Now, on to the show. . .

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Radar Contact Show #8 for 15 February 2012

 

Who are you talking to at Approach Control?

Who is on the other end of the radio when you talk to Approach Control? You are about to find out. Jack Bowers, a recently retired radar controller from the St. Louis TRACON, talks about what to expect when you check in with Approach.

Here’s what to expect:

  • How approach controllers take the handoff of your aircraft from enroute control.
  • Find out how VFR aircraft are handled when the sky fills up with IFR traffic.
  • Learn what you can do to get the best possible service from Approach and Departure control.
  • Discover why it’s a good thing to say “Student pilot,” on the radio when you are in training.
  • Learn what you really get when you hook up to ATC for fight following.

All this, and more, from a person who is not only a very experienced air traffic controller, but also a current certified flight instructor.

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Here’s a link to Jack Bowers’ website: GatewaySport.net

Radar Contact Show #7 for 26 January 2012

A horse walks into the hangar. The pilot looks at the horse and says ‘Hey buddy, why the long face?’
      1. Learning a Foreign Language.
      2. Hold Your Horses, Part 1–What a controller wants to hear after telling you to hold short.
      3. Hold Your Horses, Part 2—What a controller wants to hear you say when you enter a holding pattern.
Your radio call over Falmouth VORTAC.
      1. Forumania, Not!
      2. Question of the Week: Braking Advisories. . . More like breaking your neck advisories.

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Forum discussion on this Radar Contact show.

Answer to Question Asked this Week in Radar Contact

 

Radar Contact Show #6 for 4 January 2012

SR-71 Blackbird SR-71 Blackbird
      1. Fly Mach 2.1 until a 3-mile final from the runway.
      2. Question of the week: If ATC tells you to “Cruise,” and your first name is not Tom, are you flying on a mission impossible?
      3. Introducing the ATC Insider members-only website.

Answer to Question Asked this Week

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Photo courtesy of juiceeric18@flickr.com

Radar Contact Audio Show #5 for 16 December 2011


Today’s topics:

      1. How to Mix it Up with Fighter Jets in the Airport Traffic Pattern
      2. New ATC Insider’s Website Coming to a Web Browser Near You
      3. New Interviews with Air Traffic Controllers
      4. I Will Come Speak to Your Class or Flying Club (Because My Plate isn’t Full Enough.) Details below.
      5. New Smaller Units of the ATC Vocabulary Builder at Smaller Prices

I’m Available to Speak Click here for details

ATCpractice.com Home of the ATC Vocabulary Builder. New packages and pricing. Pre-order, but pay no money. This offer is valid until Midnight, December 21, 2011.

Answer to Question Asked this Week

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Radar Contact Audio Show #4 for 29 November 2011

Today’s topics:

            1. How to Violate an Assigned Altitude: A Handy Guide for Pilots.
            2. The Super Secret Key to Copying Taxi Clearances. Hint: It’s better than “Say again.”
            3. You Talking to Me?
            4. Question of the Week: I need to enter Class C airspace and ATC says, “Standby.” Should I wait outside, or enter?

Answer to Question Asked this Week

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RDU’s Class C Airspace

Radar Contact Audio Show #3 for 7 November 2011

Today’s topics:

            1. PAR for the Course
            2. Test and Pre-Order the ATC Vocabulary Builder
            3. Question of the Week: What to do with Radio Two?

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Precision Approach Radar complex PAR scope

ATCpractice.com Home of the ATC Vocabulary Builder. Pre-order before Midnight (EST), 11-11-11 for a 25% discount.

Answer to Question Asked this Week

Radar Contact Audio Show #2 for 13 October 2011

Today’s topics:

                1. The Case of the Invisible Airplane*
                2. Progress on the Aircraft Radio Simulator, plus something brand new!
                3. The Question of the Week: What Was Miami Center Thinking?!

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Miami Area Map showing Dolphin VOR and Virginia Key VOR

Answer to Question Asked this Week
*Oh boy, a small mistake in this segment. The opposite direction traffic will pass directly overhead, but it will track over your airplane from your 1 to 2 o’clock. It will not pass down your right side as I incorrectly stated in the show.

 

Radar Contact Audio Show #1 for 26 September 2011

In this show, I make an important announcement I’m sure you will enjoy.

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Be well and fly safe,

Jeff

jeff@ATCcommunication.com

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Aaron September 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Jeff,

I must apologize for being one of the ones who did not send in for your contest. I am new to the flying community, as I am just a student pilot. I do not know much of the airways, intersections and designations. I am stationed overseas and tried to find something out of the ordinary for your contest during my free time. However, I wasn’t quite as successful as I had hoped, and did not enter.

Please don’t let the absence of replies get to you too much. Your hard work and dedication have truly been a blessing to my understanding like you could not imagine! Thank you for the podcasts, topics on the website, quizzes and of course, the simulators!!

Aaron

Reply

JeffKanarish September 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Hey Aaron,

Thank you so much for speaking up. I appreciate you trying to find an intersection name to enter into the contest. It does take some time to get used to reading the charts, especially when it’s all brand new to you.

I’m glad you are getting some value out of ATCcommunication.com. Your comments are a huge reward for me.

As you continue to fly and learn, if you have any questions about anything regarding flying, just ask. I’ve got a bunch of conversations going by email with student pilots and licensed pilots around the world. Most of what you read at this website begins with questions or comments from our community.

Cheers!

Jeff

Reply

Felix December 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Great Jeff, good job.

Reply

JeffKanarish December 17, 2011 at 3:12 am

Thank you! I have fun putting these shows together.

Jeff

Reply

Henrique May 17, 2012 at 3:35 am

Hi Jeff,

As always great audio show! I must confess, I was a victim of bad habit just today, and dropped the aircraft make from the call sign. Will be on watch for this in the future and keep it standard.

-Henrique

Reply

JeffKanarish May 17, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Good on you Henrique! Thank you for the attaboy.

Jeff

Reply

Felix Rodriguez October 30, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Hey Jeff, only for your information, when I teach radio com to a student I ask then not to use the word , through instead to use passing or leaving, because is less confusing for the ATC, Example: N123 through 320 for 400. I woild recomend: N123 passing 320 climbimg 400.
Good job Jeff

Reply

JeffKanarish October 30, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Felix:

Great to hear from you. Here’s the correct phraseology right out of the Aeronautical Information Manual:

5−3−1. ARTCC Communications
b. ATC Frequency Change Procedures.
2. (Name) CENTER, (aircraft identification), LEAVING (exact altitude or flight level), CLIMBING TO OR DESCENDING TO (altitude of flight level).

I do like your method also.

Jeff

Reply

Felix Rodriguez October 31, 2012 at 12:10 am

Thank you Jeff

Reply

John Herman February 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Jeff:
I have your book on VFR radio mastery and am an AOPA member as well. My personal opinion is…don’t change your style of writing! While very accurate in content, the levity you use helps to make the material more interesting and fun, while acknowledging that radio communications is a very serious subject. I certainly don’t think that you need to be “more aggressive” as mentioned in the AOPA review. You are able to “get the point across” without jamming it down our collective throats.

Thanks for what you do to help your fellow pilots!

Regards,
John

Reply

JeffKanarish February 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Hey John,

Thank you very much for the nice feedback. I believe when the reviewer said my editor needed to be more aggressive, he meant my editor needed to trim the book for length. You may get a hint of this when the reviewer said the book was “overflowing with information.”

In any case, I have no plans to change the style of writing. Other readers have told me they really enjoy the humor also.

Again, thank you for the comments. I’m working on a VFR radio comm workbook and a book about radio technique for IFR pilots; and your feedback will help make those books better.

Jeff

Reply

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