ATC Clearance Read Back Answers

Here is a repeat of the survey with the correct answers highlighted in green. An explanation of why a particular answer is correct follows. If you think the answers are wrong, or you think the question is bogus, go back to the survey page and tell me so in the comments section below the survey.


1. Cessna 9428 Zulu, Regional Approach, radar contact one-one miles west of the Elm Grove VOR.

1. Cessna 9428 Zulu copies radar contact.
2. Cessna 9428 Zulu copies we’re radar contact one-one miles west of the Elm Grove VOR.
3. Cessna 9428 Zulu.

At the very most, you can acknowledge “Radar contact” with only your call sign, because you are acknowledging that your status has changed with ATC. On the other hand, a case can also be made for saying nothing at all in response.

2. Beechjet 5 Yankee Oscar, light to moderate to extreme precipitation along your route of flight beginning about 30 miles ahead. If you need to deviate let me know.

1. Roger, we’ve got that on radar, Beechjet 5 Yankee Oscar. No need to deviate at this time.
2. Beechjet 5 Yankee Oscar.

The first part of ATC’s transmission is an advisory call. Advisories need nothing more than an acknowledgment by stating your call sign. The statement “If you need to deviate, let me know,” only requires you to say something when you intend to deviate around weather. If you don’t, no need to say anything about it.

3. Tomahawk 315 India Golf, Peachtree Tower, traffic will be crossing the runway downfield. Runway 20R, line up and wait.

1. Tomahawk 315 India Golf, traffic crossing the runway. Runway 20R, line up and wait.
2. Tomahawk 315 India Golf, Runway 20R, line up and wait.

“Traffic will be crossing the runway downfield” is an advisory call. It does not need to be read back. “Line up and wait,” is directive and must be acknowledged verbatim.

4. Glasair 3 Echo Quebec, traffic one o’clock, ten miles, southwest bound, a Beech 1900, descending to 8,000.

1. Looking, Glasair 3 Echo Quebec.
2. Glasair 3 Echo Quebec.

If you only acknowledge a traffic point out from ATC with your call sign, the air traffic controller does not know whether you see or don’t see the traffic. By saying “Looking” or “Searching” for traffic, ATC knows you don’t have the traffic in sight but you are looking for it. You can also use the fighter jock term “No joy,” which means you are looking for the traffic, but don’t see it.

5. Mooney 23 Bravo, you’re following traffic at your ten o’clock and 5 miles, a Cessna 310, northbound, same altitude. Advise when you have him in sight.

(In this case, you do see the traffic.)

1. Traffic in sight. Mooney 23 Bravo.
2. Mooney 23 Bravo.

“Advise when you have him is sight” is directive. ATC needs to hear the specific reply: “Traffic in sight” in order to clear you for a visual approach to a runway behind preceding traffic. Acknowledging with only your call sign does not tell the controller you have the traffic in sight, only that you heard him.

6. Piper 91 X-ray, you’re following traffic at your one o’clock and 5 miles, a Beech A36, same altitude. Advise when you have him in sight.

(In this case, you do not see the traffic.)
1. Searching. Piper 91 X-ray.
2. Will advise when we see the traffic. Piper 91 X-ray.
3. Piper 91 X-ray.

Answer 1 is the shortest, most succinct way of telling the controller you do not have the traffic in sight. Answer 2 is verbose. Answer 3 only tells the controller you heard the directive, but not whether you see the traffic.

7. Twin Cessna 8 Delta Delta, a previous aircraft along your route of flight reported moderate turbulence at your altitude beginning around the Falmouth VOR and continuing north for the next two zero miles.

1. Twin Cessna 8 Delta Delta copies moderate turbulence from Falmouth north for twenty.
2. Twin Cessna 8 Delta Delta.

Here’s another advisory call from ATC that only requires you to acknowledge with your call sign. If you want to take further action to avoid the turbulence, that is a different conversation.

8. Skylane 90 Charlie, Information Sierra is current at Chicago Exec. Winds 190 at 10 gusting to 16, 4 miles in haze, sky’s 2000 scattered, 4000 broken, temperature 21, dew point 13, altimeter 29.95. Landing Runway 16.

1. Skylane 90 Charlie copies 190 at 10 gust 16. Landing Runway 16.
2. Skylane 90 Charlie copies landing Runway 16. 29.95.
3. Skylane 90 Charlie. 29.95.
4. Skylane 90 Charlie.

When a busy controller take the time to give you the entire airport information spiel, one of two situations is true. Either you are an emergency aircraft and your hands are too full to go off frequency to get the ATIS; or, the controller is very kind, and not too busy. In either case, all you need acknowledge is the local altimeter setting. Treat the rest of ATC’s transmission as an advisory that does not bear reading back.

9. Otter 34 Kilo, Oakland Center, change your squawk: 5224 and ident.

1. Otter 34 Kilo, squawking 5224 with a flash.
2. Otter 34 Kilo.
3. Say nothing, but change the squawk and hit the ident button on your transponder.

Any of these answers is correct. Answer 1 means you aren’t sure about the squawk or the need to ident, so you repeat it back to the controller for an accuracy check. Answer 2 means you heard the controller, I could also argue that Answer 3 works because simply changing your squawk and hitting the ident button is an acknowledgment.

10. Renegade 27 Tango, contact Potomac Approach on 127.55.

1. 127.55, Renegade 27 Tango.
2. Renegade 27 Tango.

Answer 1 is correct if you are unsure of what you heard and you need the controller to accuracy check your reply. Answer 2 is correct if you know you heard the new frequency correctly. There is no requirement to repeat a frequency back to a controller.

Quick soap box statement on this.

If you fly out of your home drome where the frequencies, for example, are Ground: 121.9; Tower 118.6; Departure/Approach: 120.5, why read back these numbers when switching from controller to controller if they never change and you have them memorized? Save some radio air time by acknowledging memorized frequencies with your call sign only. Off my soap box.

And One Last Thing . . .

Now that you’ve got the pop quiz thing down, how about taking one minute more to answer a lightning fast survey. It’s 4 questions you may answer anonymously that will tell me what you want and need from this website. Here’s the link. Thanks. Jeff.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

MT February 25, 2011 at 2:57 am

Jeff, Another great format and I’m not sure if I answered all the questions exactly perfect because some things not included are acceptable. I would explore your next topic to include what is your perception as a pilot when you answer any clearance with just “(Call Sign), Roger” or with an inflection in your voice that infers that it is a question.

PS: please add spell check to the comments after all I am a controller.


JeffKanarish February 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Hey MT. I agree that there are more acceptable replies to ATC than listed in the quiz. I limited the number of answers to keep the length and complexity manageable.

Your suggestion to do an article on replying with “Roger” is a good one. Personally, I rarely use “Roger” by itself, and then only when acknowledging a heads up from ATC, such as: “I’ll have higher for you in two minutes.”

Sorry about the lack of spell checker. There is only one spell checker add-on available for this website platform, and it has side effects that would degrade the site’s performance.



John Herman December 20, 2012 at 3:00 am

Just wanted to thank you for your interest in helping us fledgling along. Even though I have 115 hours as a private pilot, I took a hiatus for about 35 years to get married and raise two kids. Just got my biennial completed about 3 weeks ago and am back in the saddle…somewhat. Interesting that I find radio communications the greatest challenge of all! Again, thanks for the help. BTW, I got your recent book on Kindle as well…very helpful! Regards, John


JeffKanarish December 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Hey John,

You are welcome. Let me know if the book, or your contact with ATC generates any questions.



Andres April 16, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Soon I’m going to take the ICAO test and I hope these ATC exercises will help me out (I’m sure they will though). Thanks for taking the time to help others that someday wish to be an Airline Pilot just like you. Once again, thanks.


JeffKanarish April 17, 2014 at 12:15 am


You are most welcome. Email me if you have questions.



cris May 10, 2016 at 7:39 am

H! In my country, Argentina, Pilots are requested to read back ALL the insformation given by the ATC wether operating in spanish or in english.


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