Speed Kills–On the Radio

It’s not so much speed that kills a good radio transmission. It’s the side effects of speed-talking that destroy a perfectly good radio transmission. I have a case in point.


Two nights ago, I was flying into JFK. This was at an extremely busy time at an airport that is already one of the busiest in the country. The New York Approach controller was talking very fast. His speed-talking caused slurring of some words. He was keying the mic a nanosecond after starting each transmission. Some aircraft call signs were being cut out of his transmissions due his rush to speak before his transmitter was engaged.

Worse still, his frantic pace was encouraging pilots to follow his lead on the radio. The net effect was a need to repeat many transmissions at both ends of the frequency.

Last night, I was flying back into JFK about the same time. Same gargantuan amount of traffic. Same need to put out a lot of information on the radio in a short period of time. Different approach controller. This guy talked at a moderate pace. Everything came through on the radio very clearly. Not surprisingly, pilots followed the controller’s lead again. No missed information. Nothing needed to be repeated.

Lesson Learned

Speed-talking on the radio does not save time. It’s not the speed that wrecks a radio call. It’s the poor diction, skipped words, and lousy timing associated with speed-talking that causes all of the problems. Talking at a moderate pace, and being understood the first time you speak, saves time on the radio.


You can’t control what other people do on the radio. You have absolute control over what you do, as long as you do it mindfully. No matter what a controller or other pilots do on the radio, I strongly recommend controlling the pace of your own speech. Strive for efficiency, not speed. Make your first transmission count.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Francis Kuhn September 23, 2019 at 11:02 am

Excellent informative article.
So very true. In any application of Voice Radio Comms talking fast and keying the Mike a few milliseconds after actually starting to talk certainly can lead to problems. Another thing.. talking directly into or too close to the Mike can lead to distortion. This apples also to Amateur and Citizen Band Radio. I have experienced this several times while operating citizen band radio.

In the case of a very busy Airport ,in terms of heavy air traffic , especially at night , talking fast and keying the mike very shortly after beginning to speak can lead to big problems. Asd the4 old saying goes…
” More haste …less speed. “


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