Voice Activated Flying

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Cessna 9130, move rook to King 1.
I’m afraid I can’t do that Dave.

Air traffic control is voice-activated flying. Don’t believe me? Consider this. You’re about to enter a tower-controlled airport pattern. Tower says, “Cessna 9130 Delta enter a right base, Runway 36.” In response, you fly towards the entry point for a right base leg to Runway 36. He says it. You do it. That’s voice activated flying.

Sometimes there is a disconnect between what Tower tells you to do and what you do in response. Sound familiar? It should. Every week I get email from listeners who all ask me essentially the same question: What did Tower mean when he said . . ? In today’s show, we are going to answer that question.

All that, plus an excerpt from my upcoming book, Radio Mastery for IFR Pilots; and Your Question of the Week. Here we go. Computer play audio show. Computer, play audio show! Computer? Earth to computer. The heck with it. Use your mouse and hit play.

Note: This episode of Radar Contact and all future shows will no longer be duplicated under the tab Radar Contact Show in the navigation menu for this website. To download past shows for listening offline, go to this link at iTunes or go to your podcasting app and search for the podcast Radar Contact.

Show Notes:

  1. Instructions from an airport tower controller are equivalent to voice-activated flying.
  2. A tower controller sometimes has to use plain language to keep aircraft separated and flowing smoothly into and out of an airport.
  3. If you have ever not understood an instruction from Tower, you are not alone.
  4. Pilots occasionally misunderstand Tower’s instructions about how to enter an airport traffic pattern.
  5. Here are the various instructions for entering an airport traffic pattern:
  6. Enter a right/left downwind for Runway 36.
    Enter a right/left base for Runway 36.
    Fly directly to the numbers for Runway 36.
    Enter a _____-mile straight-in for Runway 36.

  7. If you don’t understand what Tower wants you to do, ask for clarification. Asking Tower to repeat the instruction will usually not clear up a misunderstanding.
  8. If you received an instruction from ATC that you didn’t understand, write to me at jeff@ATCcommunication.com and we’ll talk about it.
  9. Watch for updates on the progress of my new book, Radio Mastery for IFR Pilots.

Your Question of the Week

You are approaching a tower-controlled airport. You are 10 miles south of the airport. The airport is using Runway 27 for takeoffs and landings. The tower controller tells you to make straight-in for Runway 27 and report 3 miles. Here’s your question:

Given your position 10 miles south of the airport, which of the following does the tower controller expect you to do?

A. Enter the downwind followed by a base leg that leads you to a 3-mile final approach, or,
B. Fly directly to a base leg entry so as to end up on a 3-mile final approach, or,
C. Turn to the northeast now and then maneuver to join a 3-mile final approach, or
D. Fly directly towards the threshold of Runway 27 and report 3 miles out.

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

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