Audio Lesson #3 Acknowledging Clearances with Roger

Are you legal to respond to a directive from ATC with only the word "Roger?" Further, is answering with "Roger" a good idea. The answer follows.

Are you legal to respond to a directive from ATC with only the word “Roger?” Further, is answering with “Roger” a good idea. The answer follows.

Show Notes

  1. According to the Air Traffic Controllers Manual, JO 7110.65T, you are perfectly legal to acknowledge an ATC clearance with “Roger” or “Wilco” or “Affirmative” or other words or remarks.
  2. The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) says you should read back the numbers when assigned an altitude or vectors.
  3. The AIM is a collection of best practices, and not a regulation.
  4. Acknowledging with “Roger” is legal, but is it smart?
  5. Both the AIM and the Air Traffic Controllers Manual say, when you read back the numbers, it allows an air traffic controller to verify what you thought you heard was correct. It’s part of ATC’s hear back program.
  6. Reading back your clearance, as opposed to simply saying “Roger” adds a layer of safety. It’s not required, but it is the smart thing to do.
  7. I try to perform an amazing feat of mentally telepathy at about the 4-minute mark in this show, so keep listening.

How do you acknowledge ATC clearances?


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15 thoughts on “Audio Lesson #3 Acknowledging Clearances with Roger”

  1. I’d appreciate it if you could tell what to simply say while transitioning thru airspaces B/C/D and how to make those transitions w/out ending up in the boundaries of B/C/D?

    1. Bertolt:

      Thank you for asking this question. First, when you say “transitioning” through airspaces B/C/D, I assume you mean passing through these zones while flying VFR. Right?

      Forget about flying VFR through Class B airspace. Air traffic control will never let you do it, unless it is three o’clock in the morning and there is absolutely no traffic in the Class B airspace. While it is legal to fly through Class B when VFR, with permission, controllers do not want you in it because they are too busy with high-speed, heavy traffic.

      For Class C and D airspace, the radio call is simple: 1. Who you are. 2. Where you are. 3. What you want to do. Class D airspace: “Peachtree Tower, Cessna 123 Alpha Bravo, ten miles north of the airport. I would like to transition your airspace north to south at 2,000 feet.” Or, “I’d like to overfly the airport, north to south, at 2,000 feet.” For Class C airspace, you would make the same radio call but you would make that call to the radar control facility for the airport you wish to overfly.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “how to make those transitions without ending up in the boundaries of B/C/D?” Do you mean how to fly around these types of airspace? If so, the trick is to know where the boundaries are. The boundaries for airspace C and D are shown on sectional navigation charts. Class C usually covers airspace from the surface to 4,000 feet with a narrower section from the surface to 1,200 feet. Class D airspace usually runs from the surface to 2,500 feet for a 5-mile radius from the center of the airport. But, each airport might have tailored sections that don’t fit the standard. Look at the Aeronautical Information Manual and your sectional charts for more detail.


      1. Thanks Jeff for your detailed answer!
        yup, that was what i tried to ask..
        Thanks a lot for putting together this site..
        so useful!!

  2. Hello Mr. Jeff Kanarish. I just discovered your website while looking for ways to improve my radio skills. I just finished my first solo and am starting cross country work. Thank you for this terrific website, I am enjoying the podcasts and learning a great deal from them. I am having a hard time remembering all the instructions that ATCs read to me because the string of information is often too long for me to remember. Hopefully after I go through the whole site, I can improve on the radio. Thanks again.

    1. Hey Raymond:

      Thank you for the nice compliments. It’s good to know the website is helping. There is plenty more on the way. If there is anything specific you’d like me to cover, you can reach me at Also, the Aircraft Radio Simulator should be a big help to you once it is complete.



  3. Hi Jeff,

    Just stumbled upon your website when searching for some ATC terminology.

    I listened to your ‘roger’ podcast and right away a question popped up.

    When on IFR, and receiving final instructions for an approach, the controller gives you heading and altitude until FAF or glideope intercept.

    Do you recommend to read back these numbers as well instead of just replying “… Cleared for the approach”? After all, all those numbers are part of the procedure.



    1. Hello Dutch,

      Glad you found us. My default answer to your questions is, read back the controller’s full instructions. Your question raises a question in my mind. What type of approach are you flying and where are you relative to the final approach course when the controller gives you his instructions? Here’s why I ask.

      If you are taking radar vectors from ATC to a final approach course, you are not established on the published instrument approach until you have met the criteria for being established on the final approach course segment. Therefore, the numbers on the instrument approach do not apply to your current situation. You have to comply with whatever the approach controller says until you are established on a published segment of the approach.

      If you are already on a published segment of the approach, such as the final approach course, the initial approach course, or a feeder route, then yes, the numbers on that part of the procedure probably apply. However, and this is a big however, an approach controller can almost always modify how he wants you fly that segment.

      For example, very few approach procedures specify the speed you should fly while on a segment of the approach. ATC may specify a particular speed to fly that is not published. Many published approaches have “at or above” altitudes for a particular segment. ATC may modify the altitude you should maintain on these segments. Some approaches have altitudes to maintain on a particular segment, but have notes that specifically say “or as assigned by ATC.” As you can see, there are many times where published approach procedures may be modified by ATC.

      For all these reasons, my default answer is, read back the controller’s full instructions, regardless of the instrument approach procedure. For read back you should not only say the numbers, but also the units or modifiers. For example, if the controller says, “Turn right heading 040. Maintain 5,000 till established on the localizer, cleared for the ILS Runway 10,” your read back should be “Right heading 040. 5,000 till established on the loc, cleared ILS Runway 10.” Pilots who say only the numbers are setting themselves up for trouble: “180, 100, 5000, cleared for the approach.” Good question, Dutch. Thank you for asking.

  4. I want to insure that my communication is with ATC and with other pilots is concise and accurate. I am using your website to increase my awareness of areas I need to work on. I am an instrument rated pilot looking to take down a good clearance and read it back correctly. Nothing sounds better than a well spoken the point pilot. Thank you for your site will continue to utilize it from time to time.

    1. Hey Leonardo,

      This happens to me once in a while. What I do next depends on my level of patience and how bad the frequency sounds. If the frequency sounds horrible and my patience is gone, I’ll say, “You’re broken and unreadable. Do you have another frequency we can try?” If there is some hope of actually hearing the controller and my patience is still good, I’ll say, “Say that again slowly, you are barely readable.” The point is, if the quality of the frequency is very poor, tell the controller. There’s no point beating your head against the wall if doing so isn’t going to get the result you need.

      Good question. Thank you for asking.


  5. You talk about “regulartory” vs. best practices (regarding the AIM). Where are pilots supposed to get this sort of information. Reading the ATC manual probably isn’t something most pilots do.

    I learned these skills from my instructor, but the only real documents I have seen are in the AIM.

    There’s lots of bad examples to follow when listening on the radio. Coaching us away from these would be great topics to continue with.

    Also, for non ATC, but best practices for non-towered airports. Espeically ones where you commonly see IFR training with VFR traffic.

    1. Jeremy,

      The AIM is the goto source for radio phraseology and best practices. Pilots are not required to know the material in the ATC manual J.O. 7110.65. I cite J.O. 7110.75 to provide background and explanation, not to imply pilots should memorize its content.

      I agree the methods by which pilots learn what is, and isn’t, required on the radio is deficient. This is why you hear such poor radio work by many, if not most pilots. My book, Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots sorts the wheat from the chaff to promote better radio training.

      Thank you for the suggestion to provide tips on working at an uncontrolled airport with a a mix of VFR traffic with IFR training. I gave the IFR crowd plenty of info on how to work with VFR pilots at uncontrolled airports in my book Radio Mastery for IFR Pilots. I’ll cover that topic with a focus on VFR flight in the next edition of the Radar Contact Show.

      Good to hear from you.


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