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Aircraft Radio Call Anatomy 101

In which we examine the bones of an aircraft radio call.

In this anatomy lesson, we’ll study the skeleton of a radio call. Once you learn the bones of a radio call, you will be able to put meat on the bones and create any radio call you wish. Point is, if you are hesitant to make a radio call because you aren’t sure how to say something, the exploration we are about to make should give you a reliable structure for saying anything that’s on your mind.

To begin the dissection, let’s toss a radio call on the table and open ‘er up:

“Piper 765 Delta Papa, over the tank farm at 2, 500, inbound for landing.”

Okay, name the bones of this call:

  1. Who you are: “Piper 765 Delta Papa.”
  2. Where you are,
    1. Laterally: “over the tank farm,”
    2. Vertically: “at 2,500,”
  3. Your intentions: “inbound for landing.”

In order to live and breathe,

Every radio call must always, and I really mean always, have item 1: who you are.

If you are not in radar or visual contact with air traffic control, you must include item 2: where you are. Even if you are under radar or visual contact with ATC, in many cases you will still need to verify where you are either vertically, or laterally, or both.

Whether or not you include item 3: your intentions, depends on the circumstance. For example, if the tower controller tells you “Report clear of the traffic pattern,” all you need to say is “Piper 5 Delta Papa, is clear of the pattern, 5 miles southwest.” Beyond that, the tower controller couldn’t care less what your intentions may be. There are many more circumstances in which you may or may not need to include your intentions, we’ll discuss those another time.

There is a fourth item that we can call: remarks. For example, you might report to ATC that you are flying in light turbulence so the controller may alert other pilots in the area. You might indicate that you are a student pilot so the controller accommodates your “in-training” status. There are thousands of examples of remarks, and we’ll cover many in future articles.

Take a Break

We aren’t on solid ground quite yet. Let’s put a cover on the specimen, but leave it on the table for our next session. Next time, we’ll begin talking about each bone of a radio call in detail.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Isaak June 6, 2015 at 2:13 am

Hi, Jeff. Yesterday I signed in to use simulator, But today there is only registration again, no sing in. And system does not let me in because it saying there was allready this e-mail, this password. . In other wordk no sing in only registration. Could you help with that. Thank you


JeffKanarish June 6, 2015 at 1:31 pm


I sent you an email explaining how to log in.



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