Audio Lesson #6: Being Dead Wrong on the Aircraft Radio

Most pilots use non-standard radio phraseology at one time or another. Most of the time, they get away with it. One day in March, three decades ago, non-standard phraseology killed 335 people.
Los Rodeos Airport, Tenerife, Canary Islands. KLM 4805 (in red) backtracks on Runway 30 and begins a takeoff roll without clearance from Tower. KLM 4805 collides with Pan Am's Clipper 1736 (in blue,) as the Clipper tries to taxi off the runway.

Show Notes:

  1. Most pilots use non-standard phraseology at one time or another. Many pilots use non-standard phrases as a habit.
  2. Non-standard radio phraseology is a radio call that does not meet the standards set in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) and the Air Traffic Controller’s manual.
  3. For example, when Tower clears you for takeoff, the AIM’s standard readback is: “Cleared for takeoff.” A non-standard readback might be: “Cleared to go.”
  4. We fall into the trap of using non-standard phrases because we generally get away with using them.
  5. Air traffic controllers are very flexible, and will usually accept a readback of “Climbing to fourteen,” as a substitute for the standard phrase: “Climb and maintain one-four thousand.”
  6. This acceptance of non-standard phraseology indicates, incorrectly, that it is okay to talk this way.
  7. Some day, you are going to find yourself in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and the use of non-standard phraseology is going to get you, and perhaps other people, in deep serious trouble.
  8. The air disaster at Tenerife is an eye-opening example of how dangerous it is to use non-standard phraseology.

Your Turn:

Have you ever been corrected by an air traffic controller because you used non-standard phraseology? Has an air traffic controller ever used non-standard phraseology with you? Tell me a good story.

Did this Article Help You?

There’s more. Become an Insider for absolutely free with no obligation, and get:

  • More tips, tricks and techniques for talking to ATC.
  • Instant free access to the Aircraft Radio Simulator.
  • Free downloads to make your flying life easier.
  • Members-only forum for pilots and student pilots learning how to talk on the radio.

Go Inside Now!


(This link will take you to the registration page for ATCInsider.com, for instant free access to the Aircraft Radio Simulator.)

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

9 thoughts on “Audio Lesson #6: Being Dead Wrong on the Aircraft Radio”

  1. Pingback: How to Request a Takeoff Clearance from Tower

  2. My first flight solo with a radio to a near by airport, I did get my face chewed off because I didn’t reply back “clear for the option” which at the time, I had no idea what it meant. They would repeat it back to me and this was my first time with a radio so I didn’t know I had to repeat that back at the time. It was pretty embarrassing. After I told him I was a student, he was a bit more understanding.

    1. Yes. I really like the option to say “Student Pilot” in your first radio transmission. It almost always makes life easier with ATC.

      Jeff

  3. Pingback: Radar Contact Audio Show #17 Closed Traffic

  4. I hope ATC will be patient with you and will provide sufficient information to you if you declare that you are student pilot and you be honest otherwise….

  5. Hi, Jeff. Thank you again for your simulator. A little question. How to repeat transmission on language builder? I did not find the button for repeat. There is saying just one time and if I click correct answer its goes next. But i ‘d like to repeat phrases to remember them. Thank you again.

    1. Isaak,

      There is no repeat transmission for the language builder. This was only a test program, not a finished product. I have not worked on it 3 years.

      Jeff

      1. Hi Jeff. But you will continiou to work on that programm? This is the most important program I thing ! Thank you for your work and enthusiasm !

Leave a Reply to Gabriel Biho Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

On Key

Related Posts

Learning Radio Skills from Pilots

There is a misconception among new pilots that listening to other pilots speak on the radio is a good way to learn radio phrasing. My opinion is, maybe, but probably not. Listen to the audio in this 1:10 video. These are all presumably experienced pilots communicating with Peachtree Tower at Dekalb-Peachtree Airport (KPDK). Ear-opening, yes?

New Day, New Jet

"New day, new jet." That is an Air Force Instructor Pilot's standard statement that means the current training scenario is over, and a new one has begun. It is a line of demarcation that reminds student pilots it is time to move on to the next challenging scenario. It's a new day here at ATCcommunication.com,

Flying into Class B for the First Time

If you are anticipating flying into Class B airspace for the first time, not to worry. The procedures ATC uses inside of Class B are nearly identical to those used in other classes of airspace. The subtle variations in procedure will most likely be unnoticeable to you. What may jump out at you is the

Pilot’s Discretion Descents

As you approach your destination, ATC will clear you to begin a descent from your enroute altitude to some lower altitude. Often descent clearances will come in a series of lower altitudes. This series of step-down clearances is issued to allow you to descend without conflicting with other traffic at lower altitudes. Occasionally, and in

I Hate Holding

No one likes to have their forward progress stopped. You know what I mean. When you are stuck in a traffic jam on the road, it’s very aggravating. Waiting at a long red stoplight when you need to be somewhere can raise your blood pressure. Similarly, when ATC says, “Expect holding at [a navigation fix],”

Scroll to Top