Control Tower Options

“Dice right, ice cream, alert, 654 Jose. . . Brown Richmond 96 double . . . hut hut!”

What?! I’ll give you a hint: Football and air traffic control. Here’s another hint: trying to understand Tower’s instructions does not have be painful if you know what is coming next. If that still doesn’t make any sense, hang in there. It will make sense when we open up ATC’s playbook and look inside.

What makes a good headset? No, really. What does make a good headset? I can’t answer that. Each pilot has a personal definition of “good headset.” We really want to hear yours–your opinion, not your headset. You’ll get a chance to transmit and receive (your opinion) in our show.

A new ATC phrase, “Climb via,” is going to go active on April 3, 2014. We’ll look at what it means for pilots who fly IFR. (If it’s past April 3 by the time you read this, you have some catching up to do.)

Let’s get caught up.

(This show and past shows are also available at iTunes. Search for the Radar Contact podcast.)

Show Notes:

  1. Air traffic controllers use code words that describe a complex sequence of moves in very few words. Most importantly for you and I, the plays that controllers use come from a playbook.
  2. We pilots have access to every play in a controller’s playbook.
  3. There are no secrets in air traffic control and, knowing this, there should never be an element of surprise when we fly.
  4. The entire playbook is called Joint Order 7110.65. Here is link to: a free copy of J.O. 7110.65U. The next edition, J.O. 7110.65V will become effective April 3, 2014.
  5. The specific section of the playbook that affects air traffic control in an airport pattern is Chapter 3, Section 8 of Point 65, titled Spacing and Sequencing.
  6. A little bit of time spent learning tower’s plays will save you a ton of frustration the next time you fly in an airport pattern.
  7. An article I wrote for the March issue of Flight Training magazine, titled Walk the Talk, is now available online for free. Here is a link to the article.
  8. Most general aviation radios do not have the high fidelity sound of the radio transmissions I use in this show.
  9. The reason I play clear, high-fidelity radio transmissions on this show is to make learning easier. Most of the time, the point of the lesson is in the content, not the quality of the transmission.
  10. A very good headset can filter out a lot of the audio garbage produced by lower quality radios and noisy cockpits.
  11. If you have a headset that does a good job for you, or even one that you absolutely hate, tell us about it in the comments section below this article. You don’t have to write a novel.
  12. In our last Radar Contact show, I put out a quiz that asked you to make some decisions as an air traffic controller. It asked how you would control traffic in specific situations at an airport.
  13. I also received a few emails either challenging a correct answer I provided for the quiz or asking a question about tower control and I am very grateful for the feedback and discussion.
  14. If you have been following me at Twitter, you probably read some tweets which updated progress on version 2 of the Aircraft Radio Simulator.
  15. I expect to put a working demonstration of the simulator online in another week.
  16. Keep an eye on at my twitter feed for announcements on the release of the demo. If you aren’t already following me at twitter, you can use the Follow icon in the right edge of any page at Or, you can go to my feed at and click the Follow button there.
  17. Speaking of Twitter, here’s the most recent question posed at my Twitter feed: What is the common transmit and receive frequency used by Flight Service Stations in the U.S.? Answer: 122.2. Source: AIM Chapter 7, Section 7-1-2 Item D. “The common frequency for all FSSs is 122.2.” (I forgot to mention this in the show but there you have it.)
  18. Effective the 3rd of April, 2014, air traffic controllers will begin using the phrase “Climb via” when issuing clearances to some pilots flying standard instrument departures. Here is a link to the announcement.

Your Question of the Week:

You are practicing takeoffs and landings at a tower-controlled airport. While on downwind, you make this radio transmission:

“Cessna 30 Delta requests the option.” The tower controller replies, “Cessna 30 Delta, unable stop-and-go. Other options are approved.”

Here’s your question: Given tower’s response, are you permitted to make a full stop landing from your next approach? When you think you know the answer to that question, go to There you will find the correct answer along with a full explanation of how that answer was derived.


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12 thoughts on “Control Tower Options”

  1. I use the Telex Airman 750 headset. This headset is extremely lightweight and comfortable. The audio it picks up from the radios is very clear, but that might not be saying much because I use it on a Boeing 767-400. The B-767’s radios are of the highest quality, so the headset does not have to do much work to create good audio quality.

    While the headset has a noise-filtering microphone, it is not a good choice for general aviation airplanes because the earphones do not filter noise. The headset is best used in jets with quiet cockpits.

    Which headset do you use and do you like it, love it, or hate it?

    1. Hey John,

      We use David Clarks as backup headsets in our jets. I find them to be heavy and somewhat uncomfortable. I know what you mean about the metal rivets. Thank you for writing.


    1. Hey John,

      Bose sure makes good products. While the A20 is relatively expensive it sounds like you get what you pay for. Thank you for writing.


  2. After using flight-school loaners I cleaned out the garage and sold everything of value (on Ebay) that I didn’t need and invested in a set of the Bose A20s (based on reviews and my previous good history with Bose products). 200+ hours later I couldn’t be more pleased with my choice. Switching on the noise cancellation is dramatic. And I’ve made several 3-6 hour cross-country flights with comfort never being an issue. Probably several good similar headsets among the top manufacturers though.

  3. Before I decided on purchasing a headset, I asked a bunch of other pilots what they thought of their headsets and if they’d recommend them, and I also tried a few out. I heard great things about Bose headsets, and after flying with a pair, they were definitely my favorite. However, I just couldn’t convince myself that spending $800-$1000 on a headset was a good decision at this point in my training. Then, I found the solution to that problem, the UFlyMike. It’s a microphone that was designed to plug into the Bose Quiet Comfort headsets 2 & 15. So, I bought the Bose Quiet Comfort 15 (about $300) and the microphone from (about $225) and ended up with an even more light weight, noise-cancelling Bose headset to use for almost half the cost of the A20 ($525 total).
    One of my instructors uses the Bose Quiet Comfort/UFlyMike combo as well, we’ve each had ours for a couple of years now and absolutely love ‘em.

    1. Kimi,

      Great idea! While $525 is nothing to sneeze at, your idea will allow some pilots to get into a top-tier product who may not have been able to before. Thank you.


  4. I love my Lightspeed Zulu2. I bought it after the 3rd lesson. I travel commercially a lot (100k miles/yr) and have been spoiled with the Bose QC15, so the non-NC GA headsets left me with some minor ringing upon landing. Being a Bose guy, I tried the A20 first but it felt like the speaker was touching my ear since the cups weren’t deep enough. The Zulu2 fit perfectly over my ears without touching. I’m completely happy with them. I have about 40hrs on them and the battery is still alive. It has an auto-on/off feature so I never actually use the power button.
    @Kimi, one thing to note about using the QC15 is that a dead battery means the headset stops passing audio. There is no passive mode. They are good at warning you when it’s getting low so you should have plenty of time.

    1. Hey John,

      I’ve also heard good things about Lightspeed products. I saw at the Lightspeed website that a pilot can connect most Lightspeed headsets to an iPad or an iPhone. Either Apple product can record communications similar to a cockpit voice recorder. What a great feature! Thank you for your review, John.


    2. @John Roberts, oh yeah! Thanks! That is something important that I forgot to mention… So far, the warning light has given me plenty of notice that my battery is running low, so there haven’t been any surprises… But I always keep a couple spare AAA batteries in my bag, just in case. 🙂

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