Radar Contact 32: Finding Your Way to Talk to ATC

Round dial versus glass. Boeing 767-300 (top) and Boeing 767-400 (bottom).

Learning to talk to air traffic control on the radios can be tough. Learning to talk to ATC on the radios while learning to fly a new airplane is even harder. Learning to talk to ATC, while learning to fly a new airplane, in a foreign country is possibly the most difficult of all. In this week’s Radar Contact Show, we are going to look at that most difficult situation. We will crack the code on how to talk to ATC even when learning to fly in a foreign country.

Communication with ATC by text message? It’s already here and it may be coming to your cockpit in the near future. Find out how it works and how it will affect you in this week’s show.

“November 9275 Hotel, say your aircraft type code and suffix.” Do you know how to answer that? We’ll crack the code together.

May I ask you a question? Too late. I already asked one! Though it’s a matter of opinion and certainly technique-only, I believe there is a right way and a wrong way to make a request with ATC. We will look at the difference.

I have so much of the good stuff in this week’s show it will make your head spin. That’s okay though. We’ll throw in full rudder opposite the direction of spin and set the aircraft right again. Here we go. . .

Show Notes:

  1. Upgrading from the Boeing 767-300 to the 767-400 was not that difficult. It was simply a matter of getting used to new instrument displays in the cockpit and a few differences in systems operation.
  2. What proved harder was learning the radio work for ocean-crossing and for flying in Europe.
  3. Take a look at the taxi diagram for Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain.Clicking this link opens the airport diagram in a new window.
  4. Radio work becomes easier as you practice and as you give yourself permission to make mistakes.
  5. Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) is communication with ATC by text messaging. It is used everyday by aircraft crossing the ocean. CPDLC may have some good uses in your cockpit, especially for non-urgent communication with ATC.
  6. Your aircraft’s type code can be found at the FAA’s website. At the index page, click on the first letter of your aircraft’s manufacturer and then find your specific aircraft model in the list on the new page.Here is the link which opens in a new page or tab.
  7. The International Civil Aeronautical Organization (ICAO) is the originating source for aircraft type codes. Here is the link to the ICAO’s list of aircraft by manufacturer. Find your manufacturer in the list and then click on the manufacturer’s name to see the different models of aircraft and their codes. Here is the link to the ICAO listings.
  8. Sometimes ATC will ask you for your aircraft’s suffix.
    AIM Table 5-1-2
  9. Development of the new Aircraft Radio Simulator, written in HTML5 and Javascript is coming along nicely. I will have a test module demonstrating the voice recognition capability of the sim available for you shortly.
  10. If you need to make a simple request of ATC, just ask. You don’t need to introduce the request unless the request will be long and complicated.
  11. If you need to ask ATC a general question, first ask the controller if he or she has time for a question.

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying VFR cross-country while talking to ATC for flight following. Earlier, you had filed a VFR flight plan and you listed your aircraft with a suffix of slant Alpha, meaning your aircraft has a transponder with Mode C and you also have DME in your navigation suite. About halfway to your destination, you notice the DME display on your instrument panel goes blank. You try tuning in different VORTACs in your area, and although you receive radial information off each VORTAC the DME display remains blank. You are absolutely certain your DME system has gone inoperative. Here’s your question: Given your filed flight plan and the fact that you are flying VFR, are you required to notify ATC that your DME has become inoperative?

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

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dutch September 16, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Hi Jeff,

I just listened to your radar contact episode weer you asked some help with sw dev.

I may be able to help you. I have no specific JavaScript knowledge but I am a long time sw architect/developer, mainly Java.

Please shoot me an email or give me a call @ 561-306-7395. I am in FL so I am in the same time zone as you if I am not mistaken.


Aka Dutch


JeffKanarish September 16, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Hey Dutch,

Thank you for your offer. I sent an email to you.



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