Getting Flipped Off on the Aircraft Radio

Blocking traffic and flipping pilots off.

Have you ever been flipped off?

I have. It happens many times a day on the aircraft radio. Here’s how it typically happens. A pilot tunes a new radio frequency into the standby window of his radio. With the new frequency set in standby, the pilot hits the radio’s transfer switch, flipping the frequency from the standby window to the active window.

So far, so good.

As soon as the new frequency moves into the active window, the pilot immediately presses his microphone switch and starts talking: “Blah blah blah.”

The Problem

Here’s the problem with flipping and talking. If some other pilot was already talking on the new frequency when our pilot flips and immediately starts talking, he is going to jam the radio. Here’s what that will sound like:


And here’s the next thing you will hear on the radio:


Child’s Play

There was a phrase I learned when I was growing up. Maybe you have heard this too.

“Stop, look, and listen before you cross the street.” The point of this lesson to children is, don’t step out into traffic because you might get hit.

The same thing can be said when you flip to a new frequency on the radio. Stop, look and listen for radio traffic before you step into the frequency.

  1. Stop, and think about what you are about to do. Think about what you want to say before you say it, and consider if now is a good time to say it.

  3. Look, and make sure the radio frequency you want is in the active window. (More on this in a future article. . .)

  5. Listen for other pilots talking on the radio so you won’t cut them off with your own transmission.

Even if no one is talking at the exact instant you join a new radio frequency, that doesn’t mean you won’t interfere with a conversation already in progress. We can talk about that next time. For now, got any thoughts or experience about getting blocked on the radio?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian Adrian February 13, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Hi Jeff,

Just wanted to say you site is great! I’ve always wanted to fly and have been shuttled around the US in small Cessna’s, Twin Beech, Aero Commanders, and Lear’s. But never took the step forward to become a pilot. Now at 53, I have the chance and the resources to buy what I want. It’s easy to fall in love with a plane, they have all the grace of a women without the mouth (no disrespect to the women pilots.)

Now I found a plane BeechCraft King Air 200, 950K, and haven’t even started lessons. I guess I’ll have the cart before the horse, but I wanted to learn in my own craft. I realize I can’t start flying a twin from day one but, at least it’s there after I get my Private Pilot License.

My goal is to get the single, IFR, and than Twin, and than Turbo Prop and step over to rotary craft. Which I also found a super clean MD 550. I know, I’ll have all the toys and only be able to look at them. What do you think? Should I wait, or just go for it. I should add that at 53 I have all the time in the world on my hands (retired).

Anyway, great site and I was worried about the communication part (talking to ATC) you’ve taken that out of the equation. I feel comfortable now that all you have to do is be polite, give others consideration on the radio, and wait your turn, seems common sense. And where not that far apart if your still in Gainesville, I’m just down the road in Dade City.


JeffKanarish February 14, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Hello Brian,

Retired at 53? Must be nice.

The conventional wisdom, when it comes to flying, is to take it one step at a time. I can’t tell you how many people I know, or have heard of, who moved too quickly in trying to master new aircraft and ended up killing themselves in an accident. Old warbirds are especially notorious for killing new pilots with the money to trade up, but without the flying experience to match the demands of a high-performance aircraft.

If you believe you’ve found an aircraft you will have no chance in the future of acquiring, then by all means, grab it. However, only buy it under two very specific conditions. First, make sure you can mothball that aircraft for many years in a safe storage place. Second, don’t touch the aircraft until a highly qualified, iron-willed instructor says you are fully qualified to handle that aircraft. Until then, do the time-honored and safe routine of starting in a low-performance, easy-to-handle trainer. Advance to the next level only when your instructor says you are ready.

There’s an old saying that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. This is especially true in flying. I’ve flow everything, excerpt rotary wing and space vehicles, for the past 33 years. I’m still learning.

I haven’t lived in Gainesville for 32 years. I did drive through it about 20 years ago coming up from south Miami. Go Gators!



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