How to Flight Project Your Radio Calls

Pilots hate unpredictable drivers.

What do you hate about driving? If you are like me, you hate driving on a crowded road. Not only does traffic slow your progress, it also increases the odds you are going to encounter a dumb ass in another car. Dumb asses lack the self-discipline to drive according to the rules of roads, or in harmony with other drivers on the road. They play by their own rules, if they have any rules at all, which means they are unpredictable.

Predicting the Future

Pilots are all about self-discipline and predictability. A safe and efficient flight depends upon predictability.

During flight training, one of your flight instructor’s main goals was to get you to “think ahead” of the aircraft. Your instructor wanted you predict what was going to happen 1, 2, or 3 steps ahead of where the airplane was at the moment.

The act of predicting and planning for what you will need to do to fly an airplane is called flight projection. You mentally project where the airplane is going to be moments from now and use that information to plan your next several moves.

Crank Up the Projector

Flight projection—also applies to working the aircraft radios. Rather than wait until the point where you have to make a mandatory radio call, you can project ahead of your current position and plan your next 2 or 3 radio calls.

For example, well before I enter an airport traffic pattern, I’m thinking about my radio call for pattern entry: “Wiseacre Traffic, Piper 2891 Kilo, entering the downwind for Runway 21, Wiseacre.” I’m also thinking about my base leg and final approach calls: “Wiseacre Traffic, Piper 2891 Kilo, base leg, Runway 21, full stop, Wiseacre;” “Wiseacre Traffic, Piper 2891 Kilo, final, Runway 21, full stop, Wiseacre.”

I also try to visualize what the picture out the windscreen is going to look like when I make those calls. For example, when I think about my base leg call, I can visualize rolling out of my turn to base with a view of about 2/3’s ground and 1/3 sky looking forward. The view of the runway will be at about 10 o’clock. By tying my planned radio calls to a mental picture of the view out of the cockpit windows, I build a strong cue to make each radio call.

Flexibility is Key

Here is something else to consider. As much as we would like flying to be 100% predictable, sometimes it isn’t. Plan ahead, but be flexible. As the situation changes, use flight projection to change your plan.

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