Audio Lesson #10:Pardon the Interruption on the Aircraft Radio

hey, Hey, HEY! I know you're busy, but can you spare a minute?

Ahem. Excuse me. Pardon me. Interruptions on the aircraft radio are inevitable. I’ve got some tips and techniques for you to reduce the number of times you accidentally interrupt a conversation between ATC and another pilot.

Here’s a downloadable transcript of this show in .pdf format: Interruptions

Show Notes:

  1. Accidentally stepping on or into a conversation between ATC and another pilot is just a part of communication. It happens.
  2. Some air traffic controllers get very frustrated when you disrupt their conversation. They’ll get over it!
  3. There are some techniques you can try to reduce your chances of interrupting someone else.
  4. First, realize every conversation on the radio has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Learn to recognize each part.
  5. Make a conscious effort to wait until a conversation between ATC and another pilot is over before speaking up.
  6. When switching to a new frequency, my technique is to wait 4 seconds after switching before I begin to speak. This gives a good opportunity for anyone who was pausing in the middle of a conversation to get back on the line and finish.
  7. If you do your best, but still manage to interrupt, don’t sweat it. Voice communication on the radio is old technology. Until something better comes along, interruptions will continue to happen.

Give my techniques a try and then let me know how they work for you. Email or call me with your questions or results. Or, leave a comment in the space below.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

DT July 6, 2013 at 5:31 am

I am only a wanna-be pilot, for now at least; but I thoroughly enjoyed a couple hours reading on your web-site. Very well written, informative, and yet entertaining enough to keep a reader reading. Thank you!

This particular show interested me, in the fact that you seam to support the idea digital communications. As an amateur radio operator, and a avid ATC ‘listener’, I just wanted to point out something that digital hasn’t, as yet at least, been able to duplicate. This simple thing has become evident to me with emergency services training, but I know you as a pilot can understand it’s importance far more than in emergency services … the advantage of old technology radio is the situational awareness gained by everyone listening.

One interruption you didn’t mention (maybe not a factor in the cockpit – though I’d venture in GA it is with passengers in close proximity to the pilot) that I find particularly annoying is others in the local environment. I find that invariably something comes across the radio that I want to hear, someone around me starts speaking to me at that very moment; apparently completely oblivious to the person already speaking via the radio.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I wouldn’t have completed my feedback without thanking you for your military service.


JeffKanarish July 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Hello DT,

Thank you for your well thought out comments. I agree with you completely.

Voice communication is imperfect but the situational experience one gains by using it is very important.

Digital comm, i.e. text messages, work very well on ocean crossing flights because of the vast distances between aircraft over the water and because nothing happens quickly during a crossing. In a dynamic environment such as an airport traffic pattern where airplanes are closely spaced and information needs to be exchanged in mere seconds, voice comm is still the best solution given current technology.

Your comments have given me an idea for a fun, speculative article on air traffic control by graphics projected on a pilot’s heads up display.



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