Radar Contact Audio Show: Basics of ATC Radio

Eroute Center Frequency

Enroute center postage stamp box.

Lately, we’ve been covering more advanced topics in radio work with ATC. In this show we are back to aircraft radio basics. Why? Recent experience tells me some pilots don’t have the fundamentals nailed down. It’s time to haul out the hammer and smack some basic nails into the base of the construction project you and I have been building.

Put on your hard hat or whatever you use to protect your cranium and let’s get to work.

Show Notes:

  1. When you make initial contact with a new air traffic controller, you should begin your radio transmission by stating the controller’s identity.
  2. The controller’s identity is the name of his facility plus his facility’s ATC type.
  3. Once you have determined you are talking to the correct ATC agency when making initial contact, do not repeat the ATC identity in each follow-up radio call.
  4. Whether stating your full call sign or your abbreviated call sign, always, always, always include the prefix or your make model or type and the remaining digits and letters after the prefix. Always.
  5. Some pilots incorrectly include both their aircraft’s make model, or type plus the letter November when saying their call sign.
  6. Here’s the trick to listening to the radio. Don’t multi-task. If a radio call comes in for you, stop doing busy work and listen.
  7. Another technique I use to help me hear and absorb radio calls from ATC is to try and anticipate what might be coming next.
  8. Keep your ears open to what ATC actually said, not what you expect to hear.
  9. I’ll have an announcement in an upcoming show on how to get your hands on the published version of my workbook on radio procedures and technique.

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying across southern Mississippi, talking to Houston Center. You are using Houston Center for VFR flight following. You notice the frequency has been dead silent for the last five minutes, so you decide to check in with Houston to make sure you are still in radio contact. You say, “Cessna 9130Delta, radio check.” There is no answer, so you try again, this time reducing the radio’s frequency squelch until you hear static: “Cessna 9130 Delta, radio check.” Again, no reply from Houston.

You can see your radio is powered, the transmit light illuminates when you press the transmit button, and you can hear the sidetone of your own voice in your headset when you transmit. The radio and your headset connection is good. You have apparently flown out of radio range of the controller you had been talking to. What you need now is a new radio frequency for ATC that works for your location.

You remember that I told you you can look up the frequency for enroute centers on a low altitude enroute chart, but the only chart you have in the cockpit is a sectional chart. The sectional does not show frequencies for enroute centers. Here’s your question: What can you do to determine a good frequency for Houston Center for your location?

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


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