Radio Calls: Engage Brain Before Opening Mouth

As an Air Force instructor pilot (IP), the word that I used most often on the aircraft radio was: “Disregard!” I had to say this word frequently because my students would often fail to engage their brain before making a radio call.

“Colt 22, uhh, left downwind.” “Disregard! Colt 22, right downwind, touch and go.”

“Colt 37, flight level 17 for two zero.” “Disregard! Colt 37, climbing through one seven thousand for flight level two zero zero.”

Can’t Stand It!

When it inevitably reached a point where we instructors could no longer stand the collective mumbling and jumbling on the radio, we would organize a radio drill class. We placed masking tape markers on a classroom floor to demarcate the turning points of a scaled-down airport traffic pattern. We would then have our students march around the pattern and announce the correct radio call at each appropriate point in the traffic pattern. A student who spoke a radio call incorrectly would get immediate and stern “feedback” from one of the IPs.

Drilling Down

After an hour or so of this drill, the students’ radio calls were much more accurate. There were two reasons for this:

  1. Practice makes perfect.
  2. To avoid “feedback” from an instructor, each student would mentally rehearse the next anticipated radio before actually making that call.

While both reasons were in play, reason #2 is the key. Before making any radio call, think about what you plan to say before saying it. In other words, engage brain before opening mouth.

Chair Fly (For student pilots):

In the center of a piece of notebook paper, draw your local airport’s runway layout. No need to be detailed. A simple line, about 3 inches long can represent the runway. Now draw a standard box traffic pattern around one runway, i.e. upwind, crosswind, downwind, base and final legs. Next, place your pencil point in the takeoff position on the runway symbol and move your pencil point slowly around the traffic pattern. As your pencil point reaches each place in the pattern where you would make a radio call, say that radio call out loud. Repeat the drill until you can make your calls correctly and consistently.

Watch for:

A release of our aircraft radio simulator that helps you practice your calls in real time. Coming soon!


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