Sterile Cockpit Means Quiet!

“Shhh! I’m trying to use the phone radio” Borrowed from “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure.” In this week’s show, we are going to talk about something called sterile cockpit and how it helps you communicate with ATC. No, Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee, will not be making an appearance, but we can learn something from him. Never thought I’d say that in an article.

We will also have the results from your test of the Aircraft Radio Simulator’s speech recognition module.You did test the module didn’t you? I thought so.

All that, plus your Question of the Week. Coming up, right here in Radar Contact . . . unless I get distracted and forget to. . . What was I talking about?

Don’t distract me!

Show Notes:

  1. Your brain and my brain has a built-in filter that eliminates distractions, to a point.
  2. Despite its mental filter, your brain can be tricked into paying attention to the wrong thing at the wrong time. We call that a distraction.
  3. Our listening behavior is most vulnerable to distractions when we rely on listening passively.
  4. In an airplane, distractions can result in anything from a temporary annoyance, to a violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations, to an accident.
  5. The key to avoiding distractions is to apply active listening or what I call intentional listening.
  6. Intentional listening results from a decision to pay attention to every radio transmission whether it applies to your flight or not.
  7. When working low to the ground or in busy airspace, make your cockpit sterile: Avoid all non-essential work in the cockpit. Eliminate all conversation that does not involve safe aircraft operation.
  8. Sterile cockpit plus intentional listening = zero missed radio transmissions from ATC.
  9. Last month, you tested the speech recognition module of the Aircraft Radio Simulator. The results of your test were not good enough to move forward with further development of the speech recognition feature.
  10. I will continue to work on an Aircraft Radio Simulator that provides an immersive experience that guides you in your exploration of how to communicate with ATC.

Your Question of the Week

You are approaching your destination airport within very busy Class C airspace. Approach control is giving you radar vectors for sequencing to a straight-in final approach at your destination. You have already taken several heading changes from approach and you are still not headed directly for the airport. Suddenly, your number 2 communication radio, which is tuned to the emergency frequency 121.5 produces this transmission, “Pan, pan, pan. Any aircraft, this is Piper 927CX on Guard. I’m lost and I need assistance.” Here’s your question.

Knowing that you are in a very busy section of airspace and taking extensive vectoring from ATC, what should you do about the radio transmission on the emergency frequency? When you think you know the answer to that question, go to the link There you will find a complete answer to the question along with a full explanation of how that answer was derived.


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