That Pesky Aircraft Radio Control Panel!

On Guard.

Pilot: “Fremont traffic, Cessna 4827 Echo, entering a left downwind, Runway 17, touch-and-go.”

Some Wise Guy on 121.5: “You’re on Guard, dude.”

Pilot: “Fremont traffic, Cessna 27 Echo, left base, Runway 17, touch-and-go.”

Some Other Pilot Who’s Dedicated His Life to Defending 121.5: “You’re transmitting on Guard!”

Pilot: “Fremont traffic, Cessna 27 Echo, final, Runway 17, touch-and-go.”

Denver Center Controller on 121.5
: “Cessna 27 Echo, Denver Center on Guard. Be advised you are transmitting position reports on 121.5. Check your switches.”

I hear transmissions like this every once in a while on transcontinental flights. Are you vulnerable to this kind of mistake?

You’ve Got to Guard Against Becoming a Threat

Pilots flying aircraft with more than one voice radio are required to monitor the emergency frequency 121.5. Due to the high (terrorist) threat level associated with aircraft, pilots must listen for warnings from ground-based defense agencies on the emergency frequency.

The problem with managing two radio frequencies at the same is, it’s easy to mess up the radio control switches and transmit on the wrong radio. How might that happen?

Your Personal Foot-in-Mouth Recipe

Let’s say you have been talking on Radio Number 1 to some agency—Approach, Center, Unicom, etc. As you are flying along in flight, you decide to give a flight service station (FSS) a call to get a weather update. You want to keep monitoring Radio 1, so you smartly decide to continue listening to Radio 1, but use Radio 2 to talk to FSS.

  1. You tune the local FSS frequency into the “Standby” window of Radio Number 2, and hit the flip-flop switch. The FSS frequency flips into the radio’s “Active” window and Guard frequency, 121.5, flops to the “Standby” window.
  2. You check the “listen” button for Radio 1 is on so you can continue to monitor Radio 1 for calls to your flight. Finally, you rotate the transmit dial on the Comm Control Panel to “Comm 2.” You’re ready to call FSS on Radio 2, and listen to Radio 1 in case anyone calls you.

Look Out! Here it Comes

When you finish your conversation with the FSS specialist, you smartly hit the flip-flop switch in Radio 2, moving 121.5 back into the “Active” window. Just then, you hear: “Fremont traffic, Cardinal 217 Sierra Foxtrot, departing Runway 17, straight out.”

You're transmitting on Guard.

Time to get with the program and make your next call: “Fremont Traffic, Cessna 1827 Echo is 15 miles west of the airport, inbound for touch-and-go.” There’s no reply, but that’s okay. You didn’t expect any.

Check the position of the transmit dial. You’re transmitting on Guard . . . dude.

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