Top 5 Time-Wasting Phrases Pilots Use

Is your radio vocabulary littered with garbage?
Is your radio vocabulary littered with garbage?

“And Oakland Center, Beach Ball 373GK, 17,000.”

5.”And” is one of those filler sounds, similar to “Uh” and “Um” that sprinkles some pilots’ vocabularies. It’s a lousy habit. The only cure is to become conscious of it and cut it out.


“Cleveland Center, Serious 749NE, with you, at Flight Level 330.”

4.”With you.” Really?! Where else would this pilot be? Floating on the fifth plain of consciousness, phoning it in by mental telepathy? You hear this extraneous phrase so often from pilots you’d swear it was in the AIM’s Pilot/Controller Glossary.


ATC: “Twin Chessnut 36W, say your heading.”

Pilot: “Twin Chessnut 36W heading 185 at this time.”

3. “At this time.” Huh. I could have sworn the air traffic controller asked the pilot to say his heading. He must have thought the controller asked him what he thought his heading will be further along the space-time continuum.


“Norcal Approach, Pied Piper 802VX with a request.”

2. “With a request.” Oh, I’m sorry. Didn’t the pilot think his controller was listening to his frequency? After all, that’s a controller’s job. What’s that? You think he was just trying to be courteous? You know what would be courteous? If he quit tying up the radio with an extra radio transmission and just made his request.

Seriously, I’ve asked several controllers what they think about pilots saying, “With a request.” Most don’t care for it. They consider it a poke in the ribs that they don’t need. They all told me, if you have a request, make it without an introduction.

One Exception

There’s one exception to the no-introduction-necessary school of thought. If you have complicated request, tell your controller about what you are going to request. For example, if you have a long and complex route change request, it would pay to say, “Pied Pier 802VX with a route change request.” This gives the controller time to grab a pen. He’ll also select a reasonable break in his routine let you state your extensive request. It’s similar to Clearance Delivery saying, “I have your clearance. Advise when ready to copy.”

Note the difference between this and a generic wake-up call. Stating the nature of your request has substance that helps the controller prepare. Simply saying, “With a request” is uninformative, unnecessary, and maybe a little insulting.


ATC: “Falcone 5TY, say your airspeed.”

Pilot: “Falcone 5TY, 210 knots. Whatta ya need?”

ATC: “I needed you to say your airspeed, which you did, so thank you.”

1. “Whatta ya need?” No kidding, the conversation above represents an actual radio exchange I heard recently. I know, and most air traffic controllers know, a pilot who says, “Whatta ya need?” is trying to sound cooperative. Controllers already know pilots will cooperate with them.

The real problem with “Whatta ya need?” is it forces the controller to reply. In most cases, when a controller asks a pilot about his speed, it’s to help the controller plan his spacing between aircraft. The controller needs a moment to think, not reply.

The Takeaway

I’m not trying to sound like a grumpy old pilot. “Hey you brats! Get off my lawn or I’ll call the cops!” The point of this exercise is to get you thinking about streamlining your transmissions. There are words and phrases that have crept into the pilot vocabulary which take up time on the radio and accomplish nothing.


Take a moment to analyze your own repertoire of responses to ATC. Is there anything you say that is fluff? If so, I recommend cutting those time-wasting phrases off at the knees. If you recognize that an aviation frequency is a time-share commodity, then make a conscious effort to be efficient on the radio.


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2 thoughts on “Top 5 Time-Wasting Phrases Pilots Use”

    1. Amy,

      That’s not just a time-waster, it’s a big no-no in the Aeronautical Information Manual:

      g. Self-Announce Position and/or Intentions

      1. General.

      “Pilots stating, ‘Traffic in the area, please advise’ is not a recognized Self−Announce Position and/or Intention phrase and should not be used under any condition.”

      Thank you for pointing that out. Cheers,


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