Using an ATC Translation Dictionary

1303coverIn this show, were going to talk about how and why standards are so important. We’ll throw in a couple of simulated radio conversations, and some lessons learned. I’ll talk a bit about a book review in AOPA’s Flight Training Magazine, and then you’ll hear an unbelievable ATC clearance I got from the approach controller in Managua, Nicaragua. All that, plus your Question of the Week. Strap in and cinch down the safety belts. It’s gonna be a turbulent ride through some rough air.

Show Notes:

  1. If you don’t speak the local language, you can never be 100% sure if you are communicating accurately.


  3. When speaking with ATC, you’ve got to know the language. That means knowing and sticking to the standards in the manual.

  5. As student pilots, we are taught the ATC language using a very informal method. What you get is a mixed bag of standards out of the Aeronautical Information Manual, plus non-standard phrases picked up by listening to other pilots. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it gets you in trouble.

  7. My job is to teach you the standards. We learn by plugging the standards into the real world. The teaching scenarios I give you may be invented, but the phraseology always comes straight from the manual.

  9. My book, Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots, was reviewed in the March 2013 issue of Flight Training Magazine. It was a fair review with a few minor criticisms. The reviewer said I admitted some of the real-world scenarios in the book differ slightly from the Aeronautical Information Manual. Not true. Everything in the book applies the standards from the AIM or the Air Traffic Controller Manual.

  11. Just a few days ago, I got this crazy clearance the approach controller in Managua, Nicaragua. Count how many instructions this controller spits out in one breath. It’s hard to believe, but it really happened.

  13. Work has resumed on the Aircraft Radio Simulator after a long hiatus. I’m converting the entire program from Flash to HTML5. It will be compatible with all web browsers and work on Apple products. A new voice recognition module will let you speak and receive intelligent responses from simulated ATC. I have no prediction when it will be finished, but I’ll release test modules as able.

Your Question of the Week:

You are flying VFR in Class C airspace, receiving radar sequencing and separation from Approach Control. The approach controller says to you: “Maintain 4,500. Traffic you’re following is a Beech King Air, one o’clock and five miles, northbound, 5,000.” You see the traffic and say to Approach Control, “Traffic in sight.” The approach controller tells you to follow that traffic to the airport. You then fall in line, five miles behind the King Air.

A minute later, you hear Approach Control say, “King Air 53 X-ray, descend and maintain 3,000.” The airplane you are following acknowledges that radio call and begins a descent.

Here’s the question: Since you were told to follow the King Air, should you also descend to 3,000 feet?

When you think you know the answer to that question, go to There you will find a complete answer and a full explanation of how that answer was derived.

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