Your Radio Calls Suck

Your radio work stinks!

Warning. I’m climbing on a soap box today.

You’ve heard that expression “What’s learned first is learned best?” I absolutely agree with that. Flying is all about building habit patterns through repeated experience. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on the outcome, once a habit pattern gets established, it’s very hard to unlearn.

If you are just starting your flying career or your flying avocation, now, right now, is the very best time to build good habits on the aircraft radio.

What the Pros Know that You Don’t

I’ve been thinking about this problem lately because I’ve been hearing a lot of crap on the aircraft radios. Bear in mind that I spend most of my time flying an airliner, which means I’m generally sharing radio frequencies with other airline pilots—professionals who should know how to do the radios right.

Truth be told, many pro pilots do a fine job on the radios. That leaves quite a few who “garbage up” the radios with all kinds of bad habits: speed talking, mumbling, dropping callsigns, non-standard phrasing, etc.

Captain Invincible

Once you get to be a high-time pilot, no one is going to tell you that you sound like crap on the radios. You might hear a controller state “Say again,” but if your bad habits are well established, that “Say again,” won’t give you the big clue bird that your radio technique sucks. You’re hopeless, in the same way a lousy car driver will always be a lousy driver.

Get it Right, Right Now, or Else

Now, right now, as you are learning the ropes of flying, is the single best time in your life to get your radio phrasing, pacing, and annunciation right. It’s important. Just ask any pilot who could have been saved from an altitude bust or a runway incursion had the controller been able to understand the pilot’s read back.

Take Your Best Shot

That’s my opinion. Am I right or am I wrong? You tell me in the comments section below.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Margi Schmidt December 10, 2019 at 12:13 pm

I am a 55 year-old student pilot; former educator and have spoken many times in front of large (1000+) groups. My training is to speak clearly and at slow to normal rate for understanding. Listening to people on radio it seems to me there is an unwritten/unspoken contest to try to talk faster and more run together than the last person. For my own safety, I want the person on the other end of my transmission to have no doubt as to what I am saying. Plus, it takes twice the air time to repeat your indistinguishable radio call than to do it so it can be understood the first time.


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