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Feature Article: Controlled Airport Radio

There are several essentials to good radio work.

The first essential is:

Know you you want to talk to or, at least, how to find out whom you should be talking to. Every airport and ATC facility has a name, use it. Over the years the FAA has changed the names of airports back and forth between the location and a local personage several times. You can often judge a pilots age and experience by what he says on the radio.

The second essential is:

Know how to set the desired/required freqency into the radio in the most useful sequence. Write all the expected sequences down before you start the aircraft. This means that you should have a set of memorized frequencies in common use, a chart with required frequencies, and a current

A/FD with the frequencies. Flying without frequency knowledge is as bad as flying without looking where you are going.

The third essential is:

Know where you are going to be when you start talking, or know enough to know that you don’t know where you are going to be. In either case be as precise as you can. Don’t state your position until you are over it. Use the time getting there to practice what you are going to say.

The fourth essential is:

The way you say what you say. If you are having orientation problems, say soby including the word Unfamiliar immediately after your aircraft identification. Don’t try to ‘fake it’. If you want help, say so. The busier the frequency the briefer you want to be. Just the essentials. If a place or procedure is offered by ATC with which you are unfamiliar, say so. Request to overfly field above pattern altitude for directions from ATC.

VHF aircraft radio is limited to line of sight but as FM, is static free. Most radios have 360/720 frequencies allocated for communication and navigation. The frequency should be monitored before use to avoid dual transmissions which cause receivers to whistle. A stuck mike switch can jam the frequency.

At night when the tower is closed or before it opens you should use the published tower frequency for all air/ground operations. Arrivals should overfly to determine active, enter on a 45 at pattern altitude. If parallel runways exist, only the major one should be used and standard left patterns followed even if right patterns are normal with the tower open.

Basic communication requires:

Name of who is being called,
Who you are,
Where you are with pertinent data,
What you want.

FSS, Flight Watch, and Approach Control callups are slightly different. Good phraseology requires that punctuation not be used. Words like miles, feet, runway, and over a position are best omitted. Plan what you are going to say before keying the mike.

121.5 is the emergency frequency and is constantly monitored by ATC facilities. Aircraft should also monitor. Including it in the shutdown CHECKLIST is a good practice. Use it only in an emergency. If you are already on a frequency and in contact do not change unless directed. The ELT when activated by shock transmits on 121.5 as a warble. Emergencytransmissions should say each word or phrase three times. Includeidentification, location, nature of problem, intentions.

122.2. is a common FSS frequency for use when a discrete frequency is unknown or unavailable. The blue rectangles at FSS airports and at VOR's list discrete, duplex (122.1/VOR freq. Note: as of 10-1-91 122.1 and listening on the VOR is being discontinued in most U.S. locations) Since an FSS may have up to 12 available frequencies the call up must say what frequency is being listened to. "Fresno Radio, Cessna 1234X listening 122.2" Since so many frequencies are available select the one giving the best line of sight potential. VOR's and RCO (remote communications outlets) have land lines allowing long distance use.

123.6 is the airport advisory frequency or AAS from the airport FSS at a field without a tower but having a FSS. This frequency is used for takeoff, traffic advisory, and landing. Ukiah and Red Bluff are current, but to be closed, examples. "Ukiah Radio, Cessna 1234X listening 123.6 Cloverdale at 2000 landing advisories Ukiah"

122.0 is the Flight Watch frequency used nation wide as a weather information service. It is a good frequency to monitor in flight. Flight Watch has area wide remote radios which require you to give the name of your nearest VOR on call up. "Oakland Flight Watch Cessna 1234X Squaw Valley over" Pilot reports (PIREPS) can be exchanged as well as enroute/ destination weather.

Airport Class D airspace extends to 4.1 nautical miles and 2500 feet. FAR's require communications to enter, leave and within unless specifically exempted. The Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) should be obtained before contacting Air Traffic Control (ATC). The ATIS is given alphabetical phonetic code names for identification. Prior to taxi and after clearing runway Ground Contact is required. "Concord Ground Cessna 1234X East Ramp taxi with (ATIS)" "Concord Tower Cessna 1234X Clayton at 2000 landing with (ATIS)" Every ATA has 122.95 as a standard unicom frequency for fuel services. If more than one Fixed Base Operator (FBO) is on the field then other frequencies may be used. Many towers operate part time as indicated with an * after the tower frequency. Operational times are on the tower frequency tab of the Sectional. When the tower is closed left (standard) traffic is used for the runway in use even if is the right.

In the event of radio failure try to determine if it is receiver or transmitter by squawking 7600. Communicate in the blind ("Travis Approach Cessna 12234X transmitting in the blind Rio Vista at 2000 planning landing at Concord") to the nearest radar facility. If the receiver is functioning they can determine your intentions by asking questions to which you respond on the IDENT feature of the transponder. If the receiver is out, transmit in the blind all your positions, altitudes, and intentions just in case the transmitter is operational. ATC can work traffic around one plane without a radio. At a controlled airport enter the Class D airspace at twice pattern altitude, determine the longest active runway by wind or traffic. Depart from overhead so as to arrive on a 45 degree downwind entry to the runway, turn downwind, base, final and watch for the green light gun signal.

The basic procedure for Approach Control, Class B airspace, Class C airspace and, TERSA's, is the same except Class B airspace cannot be entered without clearance. Class C airspace requires only that communication be established. If the proper frequency is unknown call a FSS for aid or use the tower frequency tab of the sectional. "Bay Approach Cessna 1234X over" This callup is necessary because work procedures may require the controller to delay recontact with you until he has finished some other operation. On contact give ATC your position, type aircraft, intentions or request. Be sure to write down the squawk before trying to enter it into the transponder. Set the transponder on standby (stby) before resetting the assigned code; then place to ALT. Acknowledge the squawk by repeating the code as is done with all headings, frequencies or traffic. "Radar Contact" should be acknowledged. On being given a squawk turn the transponder to standby (stby) before resetting the code. IDENT only if commanded.

A Direction Finding (DF) steer can be obtained from a properly equipped FSS just by making a request. With the advent of radar the DF is seldom used. The DF equipment has the capability of line of sight detection and orienting to your transmitter. ATC will ask you questions regarding your aircraft equipment, flight conditions, fuel, and intentions. You will be directed to set your heading indicator and to fly specific headings while occasionally keying your transmitter. You may be given VOR frequencies and asked to give OBS readings FROM a VOR. By simple procedures the operator can determine your position. Further fixes can direct you to almost any destination. Always repeat back headings and instructions to avoid misunderstandings. Avoid doing this during heavy traffic or at night.

Last Modified January 19, ©2021 TAGE.COM

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