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Three Pillars of CommuniCaTion
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Listen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Build a Mental Picture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Learn What to Expect . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Learn From Other Pilots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
A .I .R . . . . . . . . Keep it Short . Speed . . . . . . Unclear . . . . . Emergency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 14 16 17 18
Speak . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Cooperate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Closing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Congratulations on your purchase of PilotSpeak! We have realized through getting to know our followers that many of you are in need of guidance for your communications . Well, here we are to assist you . Through this short e-book we will build a great foundation for the rest of your days as a pilot and aviator .
You Will learn hoW To:
By listening you can be informed . A great radio call starts with a well-informed pilot . We listen for many reasons, including: One thing you may have heard your mother say to you at some time is “Listen twice as much as you speak” . In aviation there is no difference . The motto here is “listen before you speak” . Speaking is the easy part with radio calls . Listening, with all the other things going on with your flight, is a different story entirely .
Build a mental Picture learn What to expect learn from other Pilots
Let’s take these one-by-one and talk about each of them .
Build a Mental Picture
One of the best ways to assist you with radio calls and your communications with air traffic control (ATC) is to simply listen and build a picture in your mind as to what is going on .
If you know there is another aircraft in front of you, and he asks the same question of ATC you were going to ask, then there is no need for you to repeat the question . Another example would be for an area without control . This is, in fact, the most important time to listen and build a picture of your surrounding environment . When you are not under control and you are speaking on an open frequency like CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency), then it is up to you to avoid other aircraft and not cut anyone off . In this case, there is no controller to blame in this case . It is entirely up to you as the pilotin-command .
Even controllers make mistakes . Contrary to belief, they are human . Even though you may be under ATC control, you must always listen to know what is going on . When in doubt, always speak up and ask . You, as the pilot, are solely responsible for the lives of those on board and the overall safety of flight . In some extreme cases that may even mean not complying with a controller instruction; or worse, breaking rules . You are in a unique position in the sky . No one is sharing your exact circumstances, your exact conditions or in the same place as you in that moment . Therefore it is entirely up to you to build this mental picture as to where you are, what ATC needs from you, where other aircraft are, and what you’re being asked to do vs . what you want to do .
Learn What to Expect
Controllers are just like pilots in the sense that they all have their own personality and requirements . Depending on the area, controllers have different things they need and want . As a pilot,if you listen, you can become ATC’s best friend and get what you want if you listen (most of the time) .
ATC is doing with other aircraft, they will more than likely do the same thing for you . Knowing what ATC needs in advance and being prepared to comply with their request will go a long way in not only promoting safety within your own aircraft, but also making the flow of air traffic much smoother and the life of the controller much easier .
One of the major things taught in flight schools is to simply ‘be ahead’ of the aircraft . This means: think ahead and basically have things planned out BEFORE you get there . I am a huge proponent of this ideal and I have talked about it extensively in our other products, like the PMDG 747 training . Part of this ‘thinking ahead’ business means you must listen to ATC talking to other aircraft . By knowing what
Controllers are not the enemy . They, too, have a stressful job . Learn to listen for their needs and you’ll make everyone’s lives easier .
Learn What to Expect
From Other Pilots
Now, controllers are not the only people you need to be concerned with . When you are in an area without control you essentially become the controller for other pilots . It becomes important to share your position and intentions so other pilots know what you are doing, where you are, and whether that is of concern or not . This cooperation is essential .
Although circumstances will arise when you are alone in the area, we pilots still make radio calls . Even if it’s 3a .m . on Christmas Day, make the appropriate radio calls .
Listening is perhaps the largest part of this particular cooperation with other pilots . This way you can build a picture in your mind as to what is going on in the area and then act accordingly . For example, if you are just getting into an area where you are getting the weather, entering the traffic pattern and preparing for your arrival, it’s important to listen to what other pilots are doing . That way you won’t have to ask ‘what runway is in use?’ or ‘traffic in the area; please advise?’
Learn From Other Pilots
While enroute to your destination or even in your local area you can learn a lot just by listening to other pilots . Are they clear? Are they sharing all the info needed? Did their call help you visualize where they are? Did they use correct language? Were they professional?
all of These QuesTions CerTainlY maTTer.
on the radio will be determined by the good and the bad things you hear over the airwaves . At times you will hear pilots speaking too fast, making unnecessary radio calls, making extended radio calls, and more .
lisTen anD learn WhaT noT To Do.
You can learn a lot from other pilots by simply listening to what they are saying . A lot of these guys you hear on radio frequencies are seasoned pilots with more flight experience in their left pinky finger than you have in your whole body . That is not to say their level of professionalism cannot be achieved .
lisTen anD learn GooD haBiTs.
Listening is an essential building block to becoming a great communicator from the flight deck . It’ll serve you in the beginning of your flying career and for the rest of your flying career . If you are at home and you don’t get to go flying that much there are ways to learn how to not only listen, but talk as well .
Now, it’s also possible to learn what NOT to do or say as a pilot . Much of the character you build as a pilot speaking
Learn From Other Pilots
A pure listening source that you can gain a lot of knowledge from is LiveATC .net . At LiveATC .net you can listen to many real time audio streams of air traffic around the world . Pick an area near you and it can be streaming in seconds . This is great for learning the basics as well as the advanced stuff . A way to learn to listen and speak would be through something like VATSIM .net for Flight Simulator . This network of volunteer air traffic controllers and hobbyist virtual pilots make for an ultra realistic flight environment where it is perfectly safe to learn proper pilot lingo .
If you’re just starting out as a pilot, you’re going to be a bit radio shy at first . It has or will happen to all of us . Most of this fear or ‘mic fright’ as it has been called is due to a simple lack of knowledge . If you don’t know what to say, how can you say it in the first place? This is why I wanted to share first how to learn by listening and then, only then, are you ready to talk .
one, You are GoinG To maKe misTaKes.
First, let’s get a few things straight.
TWo, You are GoinG To sounD reallY sTuPiD.
But it doesn’t matter . We have all been there, and all pilots know that if there is a voice on the radio that is a bit squeamish in their speak, to just let them work it out and deal with it . Besides, even the pilots listening have been there at some points .
Going in with a knowledge of how pilots present themselves on the radio is a great start, and you learn that by listening . But until you yourself key the mic using that push-to-talk button on the yoke, you will never truly know what it is like to communicate, or how to do it well .
Although listening will teach you a lot, you will learn much faster once you are actually doing . It would be like talking about flying and actually going flying . You can’t really know how to control an aircraft unless you actually control an aircraft . If you start from nowhere, suck up your pride, and just learn to laugh at your mistakes and continually improve, you’ll be talking like a pro on the radio in no time .
The TruTh is ThaT PraCTiCe maKes PerfeCT.
A while back I was over-flying an area around the Grand Canyon,with a Bonanza, on my way to Phoenix, Arizona . Salt Lake Center switched me over to LA Center, as I was now going into their airspace .
We all maKe misTaKes.
Your trails in the sky are not meant to be like a movie script . There is no set dialogue between the Star Role of the pilot and the supporting act by ATC . In large part it is up to you to come up with your own character language while still using the correct terms and structure that everyone can understand . We’ve talked quite a bit about theory so now let’s talk about specifics on how to speak . The most basic of all radio calls can be broken down into a very simple and relevant acronym:
In a moment I got a big tongue twister when calling up LA and said, ‘LA Center, Banana Three Four . . . . . (Now half laughing I tried again) LA Center, BONANZA Three Four Three Zero Victor with you One Seven, Seventeen” In the minutes following, my wife and I were just sitting there chuckling at the thought of me checking in as a Banana . Tell ya’ what . . . I really slipped on that peel!
In your flying career, the more relaxed you are about speaking on the radio the better . Making radio calls is meant to be a communication and not some perfect little script where everyone says exactly what they have to say, and not a word out of place .
Address: Address the area you are flying in or the controller you are speaking to . Ident: Identify yourself by aircraft number or flight number . Radio Call: Your reason for calling in the first place . Here are a few examples . Chicago Center, Bonanza 3-4-3-0-Victor with you Six Thousand . Logan Area Traffic, Bonanza 3-4-3-0-Victor taking runway Three Five, North Departure . Very simple . Let’s move on .
Keep it Short
This is something I have really been trying to work on . Often times we as pilots like to add in words that are unnecessary to get your point across such as words like ‘we, it, I, us, and’ . Let’s take a radio call you’ll hear often and break it down into something a bit more simple .
I felt forgot about me . Rather than having a radio call that sounds like, ‘Hey, jerk, you forgot about me so let me climb!’ you would have a radio call that is a bit more friendly and sounds more like, ‘Hey, I know you’re busy, but can I climb to this altitude?’ . Here’s an example . After flying at an altitude without traffic or terrain around you and a pretty dead radio frequency you can ask ‘Denver Center, any chance Bonanza 3-0-Victor can get a climb to 7 thousand?’ . This is a bit more informal, but honestly, I think it sounds a bit more polite . Now, this is appropriate in the US, but many countries are much stricter in with d communications . They’d rather you give it to them straight . Alright, so that’s an example of when to use long hand to be the nice guy .
Long- “Salt Lake Center, Citation 54Kilo would like to climb to 5000 if at all possible” Short- “Salt Lake Center, Citation 54Kilo request 5000” Ahhhh, yes . Much shorter . I don’t want to spend too long harping on this because I believe it just makes sense not to get all chatty on the radio . The VHF frequency or frequencies are no place for conversation . It’s a place for direction . Now, with that said, there are instances where I do believe it’s a bit harsh just to leave it short, and at times it is unnecessary . An instance where I would make it a bit more ‘friendly’ sounding is if I wanted to kiss some butt of a controller who
Keep it Short
What about when you just need to say something long?
Again, you’d know he was too busy if you were listening . Listening is how to form many of your radio calls .
If something pretty complex needs to be shared, such as a concern with ATC, there is no reason you can’t make your radio calls a bit longer . Besides, ATC and pilots know the scope of language needed for every day radio calls . If something is out of the norm and you abbreviate, it’s not going to make any sense to anybody . With that said, for the most part, you can keep your radio calls short and ATC and other pilots will know exactly what you’re talking about . Throwing in a thank you or bye-bye every now and again isn’t a huge issue and I encourage friendly radio chatter . At times things just need to be short, to the point, and down to business . Although a controller may have done a huge favor for you, maybe you shouldn’t add in the ‘thank you’ if he’s too busy .
Short doesn’t always mean fast when it comes to radio calls . Some pilots and controllers talk too fast . Find your tempo as a pilot and keep things understandable from a speed perspective .
It is much better to sound like an idiot on the radio than to do something stupid that could kill somebody . If you ever have any doubt what ATC has said, ask them to clarify or repeat . If it’s a matter of simply hearing them better, you can listen better next time, but make sure you know what they said . If it is a matter of not knowing exactly what they expect you to do while flying a departure or simply taxiing, ask . If you are a bit confused on what they gave you as it is out of the normal for them or seems unsafe, ask .
asK. asK. asK.
There are so many horrible instances where the pilots and controllers could have simply just asked each other for clarification but didn’t, and many people ended up dying . This same principle goes for an area that is not controlled . In fact, in these areas it is often more important to ask for clarification as pilots get a bit cavalier and careless with their speech when Big Brother isn’t listening . If another pilot has said something confusing, or you need a better idea of where he is, then ask him . There is no reason to sit there silently and get into a sticky situation . Pilots will more often than not be willing to speak up and help everyone out .
Few Months A year or so ago I was on an instrument flight in Instrument Conditions (relying solely on instruments for navigation) and we started to build ice . Ice is a pretty dangerous situation if left unchecked, and you certainly don’t want to let it ‘build’ up .
So I called up Center, who I was already speaking with, and they were able to get me to a lower altitude where ice could not build . They worked hard to find a route that would work, and did all they could to get me to a safer situation . We succeeded . I was extremely grateful for these guys . They did a fantastic job . Sometimes you’ve got to talk to ATC and just tell them what is going on . ATC is there to assist you . If you were to go down on their watch, it is not something they will forget .
Sometimes you’ve got to talk to ATC and just tell them what is going on . ATC is there to assist you . If you were to go down on their watch, it is not something they will forget . I’m not saying you shouldn’t kill yourself for the mere fact that you might make the controller feel bad, but what I am saying is that they are there to assist you in your moments of need . Declaring an emergency will get you all the clearance you need to do whatever you need to do, but it will also start a long string of paperwork and reviews on your pilot competency . So, ask for assistance when needed . An emergency to me is defined as being an immediate danger where you REALLY need to get someone’s attention . This is a situation like an in-flight fire, serious aircraft malfunction, and more . A situation where you can work with the controller to get out of, say icing conditions, is a situation where you can
call up ATC and get their assistance rather than flat out declaring an emergency .
Also, as mentioned earlier, you are solely responsible for yourself and your passengers, not ATC . You can even break rules to save lives . Let’s put it this way: If you are willing to lose your license in order to save lives, break all the rules you want . In closing on the speak section, I just want to note that speaking is very important to your growth as an aviator . Remember that you are going to make a fool of yourself, and to just let it go and learn . You’ll be making great radio calls in no time .
Cooperation with other pilots and ATC is perhaps the missing piece of the often confusing puzzle that is aviation communication . It is part of the old adage, ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’ . The truth about communication is that we can get along . Your relationship with ATC and other controllers is much like that of a relationship with a significant other . At the core of any relationship is open communication and a great sense of cooperation . I am certainly not saying that you should get on the radio and spill your guts to the controller about how great the view is ‘up here’ . What I’m saying is that with great cooperation comes a great relationship of trust in the skies and everything will flow better .
Let me give you a real example . If you are flying into an airport on an IFR flightplan and the weather is VFR, you are an extra set of information and separation that the controller has to handle . When a controller asks you, ‘What are your intentions’ or ‘I could do this, but it might make X happen’, it means that they are willing to work with you on a solution that can work for everyone . So, what do you do? You ask, communicate, and see what YOU can do to assist the controller . More often then not this means better clearances for you and getting to your destination ahead of time or on time, rather than having a wild vector because ATC had to meet separation . This isn’t a one way relationship . You can give to a controller too .
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the controller what their requirements and suggestions are when situations like this arise . A controller cannot and will not make a decision for you . They are legally obligated not to . They can however make suggestions, tell you what their rules are for that area, and what would probably work best . You can then make a decision . The cool thing about a situation like this is that you can become very cooperative with the controller and know what they expect ahead of time . Then you can let them know, ‘We plan on doing X when we get to X so we can get out of your hair’ or simply ‘We’ll do X for you at X’ . This way they know you are not only familiar with the area, but you are intelligent . Yes, there are bad pilots out there just like there are bad drivers . When a controller knows you are willing to cooperate then they will treat you like gold .
Here’s the thing . You are not the only aircraft in the sky . There could be hundreds of flights in your particular area wanting to do exactly what you want to do . As pilots it is important to know our place, and how we can better assist not only the controllers but the air traffic system as a whole . Sometimes this means changing our plan, or getting off the frequency entirely by simply going VFR in visual conditions . If you’re almost to your destination, there’s no issue with that . In fact, even switching from IFR to VFR Flight Following helps quite a bit . If you are a beginner that may be a confusing example, but just know that you can assist the controllers by simply asking what their requirements are . Now, cooperation is not limited to pilot-controller only . When in an area with no control it is up to us pilots to cooperate in a few ways .
Some of these ways are as follows You can see that cooperating is important but you’d be surprised how little pilots: A . Listen B . Speak Up C . Cooperate
• Always Do Your A.I.R. radio calls, Even at 2AM. • Be willing to slow down, speed up (as long as it is safe) to accommodate others • When it is busy, keep things short and VERY clear • Ask clarifying questions like ‘Last call, what is your altitude’ if they forgot to state it and they are nearby (or something similar) • Hold short of the runway longer if the traffic is questionably close • Make regular position reports. Every 10 minutes should do during off airport maneuvers and naturally you’d want to make all the appropriate airport area radio calls .
Whether it is because there is a fear of looking stupid in front of peers or just sounding stupid, I don’t know . Pride and a know-it-all attitude is not a trait that any pilot should have . Some would argue this is untrue, at least the pride part .
• Listen twice as much as you speak • Listen before you speak • A great radio call comes from a well informed pilot • Build a Mental Picture • Controllers are human and make mistakes. Be on the lookout. • You are in a unique position and situation in the sky. • Listen to other aircraft ahead of you. Think ahead. • Controllers are not the enemy. • Listen closely when not under ATC control to local traffic. • Learn what to do by listening to other pilots. • Learn what not to do by listening to other pilots. • Listening will serve you for your entire aviation career. • Listen to LiveATC.net • Learn to communicate on VATSIM.net
If I was to summarize this e-book in a quick and memorable bullet list, it would be as follows:
• Learn what to say when by first listening. • You are going to make mistakes when speaking. • You are going to sound stupid when speaking. • The only way to truly learn is by pushing the ‘push-to-talk’ switch and speaking up yourself . • Laugh at your mistakes. • Practice Makes perfect • You are not bound by a perfect ‘script’ in the sky. • AIR. Address, Ident, Radio Call. • Keep the Radio call Short. Avoid useless words. • Use long calls when you need to sound friendly. • When you need to say something long, say it long hand. • Don’t talk too fast or too slow. Find your radio call Tempo. • When unclear, ask for clarification. • Ask. Ask. Ask. • Know the difference between an emergency and a situation where ATC can simply assist you .
• Pilots and controllers can get along. • You can assist a controller as well. • A controller cannot tell you what to do, just as you cannot tell them what to do. • A controller can tell you their requirements and situation. Then you can decide. • You can cooperate well when speaking to other pilots as well.
This e-book is useless unless you go out and try some of this stuff . Inaction will result in this being a waste of hard earned money for you . Or, you can try some of the things I’ve mentioned and be honest with yourself and how you present yourself on the flightdeck and change/improve . I do want to share my great thanks and appreciation for the controllers and pilots out there who have assisted me in the past to cruise the airways in relative safety and comfort . I am continually reminded of the professionalism and great camaraderie in this industry and the overall desire for the utmost safety . To all of you pilots reading this and controllers out there, happy con-trails to you .
John Palmer ChrisLee Angle of Attack Productions Author
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