CRJ200 Airline Pilot

The personal experiences, thoughts of an CRJ captain


How To Speak on the Radio!

Posted by Jeffrey on October 19, 2008

Learn Good Radio Communications

As I was flying around California today, I cringed listening to some of the radio communications I heard from both general aviation pilots and professional pilots, including my own first officer.

Now I don’t claim to be the end-all-be-all of radio communications but I do strive to communicate properly, as should you. Due to the nature of flying, radio transmissions need to be succinct, precise, and to the point because there are often several pilots trying to communicate with air traffic control (ATC) at any one time and sometimes there is a lot to be said. Furthermore, ATC hates to have to repeat themselves! So you better be sure and listen close the first time.

If you ever listen to ground communications in the busy airports like Chicago O’hare (ORD) or Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) or Los Angeles International (LAX), you will hear some of the most rapid-fire communications in the world. In ORD, you have to pay attention and respond when given an instruction because…if you don’t…you will be singled out…and that is always embarrassing. ORD is a little different too because the “normal” radio communication procedures often go out the window. On occasion I’ve heard Ground give instructions to ten airplanes at once in rapid succession. So forget about giving a read back.

Now today, we departed San Diego (KSAN) and landed on 25L in Los Angeles (KLAX).  Upon landing, we were cleared to cross 25R and turn right on taxi way Bravo. My first officer simply replied, “Cleared to cross, turn right on Bravo.”

What is wrong with this? If you guessed that he didn’t say which runway, i.e., 25R, the runway we were cleared to cross, you are right. Now it was obvious which runway we were cleared to cross but that doesn’t mean it is alright to not include it in the transmission. The FAA’s number one “call to action” right now is to reduce runway incursion.  You can read more about it here.

Here is another example…and I hear this a lot in ORD. ATC will say, “<Airline> 123…fly heading 140, maintain 5000 till established, cleared ILS approach 10, 180 knots to the marker, contact tower 120.75 at the marker.” This is what <airline> 123 says, “We will do all that.” I hear this from major and regional airline pilots all the time. And there are several problems with this kind of response.

  1. Did you really get ALL the instructions? Even though you may have done this thousands of time, can you really be sure that you heard exactly what the controller said.
  2. It lacks professionalism.
  3. It shows a lack of respect for the process which is to ensure a successful arrival.

Here is one more example.

When holding short, a pilot will call tower and say something like, “LAX Tower, <airline> 123, holding short 25R, ready for takeoff.” Now this may seem innocuous enough but it is wrong. When you say “Takeoff,” you are stating a action command. Tower is the only one that can issue a takeoff clearance. By saying “takeoff,” a pilot could basically misunderstand the clearance. Hard to imagine, but it happens. When holding short of a runway, it is important that you say, “LAX Tower, <airline> 123, holding short 25R, ready for departure.” Now this may seem trivial, but as a professional, it is up to you to communicate professionally. It comes with the job.

So what can you do. As a future professional pilot, you can prepare yourself by practicing with your instructor or if you are already a pilot, review your knowledge on proper communication etiquette.

Here are a few options to consider:

So, don’t be one of those pilots with bad radio communication procedures. Pick up one of these tools so that you can communicate like the professional pilot you want to be. 

Till next time…

Here are some related entries you might want to read:


One Response to “How To Speak on the Radio!”

  1. Letter from US Airlines…

    […]How To Speak on the Radio! « CRJ200 Airline Pilot[…]…

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