Sunday, January 11, 2009

Air Traffic Control Radio and Radar

Talking to Air Traffic Control can be nerve racking in the beginning or when you are out of practice. When you first go into a towered airport, get flight following for the first time, get an IFR clearance, or get an IFR approach clearance over the final approach fix, it can sound overwhelming. So much seems to be going on. The key is having a decent idea of what the ATC is going to be saying in general and most importantly what they will be telling you. If you can listen to a web-site like or get a Aviation Band Scanner, then you will have a much better idea. And it is a lot cheaper to learn on the ground than it is in the air!

Before talking always try to rehearse in your head what you are going to say. This always helps me. Who you are talking to, Who am I, Where am I, What do I want, and ATIS information if you have it. Metro Tower, Skylane 9699G, 10 Miles North, Inbound Full Stop with Foxtrot.

Then you have to be ready for the response. This is where it helps to listen on the ground. If I am coming from the north to Metro (KBJC), they will have me enter in a few different ways.

  1. Enter Right Downwind 29R abeam the tower report abeam the tower.
  2. Enter Right Base 29R report 2 mile base.
  3. Enter Left Base for 11L report 2 mile base.
  4. Fly to Marshall reservoir for a 5 mile final report over Marshall.

The tower can talk back pretty fast, and it can be a lot to take in. But if you know their response is one of four items, it gets pretty simple. It will be a little different for other airports or approaching from different directions. But the key is to have an idea of what they might say to your call.

Similar things happen for Flight Following, getting an IFR Clearance, or being approved for an IFR approach. There are fairly predictable responses from ATC. And you can hear all these things through or Aviation Band Scanner and sitting near your favorite airport without having to pay for an instructor or plane rental.

If anybody sees another or better collection of ATC Radio, please post a comment and let us know.


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