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Radio Communications Phraseology

Section 2. Radio Communications Phraseology 

and Techniques



1. General


Radio communications are a critical link in the

ATC system. The link can be a strong bond between
pilot and controller or it can be broken with surprising
speed and disastrous results. Discussion herein
provides basic procedures for new pilots and also
highlights safe operating concepts for all pilots.


The single, most important thought in pilot-

controller communications is understanding. It is
essential, therefore, that pilots acknowledge each
radio communication with ATC by using the
appropriate aircraft call sign. Brevity is important,
and contacts should be kept as brief as possible, but
controllers must know what you want to do before
they can properly carry out their control duties. And
you, the pilot, must know exactly what the controller
wants you to do. Since concise phraseology may not
always be adequate, use whatever words are
necessary to get your message across. Pilots are to
maintain vigilance in monitoring air traffic control
radio communications frequencies for potential
traffic conflicts with their aircraft especially when
operating on an active runway and/or when
conducting a final approach to landing.


All pilots will find the Pilot/Controller Glossary

very helpful in learning what certain words or phrases
mean. Good phraseology enhances safety and is the
mark of a professional pilot. Jargon, chatter, and
“CB” slang have no place in ATC communications.
The Pilot/Controller Glossary is the same glossary
used in FAA Order JO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control


We recommend that it be studied and reviewed from
time to time to sharpen your communication skills.



2. Radio Technique

a. Listen


before you transmit. Many times you can

get the information you want through ATIS or by
monitoring the frequency. Except for a few situations
where some frequency overlap occurs, if you hear
someone else talking, the keying of your transmitter
will be futile and you will probably jam their
receivers causing them to repeat their call. If you have

just changed frequencies, pause, listen, and make sure
the frequency is clear.

b. Think

 before keying your transmitter. Know

what you want to say and if it is lengthy; e.g., a flight
plan or IFR position report, jot it down.


The microphone should be very close to your

lips and after pressing the mike button, a slight pause
may be necessary to be sure the first word is
transmitted. Speak in a normal, conversational tone.


When you release the button, wait a few

seconds before calling again. The controller or FSS
specialist may be jotting down your number, looking
for your flight plan, transmitting on a different
frequency, or selecting the transmitter for your


Be alert to the sounds 

or the lack of sounds


your receiver. Check your volume, recheck your
frequency, and 

make sure that your microphone is not


 in the transmit position. Frequency blockage

can, and has, occurred for extended periods of time
due to unintentional transmitter operation. This type
of interference is commonly referred to as a “stuck
mike,” and controllers may refer to it in this manner
when attempting to assign an alternate frequency. If
the assigned frequency is completely blocked by this
type of interference, use the procedures described for
en route IFR radio frequency outage to establish or
reestablish communications with ATC.


Be sure that you are within the performance

range of your radio equipment and the ground station
equipment. Remote radio sites do not always transmit
and receive on all of a facility’s available frequencies,
particularly with regard to VOR sites where you can
hear but not reach a ground station’s receiver.
Remember that higher altitudes increase the range of
VHF “line of sight” communications.



3. Contact Procedures

a. Initial Contact.


The terms 

initial contact


initial callup

means the first radio call you make to a given facility
or the first call to a different controller or FSS
specialist within a facility. Use the following format: