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Radio Communications Phraseology

Section 2. Radio Communications Phraseology 

and Techniques

4−2−1. General

a. 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.

b. 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.

c. 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.

4−2−2. 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.

c. 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.

d. 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


e. Be alert to the sounds or the lack of sounds in

your receiver. Check your volume, recheck your

frequency, and make sure that your microphone is not

stuck 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.

f. 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.

4−2−3. Contact Procedures

a. Initial Contact.

1. The terms initial contact or 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: