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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: 

Radio Communications Phraseology