Private Pilot Flight Training and Instruction
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Controlled Airport Radio
There are several essentials to good radio work.
The first essential is:
Know you you want to talk to or, at least, how to find out
whom you should be talking to. Every airport and ATC facility
has a name, use it. Over the years the FAA has changed the names
of airports back and forth between the location and a local personage
several times. You can often judge a pilots age and experience
by what he says on the radio.
The second essential is:
Know how to set the desired/required freqency into the radio
in the most useful sequence. Write all the expected sequences
down before you start the aircraft. This means that you should
have a set of memorized frequencies in common use, a chart with
required frequencies, and a current
A/FD with the frequencies. Flying without frequency knowledge
is as bad as flying without looking where you are going.
The third essential is:
Know where you are going to be when you start talking, or know
enough to know that you dont know where you are going to
be. In either case be as precise as you can. Dont state
your position until you are over it. Use the time getting there
to practice what you are going to say.
The fourth essential is:
The way you say what you say. If you are having orientation
problems, say soby including the word Unfamiliar immediately after
your aircraft identification. Dont try to fake it.
If you want help, say so. The busier the frequency the briefer
you want to be. Just the essentials. If a place or procedure is
offered by ATC with which you are unfamiliar, say so. Request
to overfly field above pattern altitude for directions from ATC.
VHF aircraft radio is limited to line of sight but as FM, is
static free. Most radios have 360/720 frequencies allocated for
communication and navigation. The frequency should be monitored
before use to avoid dual transmissions which cause receivers to
whistle. A stuck mike switch can jam the frequency.
At night when the tower is closed or before it opens you should
use the published tower frequency for all air/ground operations.
Arrivals should overfly to determine active, enter on a 45 at
pattern altitude. If parallel runways exist, only the major one
should be used and standard left patterns followed even if right
patterns are normal with the tower open.
Basic communication requires:
Name of who is being called,
Who you are,
Where you are with pertinent data,
What you want.
FSS, Flight Watch, and Approach Control callups are slightly
different. Good phraseology requires that punctuation not be used.
Words like miles, feet, runway, and over a position are best omitted.
Plan what you are going to say before keying the mike.
121.5 is the emergency frequency and is constantly monitored
by ATC facilities. Aircraft should also monitor. Including it
in the shutdown CHECKLIST is a good practice. Use it only in an
emergency. If you are already on a frequency and in contact do
not change unless directed. The ELT when activated by shock transmits
on 121.5 as a warble. Emergencytransmissions should say each word
or phrase three times. Includeidentification, location, nature
of problem, intentions.
122.2. is a common FSS frequency for use when a discrete frequency
is unknown or unavailable. The blue rectangles at FSS airports
and at VOR's list discrete, duplex (122.1/VOR freq. Note: as of
10-1-91 122.1 and listening on the VOR is being discontinued in
most U.S. locations) Since an FSS may have up to 12 available
frequencies the call up must say what frequency is being listened
to. "Fresno Radio, Cessna 1234X listening 122.2" Since
so many frequencies are available select the one giving the best
line of sight potential. VOR's and RCO (remote communications
outlets) have land lines allowing long distance use.
123.6 is the airport advisory frequency or AAS from the airport
FSS at a field without a tower but having a FSS. This frequency
is used for takeoff, traffic advisory, and landing. Ukiah and
Red Bluff are current, but to be closed, examples. "Ukiah
Radio, Cessna 1234X listening 123.6 Cloverdale at 2000 landing
122.0 is the Flight Watch frequency used nation wide as a weather
information service. It is a good frequency to monitor in flight.
Flight Watch has area wide remote radios which require you to
give the name of your nearest VOR on call up. "Oakland Flight
Watch Cessna 1234X Squaw Valley over" Pilot reports (PIREPS)
can be exchanged as well as enroute/ destination weather.
Airport Class D airspace extends to 4.1 nautical miles and
2500 feet. FAR's require communications to enter, leave and within
unless specifically exempted. The Automatic Terminal Information
Service (ATIS) should be obtained before contacting Air Traffic
Control (ATC). The ATIS is given alphabetical phonetic code names
for identification. Prior to taxi and after clearing runway Ground
Contact is required. "Concord Ground Cessna 1234X East Ramp
taxi with (ATIS)" "Concord Tower Cessna 1234X Clayton
at 2000 landing with (ATIS)" Every ATA has 122.95 as a standard
unicom frequency for fuel services. If more than one Fixed Base
Operator (FBO) is on the field then other frequencies may be used.
Many towers operate part time as indicated with an * after the
tower frequency. Operational times are on the tower frequency
tab of the Sectional. When the tower is closed left (standard)
traffic is used for the runway in use even if is the right.
In the event of radio failure try to determine if it is receiver
or transmitter by squawking 7600. Communicate in the blind ("Travis
Approach Cessna 12234X transmitting in the blind Rio Vista at
2000 planning landing at Concord") to the nearest radar facility.
If the receiver is functioning they can determine your intentions
by asking questions to which you respond on the IDENT feature
of the transponder. If the receiver is out, transmit in the blind
all your positions, altitudes, and intentions just in case the
transmitter is operational. ATC can work traffic around one plane
without a radio. At a controlled airport enter the Class D airspace
at twice pattern altitude, determine the longest active runway
by wind or traffic. Depart from overhead so as to arrive on a
45 degree downwind entry to the runway, turn downwind, base, final
and watch for the green light gun signal.
The basic procedure for Approach Control, Class B airspace,
Class C airspace and, TERSA's, is the same except Class B airspace
cannot be entered without clearance. Class C airspace requires
only that communication be established. If the proper frequency
is unknown call a FSS for aid or use the tower frequency tab of
the sectional. "Bay Approach Cessna 1234X over" This
callup is necessary because work procedures may require the controller
to delay recontact with you until he has finished some other operation.
On contact give ATC your position, type aircraft, intentions or
request. Be sure to write down the squawk before trying to enter
it into the transponder. Set the transponder on standby (stby)
before resetting the assigned code; then place to ALT. Acknowledge
the squawk by repeating the code as is done with all headings,
frequencies or traffic. "Radar Contact" should be acknowledged.
On being given a squawk turn the transponder to standby (stby)
before resetting the code. IDENT only if commanded.
A Direction Finding (DF) steer can be obtained from a properly
equipped FSS just by making a request. With the advent of radar
the DF is seldom used. The DF equipment has the capability of
line of sight detection and orienting to your transmitter. ATC
will ask you questions regarding your aircraft equipment, flight
conditions, fuel, and intentions. You will be directed to set
your heading indicator and to fly specific headings while occasionally
keying your transmitter. You may be given VOR frequencies and
asked to give OBS readings FROM a VOR. By simple procedures the
operator can determine your position. Further fixes can direct
you to almost any destination. Always repeat back headings and
instructions to avoid misunderstandings. Avoid doing this during
heavy traffic or at night.
Written by Gene Whitt
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