Talking to Air Traffic Control | Radio Basics | ATC Communications

Talking to Air Traffic Control | Radio Basics | ATC Communications

in this video we’re talking about the
most intimidating things that pilots face talking to air traffic control
radio communications and how to master them coming up Hey everyone Carl with the Aviation Guys
here and if you like training tips going on flights and aviation gadget reviews
and this is the channel for you if you if like what you see please consider
subscribing now let’s get going let’s Lets start out by saying who this video is
for. This video is primarily for student pilots who are ready to take control of
the radios, but it’s also for certified pilots who don’t usually fly into
control airports. But the whole idea is to help you learn how to get around, fly
into, and out of your local airport. But here’s the bottom line
the FAA requires certain communications to happen on the radio and that puts a
lot of pressure on air traffic control and so they have to put pressure on the
pilots to make sure they’re in compliance as well so let’s make radio
communication as simple as possible there’s three basic parts the request
instructions and confirmation so you make a request to air traffic control
they give you instructions and then you repeat those instructions back to
confirm that you heard them correctly then unless they’ve asked you to contact
them or you have a new request you only receive instructions and confirm it as
air traffic control gives you updated information that’s it that’s all radio
communication is but because what you say and how you say it matters we’re
going to dig a little deeper. so we’re going to walk through this as if we’re going on a flight and at an airport with air traffic control there’s multiple
controllers if you’re on the ground you’ll start by contacting ground
control to get you to the runway and after you have the runway you’ll contact
the tower to clear you for takeoff so since we’re on the ground
we’re gonna start with our initial contact with ground control. this initial
contact is basically asking permission to enter the movement area which is
anywhere where there’s taxiways and runways in order to enter those areas
you have to give them all the information that they need to be able to
graduate entrance into the movement area watch here as I make my initial
contact with ground. We on ground? Looks good. Is it really that today? Is it really that what? quiet Yea, I know right? dear valley ground Cessna seven five six zero zero at romeo eight requesting taxi for
Northwest departure with information Zulu. Again your communication with air
traffic control on your initial contact has to have a lot of information. To keep
things simple we’re going to use the W’s use of ATC communication. When you
make your initial contact with air traffic control, whether you’re in the air or on the ground it has to include these five
things. who you’re talking to who you are where you are what is your request and
intentions and with what airport information This is everything air
traffic control needs to know to give you clearance and instruction. Now the
W’s aren’t the end-all in radio communication. It’s just a good technique
to help you get going. In fact the order of what you are, where
you are, and what your requests are doesn’t even matter. But by using the W’s
in your communication it helps things flow better and feel more natural. Now,
the first communication was the hardest one from here you just have to listen to
what air traffic control says and repeat it back to them so they know you heard
them correctly. Let’s watch the rest of this transmission Cessna Seven five six zero zero, taxi to northwest run-up via Alpha advise run-up complete. Taxing to northwest run-up area via alpha will advise when complete six zero zero Now that we’re cleared to taxi we’ll follow the instructions air traffic control gave us
to the run-up area. Just a side note, not all airports have a designated run-up
area like mine. Sometimes you complete your run-up at the end of the runway or
the runway access point, but what’s important here is that I just entered a
non-movement area, as indicated by these lines which
means that once my run-up is complete I have to contact ground again for
clearance into the movement area. But, because I already gave them all the
information they needed about me and my initial contact, I only have to advise
them on the things that they requested. Which, in this case, is that my run-up is
complete. Deer Valley Ground, Cessna seven five six zero zero run-up is complete by now you should have noticed two things that I’m doing with every
communication. The first is that I’m addressing who I’m talking to and saying
Who I am. These are the first two W’s use
instead of our steps. Anytime you’re making contact with air traffic control,
Unicom, or even air-to-air frequency you should always start with who you’re
talking to and who you are. Second I close my transmission by using my tail
number or rather, in this case the last three of my tail number to help speed
things up. It’s technically not required to do so you could just end your
transmission by lifting the push-to-talk button but using this technique is
common and helps others in the area know that you’re done communicating. Also
speaking of using the last three of your tail number to help speed things up, air
traffic control might do the same thing so make sure
you’re actively listening for the last three of your tail number whenever
you’re inside of a traffic area. Now back to my taxi and just like before
I’m going to listen to the instructions I’m given and confirm them. Cessna six zero zero
runway seven left, taxi via alpha, alpha four. Taxing via alpha to alpha
four for seven left six zero zero alright now we followed the instructions
given to us by ground control, completed our run-up, made it to the runway, and are
holding short. But ground control can’t give us clearance to take off only tower can. So we have to change our radio frequency to tower to make our next
transmission. dear valley power Cessna seven five six zero zero is holding short of seven left ready for departure. now because we switch over to a different controller we not only had to tell them who we are
again but we had to use our full tail number But also tell them where we were
and what our request is and in this case it was a request to depart. The rest of
our intentions like where we were going and what airport information we had, was
already handed over to tower from ground control So we didn’t need to tell him
that again. Cessna seven five six zero zero, Deer Valley Tower, hold short runway seven left. Holding short, seven left, six zero zero. no matter what instructions you’re given
you just need to confirm and comply to them in my case I was told to hold short
but, they could give you any number of instructions from here. Here are just a
few of them. hold short of runway. You’ll hear this if there’s an aircraft about
to land or the runway isn’t clea Fly straight out or fly runway heading. you’ll hear this if you’re departing the airport and they want you to fly until
you reach the required altitude I’ll call your crosswind You’ll hear this
when the tower is trying to keep separation between traffic. They’ll let
you know when you can turn. left or rightclose traffic approved You’ll hear this when you’re approved to stay in the traffic pattern for touch and go’s. turn at your discretion You’ll hear this when you’re leaving the airport and you can turn for departure whenever you’d like line up and wait Here you’ve been cleared onto the runway to get ready for takeoff but not actually do so until you
get clearance cleared for take off this one’s kind of self-explanatory Cessna six zero zero fly straight out to advise runway seven left cleared for takeoff clear for takeoff on seven left for six zero zero flying straight out Great, you’re up in the air. You fly away from the airport for some maneuvers. You do some stalls maybe a couple spins your instructor simulates an emergency Alright buddy, simulated engine failure. soon enough it’s time to head back to the airport. Once you’re ready, you’ll have to make contact with air traffic control letting them know that
you’re ready to come back for a landing just like when you’re on the ground you
have to contact them to be allowed into their airspace and your transmission
would sound something like this Deer Valley tower cessna seven five six
zero zero is over the shooting range inbound requesting touch and goes with
information Zulu. so if you’re paying close attention you realize I use the five W’s again. The process for contacting aircraft traffic control is the
same whether you’re on the ground or in the air, the information just changes a
little bit because you’re not calling out airport intersection you’re calling
out a local landmark that air traffic control is used to, or you could be using
a reporting point found on a sectional from here air traffic control will give
me instructions that I just have to repeat to confirm. Cessna seven five six zero zero deer vally tower, Roger. Left base for seven left, report over canal and freeway. Reporting over canal
freeway for seven five six zero zero from out here air traffic control can
give you all kinds of instructions in my case they asked me to report back to
them when I got a little bit closer to the airport. Now typically I would have
called air traffic control at the reporting point that they asked me but
anything can happen when you’re inbound to an airport and in my case they gave
me updated instructions before I got to the reporting point Cessna six zero zero for
traffic make a left turn and fly eastbound I’ll let you know when you can
make a right turn back to downwind make a right turn to east bound, I’ll listen for your call. Err… yes… EAST bound, LEFT TURN! for six zero zero. HAHAHAHHAHA In situations like these it’s important to
just confirm and comply because air traffic control really could ask you to
do any number of things. Here’s a short list of things that they could ask you
to do. extend your downwind I’ll call your base Air traffic control is trying
to space the landings just keep flying until they tell you to turn enter a left
or right base for runway This information is to tell you how air
traffic control would like you to approach the runway. Enter right or left
traffic for runway This is the same thing as entering a left or right base. Air traffic control wants you to enter the traffic pattern and is telling you
how to approach the runway. continue straight in You’re already
flying runway heading so you can fly straight in and skip the pattern Cross over midfield and make right or left traffic You’re on the wrong side of the
airport in this situation so air traffic control is directing you to fly over the
field and how have you join the patter. Remain outside class Delta This means stay out of their airspace. They may have too much traffic or something else is going on and they just don’t want you in there yet. Follow traffic at your 12 o’clock. I used 12 o’clock as an example here but you’ll typically hear this when air traffic control want you to follow someone else in the pattern
and they’re telling you where to look. If you see the traffic you would respond with traffic in sight otherwise you would respond with looking for traffic cleared for the option Typically you
would have to request the option to be cleared for it but if your traffic
control says that you’ve been cleared for the option you can do whatever type
of landing you want. Full stop, touch and go, and even a stop and go. clear to land on runway this one should be obvious but make sure you don’t land unless you hear
it the same rule applies for any type of landing just make sure air traffic
control says what type of landing you’re looking to attempt now going back to my
landing, air traffic control told me why there was a delay for my entry into
their area. But usually they don’t have to tell you. But just like I was asked I
flew East until I was told to come inbound to the airport. Cessna six zero zero, affirmative.
Left turn to the east. My plan is, I’ve got a… the downwind is pretty stretched out so I’m gonna put you behind everybody Roger six zero zero. Here are the rest of the updates
as I came in for my landing. Cessna six zero zero traffic
approaching your three o’clock higher on downwind Seminole traffic is a sight. Cessna six zero zero you can turn inbound and follow the Seminole that’s at
midfield. turning right following traffic. Six zero zero. Cessna seven five six zero zero, follow the Seminole just crossing the freeway on final Runway seven left, cleared to land. Cleared to land, looking for traffic six zero zero. okay now we’ve landed but our last
contact with air traffic control tower is going to be telling us to pull off
the runway and contact ground for our taxi instructions Cessna six zero zero
contact ground point 8 Contacting ground, six zero zero. After clearing the runway we change our radios over to
ground control to make our last call and you guessed it, use the five W’s all
except for the last one because that information isn’t required to taxi to
the hangars. Deer Valley Ground, Cessna seven five six zero zero at alpha nine requesting taxi to
north hangars Cessna seven five six zero zero, deer valley ground. Taxi via alpha to north hangers. taxing via alpha to north
hangar six zero zero. So that’s a really brief overview of air traffic control
communications to help you get in and out of an airport. Now this was
specifically for Class D airspace and it also works for Class C and B airspace
with slight variations. But we’re going save that for another video. So I know
what you’re thinking, now how do I get good at all this?
well practice. practicing your transmissions is the best way to perfect
them. starting with your initial transmission go ahead and use the five
W’s. most of us fly out of the same airport so you can even write these down
if you want to and read them back to air traffic control. but practicing not only
helps you with what to say but helps your transmissions feel more natural.
just remember to practice all three parts of the transmission for all stages
of flight in the air and on the ground. you can anticipate what air traffic
control is going to say, and practice those confirmations. also practice your
transmissions out loud, not just in your head. when you say them out loud it helps
you articulate them better and get them into muscle memory. this will help you
from freezing when you push that push-to-talk button. another great way to
the practice is to listen to the radio communication from your flights. I use a
little pocket recorder and a couple of cables that I plug into the airplane to
be able to record all the communications I have. I’ll have links to these down
inside of the description below so you can record your own audio. reviewing the
audio help me tremendously inside of my practice especially since every flight I
went on I heard something new. another good resource for air traffic control
audio is live ATC com. it may not be your audio but it’ll still help you
practice and hear the different things that controllers will say.
all right now send for some pointers to help you become a radio communications
master. use a single transmission when you make your transmission make sure to provide all the required information at once. don’t keep pressing and releasing
the push-to-talk button. if you break up your transmission air traffic control
may not hear everything that you say or make you repeat it all in a single
transmission. actively listen for your callsign If you’re in a stage of life
that requires you to communicate with air traffic control make sure you’re
paying extra close attention. if you have passengers just ask them to be quiet for
a bit so you can manage the radios better wait your turn to communicate. sometimes we have to be patient to talk to air-traffic control they. can be busy
and stepping on someone else’s transmission causes confusion and
frustration for everybody don’t hesitate Don’t hesitate to ask them to repeat what they said or
to talk slower if you don’t understand the instructions ask them to “say again” or “speak slower” so you can make sure you’re doing exactly what they ask you
to do also don’t hesitate to tell air traffic
control you’re unable if you find yourself in a situation where their instructions make you feel uncomfortable or nervous, let them know that you’re
unable and ask for different instructions. last and probably my most
important piece of advice to help you become a radio communications master is don’t feel stupid remember air traffic control is there to help you if you want to take a deeper dive into radio communications there’s a couple of
resources that you can use. first you can check the aeronautical information
manual or AIM. in section 2 chapter 4 it goes over the lot of details on how to
communicate on the radios. you can also check out the pilot controller glossary
this goes over almost every aviation term known to man and its definition I have links to these resources in the description below but you can also find
them on the tool sections on our website at that’s it for
this video and I wanted to give a shout out to my instructor and honorary
Aviation Guys Jim Pitman who’s help on this video was invaluable. you can
check him out at hey guys thanks for watching the video
if you liked it make sure to give it a thumbs up and hit that subscribe button
also tell us what you think inside of the comments down below as always share
aviation wherever you can and we’ll see in the next one


  1. Post
    Fly With The Guys

    Hey Guys! I know this is a long one, but there's lots of great information in it. Hope you like it! Please let me know what you would like to see on our channel. I've got a good list going and want to make it longer! THANKS!

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    If you really think that talking to ATC is “one of the most intimidating things pilots can face” I would encourage you to stop flying.

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    Thierry Guemboura

    Nice video. My home airport is KPIE (St. Pete Clearwater International) and we share the main runway with Coast Guard C-130 planes. After getting "Clear To Land" clearance, I have on several occasions (after seeing a C-130 landing while I was downwind), informed the tower that I would extend downwind for 3 minutes to avoid Wake Turbulence. I was taught that we are PIC so we decide what's good for us.

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    Gary Gardner

    Thanks for making this video, I am working on my private license, and my home air port doesn't have a ATC or even one very close. So I was never around controlled airspace, the thought of it made me scared to death. Thanks!!! Very helpful!!!!

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    Rick Cable

    Thanks for this video. I'm hoping to begin training soon and this part seems the hardest thing about being a pilot to me.

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    Sean Gallagher

    KDVT has the best ATC people! Proud to call it my home airport. I knew all those voices. Cherokee 8483R, if ya see me out there (North side) say hi!

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    James Janisko

    As a former controller, I very greatly appreciate this video. If it helps, remember that while a pilot may transmit to ground, tower, and ACDC several times in a flight, a single ATC will most likely transmit upwards of 500 times that amount in a single shift. This affords us MUCH more practice in relaying information on the radio. I have caught myself blazing through clearances only to have to repeat myself slower to be understood. It’s not intended to seem superior, though that can be the perception. Typical ATC speech rate is significantly faster than typical pilot speech rate simply by repetition.
    To all those learning to fly, I would offer this suggestion: Be clear and concise. The less errrr and uhhh and dead air in your transmissions, usually the quicker you will be received.
    Unless you are Mayday or Pan, take a moment to think about what you’re going to say. Say it clear and concise and you will most likely not have to repeat yourself or get flustered. The language of Aviation has been honed to get the most information out of the least words/air time as possible. Take full advantage of that.
    One of my biggest pet peeves as ATC was aircraft calling up before they had really figured out what they wanted. I wish you all safe flight with no incidents and as always (unless you’re a helo) check wheels down.

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    Garage Groen

    I study all very long for mine PPL, and this radio communication lessens re all so very important!
    So aviation guys…
    Thank you so much!

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    L Ariza

    Love your videos. Very ease to understand . You really hit the nail on the head. I am working or i should say , I am getting ready to get my Private Licence . These videos help me a lot. God Bless.

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    Ken Gunn

    Enjoyed the video as it has always been a stress for me. Too many ATC people and pilots talk too fast and blurry like your controller in this video. I'd have had to ask him to repeat on a few of his calls. A lot of pilots think it's cool to speak fast and indistinctly so they sound 'professional'.

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    KirK Hortel

    I did my first flight last week at deer valley!!!! We’re flying to Oshkosh in July in a yellow 172! I’ll keep an eye out for your call sign!

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    Spencer Herrick

    Just got back into the left seat today after a 4 year hiatus. My stick and rudder skills were fine, but I struggled on the radio. This video gave me some comfort and familiarity with why when and how we should be using the radio. Thanks again!~

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    muhammad shahbazkhan

    it's a really helpful video for me. Thank you or please makes videos for aircraft towing tou aircraft mechanic

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    Jack Aubrey

    Woo! I've always dreamt of getting my pilot's license, but life got in the way. I'm an older guy now, and I'm moving this towards the front burner in the next year. Still, that radio talk seems intimidating, although you cleared up an awful lot. JA

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    David J Foster

    Great video.  I used to fly out of that airport in the late 1980's and it wasn't that busy.  Would hop over to Scottsdale to keep up on these communication skills.  Also loved flying northwest out of there and occasionally getting buzzed by the guys from Luke.

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    Quinton Johnson

    This is very great, this helped me a lot, I might just keep watching it over and over again, as I have good memory, it'll get stuck in there 😛

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    Thank you so much. As a student pilot just before stage 1 check, this video is really helpful for me. It has good organization and all of situations. Thanks.

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    Quinton Hummel

    Glad to see you’re at my local airport! I start training next month, this vid helped answer some simple questions I had thank you.

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    Matthew Holzner

    Regional differences make it hard to understand ATC sometimes. They speak fast and slur their words, and when they pronounce things differently it is too much to listen through. Like in this video, the ground controler had a drawl on "ad-vyse" and "AL-fa".

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    Agussi Gaming

    I work as an ATC and although it happens all the time and no one is offended by it. It actually isn't allowed for the pilot him/herself to abbreviate their callsign. Pilots can only abbreviate the callsign after ATC has done this themselves. If ATC doesn't abbreviate your callsign, you are actually not allowed to do it (according to AIM). It is just that you as a pilot don't know if there might be another acft in the control area with almost the same callsign and then someone can mistake the instructions as to be for him/her.

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    Sacramento/SFBayWX 2002

    I want to learn how to fly so I can buy a Cessna and fly it by myself. The scary part is the air traffic control.

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    steve unger

    Question: On a SID with several step up fixes if a controller ask you to go direct to a fix several ahead ( i.e. bypassing a few ) do you still abide by the step up altitudes that are published or is the SID now voided due to the controller routing you and altitude's are now controller issued?

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    Alex Gouthro

    As an old flight instructor I found this to be one of the best explanations of basic traffic control communication I have ever heard. Congratulations!

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    Austin Brewis

    For anyone that sees this, just tell ATC that you're a student pilot, and we'll make sure we take care of you

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    This method of communicating is ridiculously overcomplicated, not intuitive, does not help, not fluid, not fast, and is just dangerous.
    Specially how poor tired air controll guys are mumbling and rushing words.
    This is just so stupid!

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    Mark’s landings And aviation vids

    Dont hate on me im 14 and i have a question. Is the meaning of HOLD SHORT OF RUNWAY that the plane has to stop and wait for other planes?

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    im starting to get frustrated, is it just bad audio quality from your end or is all radio like that on the plane? why is the quality so bad you can barely hear what they're saying? its so weird that a regular phone has a higher audio quality than fucking airplane radio, shouldn't the quality of radio be crisp clean and not bad?

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    Joe Smith

    It’s become a stigma for controllers to talk as fast as possible, but it wasn’t always like this. Many think the faster you are, the better you are. Pilots are kind of the opposite. I’ve actually told ATC I have NO idea what you just said. Slow the F down and repeat what you just said in normal English please. This isn’t a cattle auction.

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    Trying to learn as much as possible right now in my youth so it can be easier to complete flight school. If I’m not mistaken it should help me later

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    Marty Schrader

    Thanks for the clean breakdown of GA radio discipline. It's not often that even professional instructors provide such an even-handed, step-by-step analysis and description of how radio traffic is supposed to be conveyed. Really fine instruction — even though you claim it's not!

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    Josh Scheeter Parkers

    Dream job to be an ATC. My dad has been a (U.S Airways before merge with AA) American Airlines pilot for 35+ years

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    Michael Colletti

    I’m just starting actual flight training. Most of my flight experience is with computer based flight sims, which I’ve found helpful during actual lessons. Your videos are a great source for learning. Thanks for creating these and I’m very happy that I found these and subscribed!!

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    Dwaipayan Datta Roy

    Except for clear for take off one needs to stay at origin place or runway origin ( here Nw alpha to alpha 4, point A, of points A to B, A is alpha point and alpha 4 is point B, and from B the craft takes off? )

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    C W

    In the UK we can only abbreviate our call sign if the atc do it first. This is in case there’s another aircraft with a similar call sign. At my field there are 2 aircraft that end KDJ

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    Bud Bird

    Years ago when I took flight lessons radio communication was intimidating,but now with resources on you tube,etc…things will be so much easier..thx fly guys..

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    Peter Van Horn IV

    I couldn't understand a word atc was saying, it's like a the teacher from peanuts or a bad speaker at a drive thru.

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    Scott Rose

    Thanks for making this video, just last week I made my first radio transmission on my way back to the airport. Me and my instructor reviewed what to say about 4 times before I actually told tower. It can only get easier from here on out!

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    This video was super helpful and right now im trying to battle the Color Deficiency side of the AME exam that i have yet to conduct.

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    I am facing problem with communication with control tower and grand control , they speak too fats and not understandable , sometime radio communication is not clear , why its hell they speak so fast !!!!

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    Eddie Rivera

    I love your video and specially the calm tone in which you speak and communicate on the radio. I feel as if I have a hearing problem because I did not understand most of the instructions you were given and there was one guy who spoke extra fast radio communication is the only thing holding me back.

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    Ronald ODea

    Excellent, very well done. I'm coaching a young man who is getting ready to solo. Sent him the link to this video. Very thorough and easy to follow.

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    enrique lopez

    You speak very clear. but what about the ATC people that I can barely understand because they talk so fast? They should pratice how to clearly speak to pilots, that should be enforced.

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    OBServe Garage

    My daughter’s best friend’s dad is a Cessna Citation pilot. Over Labor Day weekend, he and I were practicing ATC comm. My daughter asked me, “What language are you two speaking?” I simply replied, “ICAO!” He and I got a good laugh and continued practicing.

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    Gary Vale

    living near O'Hare airport, I used to enjoy listing to live ATC transmissions using my cell phone apps…..but no longer seem to be able to receive any…has listening to ATC live recently been discontinued or become illegal?

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    blaster 0416

    One thing that new pilots will notice is the differences flying into towered vs non towered airports. The procedure is a bit different. And you will only get proficient in the beginning with the type that is your home airport. in my case, it was untowered, which is a bit easier. It took a bit of practice to get used to flying into towered Airports since 95% of my landings in my first year of flying were at non towered fields.

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    chetana jayakrishna

    Was trying to refresh my memory of radio communications after 7 long years and you guys gave just what’s needed to be confident again .great video and great coverage of what’s needed .

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    Sami Abdallah

    This is really so freaking helpful. I am a beginner private pilot and information in the video were extremely helpful. Thaaaaaaaaaank you…

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    Shato Nyruami

    As most pilots will not fly as often as they would like to, the best way to practice ATC communication is actually a PC and a flight simulator, then join either IVOA or VATSIM, if you don´t care about the region you fly in, as the guys acting as ATC are volunteers and aside from special events you first have to check their maps for controlled airspace. The experience in controlled airspace is absolutely professional and will give you tons of confidence after you trained there regularly. The ATC is actually so professional that AustroControl, the agency in charge of controlling the airspace over Austria, sends their trainees to IVAO Austria to be able to get additional practice.

    If you are from the western US or like to fly in western US regions, there is also PilotEdge, a professional company providing complete ATC coverage over about half the continental US. Every ATC position is filled with certified controllers. Of course, each of these controllers fills multiple positions, so it might happen that a controller hands you over to herself, but you won´t get any more realistic ATC than that, except for real flight. As with all professional services, this comes at a price, they divide the area covered in 2 sections, each of those will cost you 19,90 per month, both regions combined cost 35,90. A price well worth a service provided 7 days a week from 8am to 11pm pacific.

    Just like the guy in the video said, practice is key, and except if you are rich, there is no way to practice as frequently as with these services.

    I always had problems talking to an ATC, but after using these services regularly and frequent for some weeks, it came to me as naturally as talking over lunch.

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