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Photos: John Thorpe

1 INTRODUCTION cations Union (ITU) and are binding

in international law on member
a Radiotelephony (RTF) is essential states, including the UK.
for the safe operation of aircraft in a
c In the UK the primary legislation is
busy environment. RTF enables a
the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (the
pilot to obtain aerodrome
WT Act). This act empowers the
information, weather information, Secretary of State to make and
and instructions relating to the safe enforce regulations regarding the
movement of air traffic. Many installation and use of radio,
student pilots find the process of including the requirements to be met
learning to use the radio more by users, manufacturers and importers
daunting than learning to fly. of any radio equipment that is
b Radio waves are not confined by capable of causing radio interference.
national boundaries and for this Responsibility rests with the Secretary
reason radio is regulated on an of State for Trade and Industry and
international basis. Radio regulations the Radiocommunications Agency
agreed at World Radio Conferences (RA). In the case of aeronautical radio
of the International Telecommuni- stations, the responsibility for the
issue of operator licences and the 2 FLIGHT RADIOTELEPHONY
approval of the equipment and its OPERATORS LICENCE
installation is delegated to the Civil
Aviation Authority. Regulations a The Flight Radiotelephony
regarding the operation of aircraft Operators Licence (FRTOL) entitles the
radio equipment and aeronautical holder to operate the radio
radio stations are contained in the Air equipment in any aircraft. FRTOLs
Navigation Order 2000 (ANO) Articles issued prior to April 1998 contain the
15, 21, 46, 104 and Schedule 8. word ‘Restricted’, this is often
d All radio transmitting equipment mistaken for a ‘VHF Only’ limitation
requires a WT Act licence unless that which, if applicable, will be endorsed
type or class of equipment has been on the reverse of the licence. In the
specifically exempted by regulation UK the term ‘Restricted’ referred only
from the need for licensing by the to the type of equipment that may be
Secretary of State. operated (see ANO Schedule 8). Older
radio equipment designed for use by
Licence exempt equipment (generally specialist radio operators who were
operating over short ranges) must ‘Unrestricted’ is no longer in use,
conform to a specification and can therefore the word ‘Restricted’ has
only be used in a manner for which it been eliminated from the FRTOL.
is intended as described in the The privileges however remain
exemption. Such equipment bears an unchanged. When the FRTOL is
exemption mark showing the limited to ‘VHF Only’, the holder may
specification against which it has not use radio equipment operating in
been tested eg MPT1340. Any aircraft the High Frequency (HF) aeronautical
that uses radio, whether installed or bands (below 60 MHz). This limitation
non-installed (portable), requires an may be removed by obtaining a pass
Aircraft Radio Licence issued by the in the HF written examination with an
RA. When specialist knowledge or RTF Examiner authorised to conduct
procedures are required by the radio the HF examination, or by obtaining a
user, an additional operators licence pass in the UK Navigation group
is also required. In the case of examinations at CPL/ATPL level.
aircraft radio equipment a Certificate
of Approval for Aircraft Radio b It is essential that the holder of a
Installation issued by the CAA and an FRTOL is familiar with the
Aircraft Radio Licence issued by the phraseology and procedures used for
RA, are required for all aircraft. In aeronautical communication. ATC
addition, the radio operator must frequencies are often busy,
also be in possession of a Flight necessitating the use of concise
Radiotelephony Operators Licence phrases without ambiguity. Long
(FRTOL). Glider pilots and student winded radio calls waste time and
pilots under training are exempt may endanger others.
from the requirement to hold a c On 27th March 1977 two heavily
FRTOL. However, glider pilots laden Boeing 747s collided on the
without a FRTOL, are confined to the runway at Los Rodeos airport
use of air/ground communication Tenerife in poor visibility, resulting in
using the nominated ‘glider 575 fatalities. A KLM 747
frequencies’. commenced take-off whilst a Pan Am
747 was still taxiing towards it on the
same runway. There was clearly a
breakdown in communication;
perhaps a misunderstood radio call! 3 RADIO EQUIPMENT
The Pan Am aircraft had been asked
by the controller, who was unable to a Aircraft VHF radio communi-
see either aircraft due to low cloud, cations equipment operates in the
‘Are you CLEAR of the runway’? The band 118.00 MHz to 136.975 MHz.
KLM aircraft had already commenced Individual frequencies are allocated
the take-off roll without clearance; every 25 KHz giving rise to 760
could the KLM pilot have mistaken channels. Some older radios may
the call to the other aircraft thinking have 720, or even 360 channels with
that he was ‘CLEAR to Take-Off’? The an upper limit of 135.975 MHz,
answer remains a mystery, the cure is neither type is allowed for IFR flight,
straightforward; use the correct RTF or for VFR flight in certain countries
phraseology which is designed to be including Germany. Many VHF
unambiguous, acknowledge and aeronautical radios also include
read back all clearances and above coverage of the 108.00 MHz –
all, if in doubt ASK!! 117.975 MHz band which is allocated
to radio navigation such as VOR and
ILS. These frequencies may also be
used to provide radiotelephony
channels for one way transmission of
aerodrome information to aircraft.

Boeing 747 Tenerife Accident

d As a direct result of aircraft

accidents RTF phraseology has been
progressively modified to avoid any
possibility of ambiguity or confusion.
Specific phrases have well defined
meanings and should not be
modified by the operator. Some
recreational pilots consider that they
don’t need to know the full
vocabulary used for RTF
communication, yet when b Aircraft radio equipment is
communicating with an Air Traffic designed with a minimum number
Service Unit (ATSU) they may of controls. The operating frequency
encounter any aspect of it. It is is selected by rotary knobs or
therefore incumbent upon every switches, allowing the frequency to
radio user to be fully conversant with be adjusted in steps of 1 MHz, 100
the nature of the air traffic service KHz and either 50 or 25 KHz. On
provided, and to be able to some equipment an additional switch
understand the radio calls they may selection is necessary in order to
hear. select 25 KHz resolution. This may
take the form of a toggle switch or • turn back the SQUELCH control
require a rotary selector knob to be until the hiss just stops, this occurs
pulled In or Out. Many radios do not quite abruptly;
display the last figure of the
frequency which may end in a (0) or • leave the SQUELCH control in this
a (5). This creates the impression that position.
the frequency ends in a (.x2) or a Some radios are not fitted with an
(.x7) rather than (.x25 or .x75). external SQUELCH control, instead
e.g. they have a switch marked TEST.
Operating the switch ‘lifts’ the
121.025 shown as 121.02 SQUELCH and allows the volume
121.050 shown as 121.05 control to be set at a level where the
background hiss is audible, or
121.075 shown as 121.07 alternatively where the receiver
This may mislead the user into volume is acceptable.
thinking that a particular frequency Note:
cannot be selected. Additional
♦ The SQUELCH cannot be set correctly
frequencies spaced at 8.333KHz, will whilst you are receiving a station.
be introduced in 1999, giving rise to
even more frequency combinations. ♦ If the VOLUME control is set excessively
e.g. 118.0333 MHz and 118.0583 MHz, high, distortion may occur within the
radio making it more difficult to hear
to be designated 118.03(5) and
stations. Ideally the VOLUME control
118.06(0) MHz respectively. The (5) should not exceed 70% of its rotation.
and the (0) will not be stated.
d VHF aeronautical radios use
c All too often the receiver VOLUME amplitude modulation (AM), the same
and SQUELCH controls may be
system used by broadcast radio stations
incorrectly set. SQUELCH is an
in the long and medium wave bands.
electronic switch that mutes the
When two AM stations transmit
receiver audio output when no signal
simultaneously on the same frequency
is received. This facility is designed to
the signals can mix together and may
reduce operator fatigue which can
render one or both stations
result from continuous exposure to
white noise. When a continuous unreadable. If the two transmitters are
radio signal (carrier) is received, it not exactly on the same frequency, an
activates or ‘lifts’ the SQUELCH annoying whistle or ‘heterodyne’ equal
causing the speaker or headphones to the difference between the two
to be activated. Where a variable frequencies may be heard. It is
SQUELCH control is fitted, this allows therefore important not to transmit at
the operator to determine the the same time as another station or
strength of the received signal you may render both signals
required to lift the SQUELCH which unreadable. Always listen before
may also be activated by bursts of speaking and keep transmissions short.
noise. The correct setting procedure e If you experience difficulty
for the SQUELCH control is: contacting another station the
• set the volume control to following checks should be made:
approximately halfway; • The correct frequency is selected *
• turn the SQUELCH control up until
a hiss appears, this is background
noise; * Frequencies ending (.025 MHz) and
(.250 MHz ) are easily transposed.
• The correct radio has been h In recent years an Airborne
selected on the comms panel e.g. Collision Avoidance System (ACAS)
COMM 1, or COMM 2. (Transmit has been employed in airliners in
and receive switching are often order to provide automatic collision
independent) avoidance information. Mode C
information from the transponder is
• The ground station is open for essential for ACAS to be effective. It
watch is important that aircraft fitted with
Mode C always select ALT when the
• The station is within range (This transponder is used. One of the most
varies with altitude) commonly known ACAS systems is the
• Volume and Squelch are correctly Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance
System (TCAS) pronounced ‘TEEKAS’.
i To avoid radar clutter, aircraft
f The simplicity of an aircraft radio flying in a Control Zone (CTR) are
may be downgraded by the addition advised to select ‘Stand-By’ unless a
of separate intercom systems. Before SQUAWK is requested by ATC. In the
flight these should be checked and absence of a code from ATC aircraft
adjusted independently of the radio should set the conspicuity code 7000
equipment. It is important to obtain on the transponder.
a good balance between intercom
volume and radio volume to prevent
radio calls being swamped by the 4 RADIO PHRASEOLOGY
intercom. Always seek instruction if
you are unfamiliar with a particular a The correct radio phraseology is
radio installation. KNOW THE detailed in CAP413 Radiotelephony
EQUIPMENT. Manual. In some cases it may seem
very pedantic, however, it must be
g Most light aircraft are now remembered that it has evolved for a
equipped with a Transponder. This is purpose; primarily to avoid
an important aid to flight safety and ambiguity. Many incorrect phrases
permits an air traffic controller to are regularly heard.
positively identify an aircraft. The
transponder transmits a 4 digit code b FINAL is a position in the circuit
(SQUAWK) selected at ATC request, pattern between 4 nautical miles and
by the pilot, to the ground station the landing threshold, in circuit
where it is displayed on the radar parlance it is singular not plural! An
Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO)
screen. If Mode C (Charlie) is
hearing a call such as ‘ON FINALS’
incorporated in the transponder the
might easily believe the traffic to be
aircraft’s level (relative to 1013.2 Mb) ‘LONG FINAL’ (a position between 4
is also transmitted and displayed on and 8 miles from the landing
the ATC radar screen. The threshold); in poor visibility, such a
transponder mode switch must be mistake could result in the ATCO
selected to Altitude (ALT). giving another aircraft clearance to
Adjustment of the altimeter pressure Take-Off as he believes the landing
setting has no effect on the Mode C traffic to be in excess of 4 miles
altitude information. A switch away, when in reality, it may be as
marked ‘IDENT’ is provided on the little as only half a mile away! There
transponder, this enables the display is no official report ‘SHORT FINAL’
to be modified so that it is readily however, the distance from the
seen by the controller. The IDENT landing threshold may serve as a
switch should not be operated unless more accurate indication of position
requested by ATC. i.e. ‘Half Mile Final’.
c The phrase ‘at my discretion’ a The nature of the ground radio
should NOT be used by pilots. This is facilities at an aerodrome are usually
commonly heard at small aerodromes dependent upon the number of air
with either an Air/Ground (A/G) or a traffic movements. Some minor
Flight Information Service (FIS). aerodromes have no provision for
d ‘Land at your discretion, one on radio at all, whilst others may have
well up’ This is illegal at an an allocated frequency but no actual
aerodrome with only A/G or FIS. You ground station. The majority of
must not land on a runway whilst aerodromes have a ground radio
another aircraft is on that runway station and provide one of three
unless authorised by an ATCO. (Rules
of the Air Rule 17). types of air traffic service:

e Requests for landing instructions, • A/G Callsign ‘RADIO’

should not be made.
f Requests for ‘instructions’ should
not be made to stations providing a • Air Traffic Control (ATC) Callsigns:
A/G or FIS. A/G operators and Flight ‘GROUND; TOWER; APPROACH;
Information Officers (FISO) are not RADAR; DIRECTOR; DELIVERY’
permitted to give instructions.
Each service employs different
g Public correspondence messages procedures and it is important for
(including air to air conversations)
are not permitted on the VHF pilots to be familiar with the
aeronautical band. differences. Small aerodromes may
provide an A/G or Aerodrome FIS
(AFIS) utilising a single frequency,
5 MICROPHONE TECHNIQUE whereas a busy airport will have an
ATC service with separate frequencies
a Use a headset, it cuts out aircraft for Radar, Approach, Tower, Ground
noise and avoids the distraction of a and possibly an Automated Terminal
handheld microphone. Information Service (ATIS).
b Keep the microphone close to b In some countries a common
your mouth. frequency (UNICOM) is allocated for
c Speak directly into the use by aircraft visiting aerodromes
microphone, ensuring the transmit not equipped with a ground radio
button is held firmly pressed UNTIL station. In the UK the only
you have finished speaking. frequencies allocated for UNICOM
are: 130.425 MHz for use by aircraft
transiting in the vicinity of an
6 AERODROME RADIO STATIONS incident or emergency (see AIC Pink
29/1997); and 122.950 MHz allocated
as a landing site Departure
Communications (DEPCOM)
frequency for use by helicopters
departing from landing sites where
there is no radio communication. A
number of minor aerodromes have
an allocated A/G frequency but
provide no permanent ground
station. At these airfields aircraft
taxiing, taking-off, landing and
flying in the circuit pattern should
self announce their position and ‘At your discretion’.
intentions on the appropriate
frequency to alert other pilots of The A/G operator may pass
their presence. Initial calls should be information to a pilot such as the
addressed to: Airfield Name with runway, pressure settings, wind
the suffix ‘RADIO’. Calls should NOT velocity and details of any known
be addressed to ‘XXXX Traffic’. traffic. Pilots should not request
clearances or instructions as they
e.g. ‘WILTON RADIO G-ABCD cannot be given. Before entering the
transmitting blind, downwind 24 Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ) during
left to land’. the published hours of operation of
an aerodrome with a notified A/G
It is then obvious to a pilot taxiing or
service, a pilot must obtain
waiting to back-track the runway the
‘information’ from the A/G operator
intention of the airborne aircraft. He
to ensure that the flight can be
may reply:
conducted safely. The A/G operator
‘WILTON RADIO G-ZZXY holding may pass messages on behalf of the
point 06 awaiting landing traffic.’ aerodrome operator but, any such
message must be passed as
Avoid using the word ‘CLEAR’, it may information and must include details
be mistaken as a clearance! of the originator of the message. e.g.
Announce your intentions to assist ‘G-AYZZ Message from the airport
other traffic whilst making your manager. You are requested to
presence noticed. Altimeter settings report to the Tower after landing’
will need to be determined in
relation to the aerodrome elevation.
On arrival at an aerodrome with an
The QNH of a neighbouring
A/G service, taxying and parking are
aerodrome will be approximately
correct and invariably more accurate also the responsibility of the pilot.
than the regional pressure. The A/G operator may not give taxy
instructions but, may suggest a
c An Air/Ground (A/G) Station is the suitable parking location if requested
simplest form of aeronautical radio by the pilot.
communication. The callsign uses the
aerodrome name followed by the ‘ is there a convenient parking
suffix ‘RADIO’. The ground radio space? G-ZZ’
operator is not an air traffic
controller and must not give any air ‘G-ZZ there is parking space
traffic instructions or clearances. This available next to the blue Cessna’
service provides aerodrome and
traffic information only. In some
instances the A/G station may be
located in a flying club or building A/G STATION IS ADVISORY; THEY
that does not have an unrestricted CANNOT GIVE CLEARANCES OR
view of the aerodrome. In order to INSTRUCTIONS TO AN AIRCRAFT.
operate an A/G station the operator d A Flight Information Service
must be in possession of a Radio Officer is qualified to provide an
Operators Certificate of Competence Aerodrome Flight Information
(CAA Form CA1308) which must be Service (AFIS) in order to:
countersigned by the aeronautical
radio station licensee. A/G operators • pass ‘Instructions’ to Vehicles and
should NOT use the expression: persons on the aerodrome, to
aircraft on the ground but not 7 AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL
beyond the holding point and in the
case of aircraft landing, not until a Pilots familiar with small
the landing roll is completed; and aerodromes providing either an A/G
• to pass ‘Information’ for the safe or AFIS may find larger aerodromes
conduct of aerodrome traffic on somewhat daunting. Busy
the runway and within an ATZ. aerodromes will employ separate
controllers for Ground, Tower,
Practically, there is little difference Approach and possibly Radar. If the
from an A/G service, but the FISO is purpose of each is fully understood,
required to undergo training and is it will help to eliminate any
tested by the CAA. The FIS callsign uses confusion regarding who to talk to
the suffix ‘INFORMATION’ to identify and when.
the type of service. Air traffic
clearances must not be given. The
service must revert to A/G if a qualified
FISO is not available, in which case the
callsign suffix reverts to ‘RADIO’. The
phrase ‘At your discretion’ may be
used by a FISO and will follow any
advisory information. Pilots requesting
departure may be advised:
‘Take off at you discretion’ or
‘Depart at your discretion’
The pilot should not respond by
repeating the phrase: ‘at my
Photo: Flight Refuelling Ltd
discretion’ No clearance has been
given, there is no requirement to
b The GROUND controller is
read one back. The pilot should
responsible for all movements on the
simply respond:
manoeuvring area; this will include
‘G -XX Roger’ or ‘G-XX’ all taxiing aircraft and vehicular
traffic equipped with radio. Initial
e Examples of A/G and FISO RTF calls will be made to GROUND,
phraseology are contained in CAP413 including taxy clearance, (start
CAP452 Aeronautical Radio Station – clearance at some aerodromes),
Operators Guide and CAP410 Manual departure clearance * if applicable,
of Flight Information Services and all calls up to the holding point.
respectively. Landing traffic will change to
GROUND after vacating the runway.
An Aerodrome Flight Information
Service Officer (AFISO) may control *The departure clearance tells a pilot
aircraft on the ground up to the what he is required to do on
holding point and after the landing departure and will include any
roll is complete. An AFISO may NOT frequency changes required,
issue clearances to Aircraft in the Air together with routeing instructions
or on the Runway. Pilots are and altitude restrictions.
reminded that they are responsible Note: this is NOT a clearance to take-
at all times for the safety of their off or to enter an active runway.
aircraft and collision avoidance,
LOOKOUT is always paramount.
c The TOWER controller is f It is not uncommon for controllers
responsible for all traffic in close to conduct more than one function
proximity to the aerodrome when traffic is light, The RADAR and
including the circuit. Normally an APPROACH controllers work in close
aircraft will change to TOWER when proximity such that the jobs may be
at the holding point, with all checks combined. The GROUND and TOWER
complete and ready for departure. controllers are also ideally situated
The first call will usually be: to combine functions. At the very
small provincial airports TOWER and
‘WRAYTON TOWER G-ABCD APPROACH control may also be
holding point RW 30 Ready for conducted by one controller. If it is
departure’. apparent that one controller is doing
all of the work, do not expect to
Aircraft remaining in the circuit will obtain a radar service as the
remain with TOWER, whereas controller will not have the capacity.
departing aircraft will change to At smaller airports the service may
either APPROACH or RADAR. Pilots revert to a FIS outside the busy
arriving at an aerodrome will be period in which case, the service will
directed to contact TOWER for circuit be apparent from the Callsign Suffix
joining instructions when they are in ‘INFORMATION’ and no clearances or
visual contact with the aerodrome. instructions will be given.
After landing, aircraft should vacate
the runway and advise the controller: g ATIS uses a dedicated frequency
on which a recording of aerodrome
‘Runway Vacated G XX’ information is broadcast
continuously. This information is
updated at least hourly. Such a
and then advise changing to the
facility allows pilots to obtain
GROUND frequency. Do not use the
weather information without having
to establish radio contact with the
‘Clear the Active’ or ‘Clear of the aerodrome, thus considerably
Runway’ reducing the workload of the
controller. ATIS information is time
d GROUND and TOWER controllers coded using a letter of the alphabet
are located in the glass uppermost to signify the time of the
part of the ATC Tower, they are observation.
invariably located side by side and
should have an unrestricted view of e.g. ‘This is Langford information
the aerodrome and circuit. Delta time ten hundred hours’
e The APPROACH controller is
responsible for traffic arriving at and the message concludes:
departing from an aerodrome. They
are usually located in the lower part ‘on initial contact with Langford
of the ATC tower and have no visual advise information Delta received’.
contact with the aerodrome. Control
may be either radar or non-radar. At The pilot advises ATC on his initial
busy aerodromes a RADAR controller call that he has received ATIS Delta.
may be used in addition to the Pilots who call ATC without passing
APPROACH controller to provide the ATIS code may be asked if they
services for traffic transiting the have received the latest ‘ATIS
information’. To the unwary this may
cause confusion!
8 ATC SERVICES VHF always allow time for the
controller to reply as he may be in
Lower Airspace Radar Service (LARS) communication with a military
is available to pilots when flying aircraft on UHF. Occasionally you may
outside controlled airspace below hear only one side of the
FL95. The General Aviation Safety conversation when transmissions are
Sense Leaflet 8 provides details of Air made on both VHF and UHF
Traffic Services Outside Controlled simultaneously; you may hear the
Airspace. VHF transmission from ATC, but not
the reply from the aircraft on UHF.


a It is not intended to reproduce

CAP 413 the Radiotelephony Manual,
but rather to highlight certain
aspects of radio operation.
b Radio Check. Before embarking
upon a flight it is essential to know
Photo: Dave Alcock, Manchester ATC that the radio equipment is working.
The radio receiver may be checked by
listening to other stations but, in
9 MILITARY ATC order to check the transmitter it is
necessary to talk to another station
a When LARS is available it is more and let them confirm that they have
often than not provided by a military received your transmission in an
ATC unit. The terminology used by intelligible form. It is also important
military controllers differs from that to be sure that the equipment
used by civil controllers. Military switches channels and that the
controllers are not obliged to be channel indicated is the correct one.
aware of the civil Rules of the Air, Where two frequencies are in use at
and it is possible that you may be an airfield, equipment may be
asked to fly in a manner that might checked by selecting the frequencies
not conform with civil practices or alternately. The transmitter may be
law. It is the pilot’s responsibility to checked on the initial call for the
advise the controller if he/she is aerodrome information. When more
unable to comply with the than one radio is installed, the
instruction and why. e.g. being asked second radio should be checked on a
to overfly a built up area below 1500 subsequent call.
ft or at a height where it is not
c The golden rule of RTF operation
possible to glide clear, and when
is: know what you are going to say
altitude changes might place an
before you say it. Whilst this may
unqualified pilot in IMC.
seem obvious, once the transmit
b Military ATC predominantly use switch is pressed the human brain
frequencies in the UHF band (225-380 often forgets the obvious. Secondly,
MHz) whilst VHF frequencies are anticipate what the reply is likely to
secondary, and facilitate be. That way, it will not be a
communication with civil aircraft. surprise, for example when calling
When calling a military ATC unit on for aerodrome information, the reply
will include the QFE, QNH, surface When safely airborne and established
wind and runway (R/W) in use. The in the climb advise TOWER of the
pilot may obtain the pressures in change in frequency:
advance by the using the altimeter,
whilst a good indication of the R/W e.g. G-ABCD to APPROACH 126.1.
and wind direction can be obtained To omit this call could result in
by observing the windsock and any uncertainty over your whereabouts
other traffic. Always read-back the and may waste the TOWER
reply in the same order that it was controllers time having to confirm
given – avoid reversing the order. with the APPROACH controller that
d A Departure clearance can often you are safely airborne!
pose problems for the inexperienced, e En-Route calls usually take the
it may be a lengthy clearance which form of position reports. A useful
must be read back to the controller. mnemonic is:
Prior to departure it is normal to
‘Book-Out’ with ATC, specifying your T.R.P.A.C.E.R. The initial call to an
ATSU should begin:
departure details; flying instructors
should allow students to observe and • Station being called
practice this procedure as part of the
• Aircraft Callsign in full
learning process. The departure
clearance will normally be a • Request
confirmation of the routeing already
requested, although occasionally, it e.g. ‘WILTON RADAR G-AAXX
may involve changes. It should request Radar Information Service’
therefore be no surprise when the
controller passes a clearance that Do not say any more until the ATSU
closely resembles the information invites you to ‘pass your message’. If
passed by the pilot when ‘Booking you are advised to Wait or Stand-By,
Out’. If a frequency change is do so but do not acknowledge.
required on departure it will be to a When requested to pass you message
published frequency, know where to it will consist of:
look it up and whenever possible, • Full call-sign – so that the
select it on a second radio as a controller can write it down.
reminder. Invariably, when departing
VFR, the first two digits of the • Type – PA28, C172, Robin 400 etc
transponder code will remain the • Routeing – i.e. point of departure
same for a particular ATSU. and destination, do not include a
list of turning points – if there are
Remember: The departure clearance
any queries or you subsequently
is NOT a clearance to Enter a runway
fail to report the controller can
or to Take-off! contact your departure or
After take-off you are required to destination aerodrome!
follow the departure clearance, • Position – should be given relative
remember the basic rule: to a well known landmark, the
• Aviate controller will not be familiar with
small villages and disused
• Navigate and then airfields. If you are visible on
• Communicate radar, your Heading should
confirm the movement of the
radar response!
• Altitude/Level – together with the Requesting a clearance is
pressure setting this will enable straightforward, however, the ATCO
the controller to assess if there is will form a mental picture of a pilot
any confliction with other traffic from the radio calls made. The ATCO
in the vicinity at the same level! is unaware of a pilot’s qualifications,
private or professional, from the
• Conditions – Whilst inflight
aircraft callsign alone. A radio call
conditions are important the type
delivered in a professional manner
of service you receive is
will be treated accordingly, whereas,
dependent upon the flight rules
a poorly structured and hesitant call
being observed e.g. Are you IFR or
will probably lead the controller to
question the pilot’s ability to
• Estimate – pass the ETA for your understand and follow instructions.
next position (turning point). If there is any doubt, the ATCO will
Remember ETA is a clock time not issue a clearance to transit
expressed in Universal Time Co- controlled airspace without adequate
ordinated (UTC) formerly GMT. separation from other traffic. A call
such as:
• Request – What service or
information do you require? e.g.
Flight Information Service (FIS),
request zone transit’
regional pressure settings etc.
followed by:
Common mistakes are a failure to
make any request of the controller,
‘G-ABCD is a Cessna 172 from
and inadequate or misleading
Popham to Sandown, 10 miles
position reporting, leaving the
North of Winchester Heading One
controller unaware of your present
Eight Zero. Altitude Two Thousand
position and/or the next turning
Feet on One Zero Zero Six. VFR,
point. In order to provide you with a
Sierra Alpha Mike Two Five,
Service, the controller needs to know:
request zone transit’.
• Who you are!
will probably result in a reply:
• Where you are! and
• What do you want! ‘ G-CD is cleared to enter the
Southampton zone abeam
Then WAIT...
Winchester not below altitude two
If you cannot remember what to say, thousand feet Solent QNH One
Zero Zero Nine. Maintain VFR.
♦ Stop transmitting
Report overhead’
The controller will ask you for
anything you miss out! Whereas a call:
f Many pilots will avoid flight ‘SOUTHAMPTON this is G-ABCD
through a Control Zone (CTR) by Err! a 172 at two thousand feet
flying a longer route around it. The Err! Point of departure Popham. 4
majority of CTRs in the UK are Persons on board. Err! Can we
designated Class D airspace which transit over Southampton to the
permits VFR flight subject to an ATC Isle of Wight Sir? or if not we will
clearance. In the case of a CTR go round. Err! we are North of
designated Class A airspace, a Special Winchester. Over’
VFR (SVFR) clearance is required.
may result in the reply: permitted – see the UK AIP) as it
enables orientation with the
‘G-ABCD remain clear of controlled aerodrome and circuit traffic.
airspace. Route via Romsey, Totton Remember you must establish radio
and Calshot for the IOW. Maintain contact with the aerodrome BEFORE
VFR Solent QNH One Zero Zero you enter the ATZ. See General
Nine. Report Romsey’. Aviation Safety Sense Leaflet 6B,
Aerodrome Sense.
g Aerodrome Arrival. Unless you
h Any pilot arriving at an unfamiliar
have filed a Flight Plan (CA48) or
aerodrome will experience a high
have telephoned in advance,
workload and may not recognise
(essential at PPR aerodromes) VFR
geographical features. The aircraft
flights usually arrive at an aerodrome
has to descend, there are checks to be
unannounced. You may arrive at the
completed and frequencies to be
same time as other VFR or IFR traffic.
selected. It is essential to LOOKOUT,
If the aerodrome provides a RADAR
listen out and keep your wits about
service it is a good idea to talk to
them as soon as you are within you. Be prepared, have a plan and
range, they may look after you until select the required frequencies as far
you are in visual contact with the in advance as possible. Check the
aerodrome at which point you will Aeronautical Information Publications
be asked to contact TOWER. If there (AIPs) prior to departure and do not
is no radar service the initial call will use out of date documents.
be to APPROACH not greater than
25 nm from the aerodrome. Joining
procedure will depend upon the type 11 EMERGENCY PROCEDURES
of traffic when you arrive, if there is
IFR traffic arriving and departing it is a Fortunately such events are rare
unlikely that you will be able to join however, there have been a number
overhead. You may be asked to of occasions when a pilot has
report your position at, or relative to recognised the need to land as soon
one of the established Visual as possible, (e.g. No oil pressure but
Reference Points (VRPs). Occasionally, the engine is still running OK) but
you may be asked to route via a has not wanted to ‘make a fuss
position not obvious to you, if in about it.’ Clearly if a situation arises
doubt ASK. The change to TOWER where there is a possibility of danger
can occur quite late; on landing you or a worsening situation it is in your
may be asked to vacate the runway best interest to make an URGENCY
at a specific point and change to call, that way immediate help, or a
GROUND. Be prepared for references priority landing is available to
to published ground positions, stand prevent the situation getting out of
numbers and holding points. In other hand.
words, use a plan of the aerodrome! b The states of EMERGENCY are:
For arrival at a small aerodrome with
either Air/Ground radio stations • Distress. (MAYDAY) A condition of
(A/G) or an Aerodrome Flight being threatened by serious or
Information Service AFIS, initial imminent danger and of requiring
contact should be made within 10 immediate assistance.
miles of the aerodrome. If unfamiliar • Urgency. (PAN PAN) A condition
with the aerodrome an overhead join concerning the safety of an
is preferred (but not always aircraft or other vehicle, or some
person on board or within sight, 12 THE PRACTICAL COMMUNICATIONS
but does not require immediate TEST FOR THE FRTOL
a Candidates wishing to obtain a
FRTOL are required to sit a written
examination and a practical
• Who you are! communications test with an
authorised RTF examiner. The
• What the problem is,
practical test involves the use of an
• What you intend to do about it approved RTF simulator. The
and candidate is briefed to follow a
typical light aircraft route from one
• Where you are!
aerodrome to another passing
The format is as follows: through a Military Air Traffic Zone
(MATZ) and possibly at some stage
• MAYDAY (3 times) or PAN PAN
into or through a CTR. The candidate
(x 3)
is required to make all the
• STATION addressed when appropriate radio calls and frequency
appropriate selections as if he were actually
flying the route. The examiner
• CALLSIGN (once)
performs the function of an A/G
• TYPE of Aircraft radio operator, FISO or ATCO. Other
aircraft may be heard so the
• NATURE of emergency
candidate is required to listen out. At
• INTENTION of person in command some stage there will be an
emergency involving either the
candidate or another aircraft. At all
• Pilot qualification: e.g. Student stages of the test the candidate is
pilot, No Instrument qualification, required to make the appropriate
IMC rating or full Instrument radio calls. There are a number of
Rating (IR) (Not required by ICAO). options available to the candidate
and in most cases it is the candidates
• ANY other information – POB,
responsibility to select an
endurance etc
appropriate agency with whom to
It is probable that in a real communicate with. The candidate is
emergency you will not wish to be provided with a route map, a
bothered with talking further on the completed navigation flight plan and
radio. By ending the call: MAYDAY a list of all communications facilities
OUT you will convey the message available to him. The candidate must
that you do not expect a reply. be familiar with the procedure for
obtaining VHF Direction Finding
d Further attention can be attracted
(VDF) bearings from stations
in an emergency by selecting the
equipped with this facility.
appropriate code on the
transponder: b A typical examination route would
be for a C172 aircraft routeing from
Emergency 7700
Shipdham in East Anglia to East
Radio Failure 7600
Midlands Airport via Huntingdon and
Melton Mowbray. The aircraft is
equipped with a single channel radio
and a transponder with no mode C.
The pilot is a PPL holder. On this G-ON RW 20 Surface Wind 250/07
particular route a LARS service is QNH 1009. Taxi holding point
available for most of the route, it RW20
would be a shame not to use it. The
route passes South of RAF Marham
Taxi Holding Point R/W 20 QNH 1009
and then through the Combined MATZ
(CMATZ) at RAF Wittering and RAF G-ON
Cottesmore, finally arriving at East
G-ON Ready for departure.
Midlands which is in Class D airspace.
Special entry and exit lanes are
provided to assist VFR and SVFR traffic.

Map of Route (1:500,000 Topo) G-ON traffic is a Cessna 152 on a

half mile FINAL.
c A typical narrative for the flight
could be as follows:
Note: for the sake of clarity numerals are
used in this example in preference to G-ON depart at your discretion no
spelling out numbers. known traffic to affect surface
Shipdham Information G-ZAON wind 260/05.
request radio check 119.55
G-ZAON Shipdham Information G-ON climbing in the overhead.
Readability 5
G-ON report setting course
G-ZAON Roger, request airfield
information, Taxi, VFR to East WILCO G-ON
G-ON overhead altitude 2500 ft QNH
1009, setting course
G-ON ROGER report leaving the G-ZAON Cambridge Homer
frequency. transmit for bearing.
True Bearing/True Bearing
G-ON changing to Marham 124.15. G-ZAON request true bearing G-
G-ZAON Cambridge Homer
Marham Approach G-ZAON request true bearing 355 degrees class Bravo
LARS I say again 355 degrees class Bravo

G-ZAON Marham Approach pass True bearing 355 degrees class Bravo
your message G-ZAON changing to Marham 124.15


Cessna 172
From Shipdham to East Midlands Marham Approach G-ZAON back on
2 miles North of Watton Heading 260 frequency.
Altitude 2500 ft 1009
VFR G-ON ROGER report Huntingdon
Huntingdon 37
Request Radar Information Service WILCO G-ON
and Chatham Pressure
G-ON Huntingdon 37
altitude 2500ft 1005
G-ON Squawk 2632 with Charlie
Melton Mowbray 02
Squawk 2632; unable comply,
G-ON ROGER Free-call Cottesmore
negative Charlie, G-ON
on 130.2 Squawk 7000
G-ON you are radar identified 8
Free-call Cottesmore 130.2 squawk
miles SE of Marham Radar
7000 G-ON
Information Service, Chatham 1005
report Huntingdon Cottesmore Approach G-ZAON
request MATZ penetration
Radar information, Chatham 1005,
WILCO G-ON G-ZAON Cottesmore Approach
pass your message
Marham G-ON 15 miles East of
Huntingdon request change to
Cambridge 123.6 for VDF
Cessna 172
Shipdham to East Midlands
G-ON change to Cambridge 123.6
5 miles North of Huntingdon
report returning to this frequency
Hdg 300
Altitude 2500 ft Chatham 1005
Melton Mowbray 03
Cambridge Homer request cross Wittering MATZ, Radar
Information and Barnsley pressure
G-ZAON request true bearing G-
G-ON Squawk 6554
Squawk 6554 G-ON Route to Shepshed Lane RW 27 QFE
998 millibars, G-ON
G-ON identified Radar Information
Service, maintain 2500 ft G-ON Cleared to enter the zone
Cottesmore QFE 993 millibars, VFR report field in sight
Barnsley 1007
Clear to enter the Zone VFR, WILCO
Maintain height 2500 ft QFE 993 G-ON
millibars, Barnsley 1007 Radar
G-ON Field in Sight
Information, G-ON
G-ON contact East Midlands Tower
G-ON ROGER, report abeam Oundle
East Midlands Tower 124.0 G-ON
G-ON abeam Oundle
East Midlands Tower G-ZAON
G-ON is cleared to cross the CMATZ
G-ON join left base RW 27 QFE 998
not above 2500 ft QFE 993
millibars, No 2 to a Boeing 737 on
millibars, maintain VFR report
a 1 mile FINAL.
abeam Oakham
Join left base RW 27 QFE 998
Cleared to cross the CMATZ not
millibars No 2. G-ON
above height 2500ft 993 millibars
Wilco G-ON G-ON report FINAL caution vortex
G-ON abeam Oakham wake the recommended spacing is
6 miles.
G-ON Squawk 7362
Squawk 7362 G-ON
G-ON contact East Midlands Radar
G-ON continue approach surface
119.65 they have your details
wind 265/07
East Midlands Radar 119.65 G-ON
Continue approach G-ON
(If possible listen to East Midlands
ATIS 128.225 MHz to obtain airfield G-ON Cleared to land RW 27
information) surface wind 270/07
East Midlands Radar G-ZAON on
Cleared to land RW 27 G-ON
handover from Cottesmore with
Information ‘Golf’ (The ATIS code) G-ON landing time 1417 vacate
next left contact East Midlands
G-ON Stand-by
Ground 121.9
G-ON route direct to the Shepshed
Vacate next Left, Ground 121.9 G-ON
Lane Entry Point expect a VFR
arrival RW 27 surface wind 270/08 East Midlands Ground G-ZAON
QFE 998 millibars Runway vacated Holding point
G-ON turn right onto taxi-way Useful References:
Alpha turn left at Delta 2 for the CAP 413 Radiotelephony Manual
flying club
CAP 452 Aeronautical Radio Station –
Operators Guide.
Taxi-way Alpha via Delta 2 for the
Flying Club G-ON CAP 410 Manual of Flight
Information Services
G-ON report closing down
AIC 79/1998 Flight Radiotelephony
Operators Licence (VHF and HF)
G-ON Closing Down
(Replaced annually and includes
Note: At some stage in a practical test you listing of all authorised RTF
will also be required to make an Urgency Examiners)
and an Emergency call.
CAA Flight Safety Poster FSP 4 ‘Cut
the Chat’
13 ALTERNATIVE TO THE The Private Pilot’s Licence Course –
Jeremy M Pratt – AFE
The system known as ‘Continuous
Assessment’ whereby ab-initio The Air Pilots Manual – Volume 7 –
candidates for a PPL may use by Trevor Thom – Airlife Publishing
airborne training in lieu of having to Ltd
pass the RTF practical test, was
discontinued with effect from 31
December 1998. All applicants for a CAA publications are obtainable
FRTOL (except practising ATCOs) are from:
required to obtain a pass in both the
RTF written examination and the RTF
practical test conducted by an Westward documedia Ltd
authorised RTF examiner. In some 37 Windsor Street
circumstances, the RTF written Cheltenham
examination only, may also be Gloucestershire
administered by other examiners GL52 2DG
authorised by the Authority to Tel: (01242) 235151
conduct ground examinations for the Fax: (01242) 584139
PPL. It is however recommended, and
in the candidates interest, to sit both
RTF examinations with a specifically
authorised RTF examiner.

• It is illegal to use a radio without • Use a headset, speak directly into

a licence the microphone positioned close
to the mouth
• All aircraft radio equipment and
installations must be approved • Listen out before transmitting

• Know how to use the aircraft • Keep transmissions short

radio equipment • If uncertain of what to say, STOP
• Be familiar with CAP413, it is TRANSMITTING!
revised from time to time with • Know the types of Air Traffic
new phraseology Service provided and the
• Use correct phraseology, it is
designed to prevent ambiguity • Know the Emergency Procedures

Other leaflets in this series: There is no restriction on photo-copying and extracts can be
1C Good Airmanship Guide published provided the source is acknowledged.
2B Care of Passengers
3C Winter Flying This leaflet does not supersede or replace any formal
5D VFR Navigation documents.
6C Aerodrome Sense
If clubs, organisations or individuals wish to receive further
7B Aeroplane Performance
copies, p l e a s e w r i t e t o We s t w a r d d o c u m e d i a L i m i t e d ,
8D Air Traffic Services Outside
Controlled Airspace 37 Windsor Street, Cheltenham, Glos GL52 2DG. Fax. No.
9A Weight and Balance 01242 584139. Telephone 01242 235151.
10A Bird Avoidance Suggestions and technical queries to SRG Safety Promotion
11 Interception Procedures Section, Aviation House, Gatwick Airport, West Sussex
12C Strip Sense RH6 0YR. Telephone 01293 573225/7.
13A Collision Avoidance
14A Piston Engine Icing
15B Wake Vortex
16A Balloon Airmanship Guide
17B Helicopter Airmanship
18A Military Low Flying
19 Aerobatics ISSN 0266-1519
20A VFR Flight Plans
© Civil Aviation Authority 2000
21A Ditching
23 Pilots – it’s your Decision Prepared by the Safety Promotion Section and the
24 Pilot Health Corporate Communications Department of the Civil
New leaflets will appear from time Aviation Authority.
to time on a non-regular basis.