Talkin' to the Tower

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Keith Ward, Feb 2, 2019.

  1. Keith Ward

    Keith Ward Pre-Flight

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    (From my website. The full article is here.)

    As you can read about here and here, I'm going back to flight school as I re-transition back into the cockpit. My session yesterday in my Sportys ground school course was how to talk to the control tower.

    Control towers aren't found at every airport; in fact, they're not found at the majority of airports. My local airport, KDMW, doesn't have one, for example. But pretty much every airport that handles a lot of traffic has one. All the big airports you know about -- Chicago's O'Hare, Dulles in Washington D.C., Atlanta's Hartsfield and so on -- all have control towers.

    The purpose of control towers, and the air traffic controllers (known as ATC) who work there, is to separate traffic so planes don't crash into each other. A worthy goal, and one they achieve with amazing effectiveness. There are very, very few crashes of planes into other planes, especially in the U.S.

    Every private pilot in the U.S. has to learn how to talk to ATC. For pilots like me, who don't use towered airports for regular flying, it can be intimidating to talk to ATC. They talk so fast, is the first complaint one usually hears. And until one gets used to the particular shorthand and lingo, it's hard to keep up.

    One of my early flights back when I was first flying, I flew with a buddy who's an ex-military pilot and now a Southwest captain. We were talking to ATC for something or other (I don't even remember where we were flying), but I was lost almost immediately, and didn't even realize ATC was talking to me! I was focused on minor details like, you know, where I was going, looking for other planes in the sky, holding altitude and the like.

    At that point, I asked my friend Garrett to handle all the ATC calls for me, because I just couldn't handle that additional workload. He talked so smooth; I was impressed.

    I never got good at talking to ATC; this time around I will. Being afraid of something isn't a reason to avoid it; it's a reason to attack it, until you're no longer afraid.

    As for the Sportys course on ATC, it was outstanding. One of the best parts was the way it showed some controllers using their screens as they communicated with pilots. It was extremely useful and interesting to see what actually goes on in the tower.

    I also note that these controllers worked for about a month recently with no paychecks, and still did their jobs, and did them beautifully. I salute each and every one of you for keeping us all safe in the skies. You're a credit to your profession.
     
  2. EppyGA

    EppyGA Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Listen to liveatc.net
     
  3. Keith Ward

    Keith Ward Pre-Flight

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    I have it, and do listen. Thanks for the reminder, too. I actually meant to include it in the original post.
     
  4. Cici

    Cici Pre-Flight

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    The trick for me is two things. 1) to expect certain information in a certain order. If im requesting taxi for departure, i know they'll assign a runway, which i know from atis, and if i look at the taxi diagram I'll know approx taxi instructions.

    2) if i don't catch everything, just to relax and ask again. "Say again pattern entry instructions on runway 13 for n123ab." Controllers make mistakes, pilots make mistakes, but the unacceptable mistake is to assume you heard something or to hope it all works out if you missed something and you aren't communicating with atc. Jmo.
     
  5. bobmrg

    bobmrg En-Route

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    It is important to realize that controllers, unlike pilots, must use specific phraseology taken from the ATC handbook. Go to www.faa.gov and put FAA Order 7110.65V in the search box. This will return the Air Traffic Control Handbook. Read those sections that apply to your kind of flying to see what controllers are required to say.

    Bob
     
  6. Challenged

    Challenged Pattern Altitude

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    I heard this exchange recently from a pilot while I was listening to LiveATC: "Yeah, uh, <callsign>, taxi via echo, and ugh... ermm... I'm sorry, but I'm just going to go ahead and admit that I wasn't listening to you."
     
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  7. Keith Ward

    Keith Ward Pre-Flight

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    #TruthWinsOut
     
  8. Keith Ward

    Keith Ward Pre-Flight

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    I wish more pilots would do that. I hope *I'm* humble and honest enough to do that when the time comes.
     
  9. LoneAspen

    LoneAspen Line Up and Wait

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    As I get closer to solo and checkride, I'm starting to listen to Live ATC more for my home field (KAPA - Centennial) and trying to spot things that I don't know what they mean so I can ask my instructor.

    Does anybody here use the Live ATC app on their smartphone and find it to be of benefit also?

    I didn't realize Sporty's has an ATC course. I'll have to check that out, too.
     
  10. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Fear is the poison of our lives.
    Who you are, where you are, what you want. That pretty much covers the essence. Good lunch spot up at Lancaster, 20 min hop. They have a tower.
    I'm based Carroll County too.
     
  11. ejensen

    ejensen Pattern Altitude

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    Make sure you know where the movement and non-movement areas are
     
  12. kayoh190

    kayoh190 En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I'll say what I always say about new pilots listening to Live ATC - resist the urge to dial in some huge ass Class B airport, thinking the best thing to do is dive into the deep end. The pros are notorious for using non-standard phraseology. Learn to do it correctly first, and *then* you can decide to make a mockery of the AIM like the rest of us. ;)

    I like the idea of listening to a place like APA, or some other busy Class D or C with a healthy amount of GA traffic.
     
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  13. AggieMike88

    AggieMike88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The original "I don't know it all" of aviation.
    If you are going to listen to KDTO, be sure to bone up on your Anglo-Mandarin dialect.
     
  14. arkvet

    arkvet Line Up and Wait

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    All that study stuff is fine and dandy but to learn to talk to ATC you really just need to talk to ATC. The only tower near my home drone is water tower and it stays silent.

    As a newly minted ppl a few years back I got flight following for pretty much every flight I could. I was semi terrified at first. Every contact seemed like a “cold call” where I had no idea what they were going to say and would quickly forget the details of their request... and just how the heck should I reply???

    It started to click. Now I have my IFR and a little over 300 hours. ATC communication stresses me none. I listen and speak back. I process requests and give answers with ease. I’ve learned to keep my requests brief but also to speak plain English when needed. Once you learn what to anticipate it gets much easier!
     
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  15. eman1200

    eman1200 Ejection Handle Pulled PoA Supporter

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    this.
     
  16. -KLB-

    -KLB- Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Doesn't that start with who you are talking to? :D
     
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  17. LoneAspen

    LoneAspen Line Up and Wait

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    My home field! I'm glad I decided to train at a busy GA airport, but it's like drinking from a fire hose sometimes. I'm starting to pick up on things, but there are still many times the controllers will say something different, or throw like three or four things at me at once, I have to get Mr Instructor to tell me what to say.

    At least it's starting to make sense, and I can predict some things they're going to tell me. Slow but steady wins the race, right?
     
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  18. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    I flew out of APA for 20 and taught out of there for about a bakers dozen. If you can communicate adequately there, you can communicate everywhere.

    You'll get it and 98% will make sense. It becomes more and more important to recognize when you are unclear and speak up. Who are you training with?

    Funny? story. I was visiting Atlanta on business. Got in for the weekend to tour a bit and decided to go up with a CFI out of PDK. As we returned, the instructor warned me it was a very busy airport, so we needed to pay attention on the comms. After we landed, I (innocently) remarked, "Must be a quiet day today." He looked at me like I had three eyes.
     
  19. LoneAspen

    LoneAspen Line Up and Wait

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    I'm with Independence Aviation, learning in an SR20. Wonderful instructor (Brendon), and I'm so glad I picked them. As soon as I've wrapped up my private, I plan on starting instrument rating. I'd like to have enough training under me (instrument, mountain flying course, etc) to maybe take a solo trip to Yellowstone (KWYS) later this summer. That would be a huge undertaking for me (safety wise), so everything would have to really line up with my training and comfort level before I'd make that trip, but it sure would be fun.

    LOL - That's what I'm hoping, that if I can learn to talk at APA, I can talk anywhere.
     
  20. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    You've got some good people over there at Independence. I'm still on the mailing list and follow the Facebook page. If you run into Steadman,or Gensler happens to come by, say hello for me. Doubt anyone else would remember me anymore.
     
  21. kayoh190

    kayoh190 En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Absolutely! Just keep at it, and eventually it'll be second nature. You won't even need to think about it anymore.
     
  22. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    :yeahthat:
     
  23. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Fear is the poison of our lives.
    :cool:
    Nope. It starts with keying the mic...:cool:
     
  24. sarangan

    sarangan Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The first thing is to realize that sounding cool on the radio means absolutely nothing. This is not the American Idol show. Cool-talking may impress your girl friend, but it can also become sloppy and hazardous. The best style of ATC communication is monotonic and boring, but is concise and adheres to standard phraseology. The second thing is, it is not a big deal if you miss a call, or don't know the exact phrase. Use plain language in that case.

    ATC communications is one of those things you can't effectively practice on a sim, yet. You just have to do it to learn it. It is like learning a new language. You can't learn conversational language from a book, or by listening to a recording. Everyone has different tone, accent, pronunciation, and there is a lot of give a take during a conversation.
     
  25. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    It doesn't start with thinking about what you're going to say?
     
  26. ejensen

    ejensen Pattern Altitude

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    I'm sure they'd remember you Mark. Good pilot, good person.
     
  27. Kenny Phillips

    Kenny Phillips Pattern Altitude

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    Nah. You start with "Uh ..." and then ad lib. I've keyed the mic and forgotten what I wanted/needed to say a time or two.
     
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  28. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    I always start with "Breaker, breaker", let's ATC know I want to talk.
     
  29. Hank S

    Hank S En-Route

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    . . . . . C'mon back!
     
  30. Rgbeard

    Rgbeard Pre-takeoff checklist

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  31. DoubleD

    DoubleD Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Remember the magic words, "Say again".
     
  32. Half Fast

    Half Fast En-Route

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    I'm a ham, and I might have ended a transmission with "73" a time or two....