Talking on the radio improvements

Aceman

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Aceman
One of the most difficult things that I had to learn was talking on the radio to tower and traffic. I was so bad at it that I eventually stopped training and here I am now years later determined to get past it and master it.

My difficulty was in listening and repeating what I heard. I am literally not good at remembering that fast what someone wants me to do and being nervous compounds the problem. Several times I had to give the mic to my instructor to finish the conversation because I choked over the radio. I already have a speech/attention defecit and so I am at a huge disadvantage.

Does anyone have any ideas how I might fix this as I go back to training next month and won't return home until I either passed the checkride or decide to never pursue flying ever again.
 
Fly in Charlies/Deltas often and learn to say "Say again" until it clicks. I had the same problem with hearing 'as fast as they were talking'. You will eventually learn what to expect the controller to say and by anticipation you will 'hear' better.

A program called ARSim, which simulates pilot/ATC, communication/calls in realistic scenarios did greatly help me.
 
Are you writing on your knee board as you are listening?
 
Comms were the hardest part of learning to fly for me. Listening on frequency of busy airports that I'm familiar with helped me a lot to learn what to expect, which helps so much with remembering. When you already know what they're likely to say, it's much easier to remember, than going in with a blank mind and trying to remember it all. Also, listening to all the mistakes professional pilots make in comms made me more comfortable with doing my best and not getting upset when I screwed up.
 
You can learn a lot by listening to radio calls. Go to www.liveatc.net and select a location that is moderately busy. Avoid the big ones; they will just confuse you with rapid-fire calls. A Class C airport, maybe one not far from you, will be useful. Just enjoy a beverage and listen for an hour or two when you have time. It will do wonders.

And if you have questions, write them down to consult with your CFI later.
 
I bought say again, please by Bob Gardner a long time ago. Read it cover to cover a few times and it really helped me. I started in a class, so I was placed in the fire from the beginning. Great book though and I believe he used to be on this site too.
 
I found early-on that I was trying to talk fast - felt pressure to do so - but that in so doing, I was actually taking up more time rather than less, because "say again" was a frequent result.

Pause, say fewer words, speak slowly and clearly and think out scenarios in advance, how you might respond. Don't forget that, in many cases, you don't have to read the whole instruction back, but can simply acknowledge.
 
To original poster, man I could have written the exact same post a year ago. Talking on the radio is one of the scariest/most overwhelming parts of learning to fly. Not only do you have to listen carefully and craft an appropriate response/read back for ATC but you also are aware that you're broadcasting to a decent sized audience especially if you fly out of a busy airport as I do. As someone else mentioned, liveatc is a great resource. I used to listen to it at work for hours at a time. For me it was a somewhat slow process but each time or two I flew I tried to take on one more radio task. So early on I'd do taxi calls and takeoffs, which are pretty straightforward. Then I started doing calls in the practice area, then add on calls entering/leaving airspace, etc.....That way I'm adding to my "vocabulary" of calls I'm familiar with each time as I became more comfortable with the ones I'd already learned. At this point I do probably 95% of all radio calls and defer to my instructor when ATC gives us something I haven't heard before, and then file that new verbage/call in to my memory for next time I get that type of call. But it comes; just be patient.
 
As others have mentioned, with experience you learn to expect what is going to be said. The other advice I would offer is to learn to listen to the key words and tune out the rest. Your readback does not have to be word for word as long as you demonstrate you understand the key pieces.

For example, an IFR clearance might be said like this, "N12345, Cleared to the ABC airport via radar vectors, climb and maintain 4,000 expect 6,000 in 10 minutes, squawk 1234, contact Departure on 123.45."

In my mind, what I hear and repeat is "ABC via radar, 4,000/6,000 in 10, 1234, 123.45".

Or a landing clearance may go, "N12345 Winds are 270 at 15, Cleared to Land Runway 34L, number 2 behind the Cessna". All I hear and repeat is "Cleared 34L, Number 2"
 
"Who you are, where you are, and what you want to do". You can rehearse that as you're driving alone in your car as the sequence usually begins the conversation with ATC. Once you tell them that, you can pretty well anticipate what they'll say next, which makes it much easier to process and remember.
 
definitely have liveatc going as often as you can and if you know an experienced pilot (or CFI but you know how the want money and whatnot...) who'd be willing to play atc with you and go over some realworld scenarios, that'd be very helpful.
 
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Good tips here...liveatc, or get a handheld and go listen as you watch the planes fly the pattern (this is what I did before liveatc). That Bob Gardner book is helpful too. Practice saying what you would actually say...you will look/sound like a dork (do it alone), but that works too. Everyone, I think, has this problem at first. My adult son was particularly bad at first when he started taking flying lessons, so every time he and I would fly together (I'm not a CFI, btw), I'd make him do the talking on the radio for me, and only the talking. It was a complete debacle at first, but he got progressively better over time.
Tell the controllers to slow down...some will get ****y...so what? Let them.
 
Tell the controllers to slow down...some will get ****y...so what? Let them.
Heard on ATC on an exchange between ATC and a pilot with a southern drawl who was having trouble understanding the instruction.

Pilot: "Do y'alll hear how I'm taaahhllking?"

ATC: "Affirmative"

Pilot: "Well that's how I LISTEN, too. Can you try that again?"
 
The Say Again, Please book and the Sporty's VFR Communications course (I think I got it on DVD but it looks like it's an online course now) both helped me out. I trained at a nontowered airport and barely visited the minimum of towered airports during my primary training, which also let me build confidence on the radio at a more relaxed pace than would be necessary if you did your first solo at a busy Class C airport.
 
Lots of good suggestions so far. I've found this book (availabe as .pdf download as well) by Pilot Workshops to the excellent. It has a sample dialog for almost every conceivable situation plus lots of other tips.

Pilot Workshops VFR Communications
 
I am literally not good at remembering that fast what someone wants me to do and being nervous compounds the problem
Hey! I see this all the time. What trick worked with me, and my students, is don't think of this as memorizing what they said and reading it back, but rather, understanding what they're asking and then telling them what you think they'd like you to do..

For instance, I assume you have the taxi diagram up when you receive taxi instructions. Visually draw the route out they give you and then when you read it back trace that route back

Remember you don't have to read back exactly what you heard.

You can also learn to get used to this kind of lingo by just listening to live ATC and picking a busy GA airport.. I vote Lanta Florida or CRQ, MYF, or SEE.. if you're out jogging this is a great way to tune in while you're tuning out. It will sound less foreign next time you hear it in person

For the nerves, ask your school or CFI if you can go up and meet the controllers. Putting a human face and name with the voice demystifies it. "That's just John in the tower telling me how to get to the runway" vs "big scary FAA wants one zero right southwest runup via Juliet, Hotel, cross 23 at Hotel, then call when runup complete" yikes!

..also don't try to scribble it all down while they're saying it. You will be too focused on writing, won't keep up, and then totally miss it.
 
Don’t worry about perfect phraseology from the get go. When in doubt, just say it in plain English. Practice makes perfect and you’ll get it in time.
 
I find new pilots wanna sound all professional and use words they aren’t familiar with. I tell the just talk like they would be talking to a bartender. Don’t over think it. Just have a conversation.
 
For the nerves, ask your school or CFI if you can go up and meet the controllers. Putting a human face and name with the voice demystifies it.
This ^^^

Once you see that they are humans that are there to help you the picture becomes clearer ...
 
Fly in Charlies/Deltas often and learn to say "Say again" until it clicks. I had the same problem with hearing 'as fast as they were talking'. You will eventually learn what to expect the controller to say and by anticipation you will 'hear' better.

A program called ARSim, which simulates pilot/ATC, communication/calls in realistic scenarios did greatly help me.
I will check that out! Thanks!
 
One of the most difficult things that I had to learn was talking on the radio to tower and traffic. I was so bad at it that I eventually stopped training and here I am now years later determined to get past it and master it.

My difficulty was in listening and repeating what I heard. I am literally not good at remembering that fast what someone wants me to do and being nervous compounds the problem. Several times I had to give the mic to my instructor to finish the conversation because I choked over the radio. I already have a speech/attention defecit and so I am at a huge disadvantage.

Does anyone have any ideas how I might fix this as I go back to training next month and won't return home until I either passed the checkride or decide to never pursue flying ever again.
Hi - ASA makes a book I recommend to the people I teach/help that struggle with the radio.
You will get it - just takes time.
 
I started my training at an uncontrolled, sleepy little airport in Texas. Speaking on the radio wasn't part of the training there. I was usually the only person in the pattern and certainly no tower there haha. So what I did is, I put X-Plane on my computer and subscribed to PilotEdge, flying around in busy California airspaces. I did all the PilotEdge challenges to kind of structure my "education". It doesn't help you much with "flying" but it certainly improved my ATC comms a lot. I finished my license at the same time I finished the PilotEdge ratings and moved cities at that time, flying out of a busy class B - I had no issues talking on the radio.
 
I listen to liveatc or sometimes sit in my car at my home airport and listen to frequencies using my handheld. It has helped me a lot and for sure I have found some local terminology the controllers use.
 
English being my 3rd language I was also very scared of comms. This is how I did it. Got myself a handheld and on my drives to and from work would listen to local airports/approach frequencies and repeat aloud everything I heard (pilots and controllers). Now this might not work if your area is not traffic heavy. In that case just go to liveATC and tune to the busiest GA airport in the world (KVNY) and follow as above.
 
Write it down and don't be afraid to politely ask ATC to slow down. PIC right and obligation to ensure they can understand and relay the instructions before proceeding. Also. PC simulator games like Microsoft Glight Simulator and X-Plane 12 have live manned ATC that you can practice with safely from you're living room. I bought the gaming PC, yoke, and rudder pedals for about $800 and xplane was around $100. So the price of a few flight lessons for me. And you can practice your checklists,, emergency procedures, and cross country planning for free at home after you're set up. You can even set your tablet or phone with your favorite moving map/flight bag app like FF or Garmin Pilot, or if you're broke like me, the free but impressive Avare to sing with the planes simulated GPS. Time and practice is all anything takes. My Achilles Heel for like 6 frustrating flight hours was steep turns. Lol. But same as you, I was working in other skills during those lesson so the actual long term impact to my training was negligible. Im pretty close to soloing at this point. Just a little more repetition in my landings. But there every def a few moments flying around in wonky circles that I thought for a moment it might not be for me. And I still pass radios on to my instructor mid pattern if I'm struggling hitting my numbers. Safety is our first priority and pride our last! I'm suture someone has said that before me. But I just made it up. So feel free to steal that line.. lol.. Deep breaths! You got this!
 
Write it down and don't be afraid to politely ask ATC to slow down.
I look at "writing it down" as a distraction that should be avoided in flight and generally be limited to copying clearance instructions while on the ground. Typically, if ATC issues a complex amendment in flight they will alert you to that fact and request that you advise them when ready to copy. For the more typical in-flight exchange it's best to listen carefully, repeat the instruction and if you need to, write it down later.

The recommendations to simply practice on your own are a better way to get the "rhythm" of communications. You can do that alone in your car, your living room, or anywhere else without concern for fumbling with it as you learn.
 
As others have stated, listen to ATC Live, repeat back the instructions you hear outloud.

Limit the number of things you're trying to remember, get ahead of them. If you're talking to approach, the next frequency will be the tower. Have that already written down or in your radio and you don't have to remember it when you're repeating it back, you can read it.

When you're going on a cross-country flight and use flight following. Map it out on Foreflight, or SkyVector which is free, then look at small airports along the way. Click on the airport info and see what is listed as the Approach frequency. That will be the next frequency they'll send you to. Write it down and be ready.
 
Something else that I know has helped others, is to get your Tech license as a ham operator and spend some time on the various local repeaters and simply rag chew a bit. Kills off the nervousness and as a little time goes by, it all becomes much more natural, like face to face conversations.
 
As others have stated, listen to ATC Live, repeat back the instructions you hear outloud.

Limit the number of things you're trying to remember, get ahead of them. If you're talking to approach, the next frequency will be the tower. Have that already written down or in your radio and you don't have to remember it when you're repeating it back, you can read it.

When you're going on a cross-country flight and use flight following. Map it out on Foreflight, or SkyVector which is free, then look at small airports along the way. Click on the airport info and see what is listed as the Approach frequency. That will be the next frequency they'll send you to. Write it down and be ready.
Yea that's a lot to digest. It's definitely what got me hung up before when I was training with the powered airplane. I simply must get over this hump.

Thanks for your advice!
 
One of the most difficult things that I had to learn was talking on the radio to tower and traffic. I was so bad at it that I eventually stopped training and here I am now years later determined to get past it and master it.

My difficulty was in listening and repeating what I heard. I am literally not good at remembering that fast what someone wants me to do and being nervous compounds the problem. Several times I had to give the mic to my instructor to finish the conversation because I choked over the radio. I already have a speech/attention defecit and so I am at a huge disadvantage.

Does anyone have any ideas how I might fix this as I go back to training next month and won't return home until I either passed the checkride or decide to never pursue flying ever again.
Is English a second language for you? That would explain a few things.

You mention a speech / attention deficit. That may cause more serious issues farther along, especially if your goal is commercial operations. I of know someone who was eventually grounded because of an attention deficit issue.
 
As others have stated, listen to ATC Live, repeat back the instructions you hear outloud.

Limit the number of things you're trying to remember, get ahead of them. If you're talking to approach, the next frequency will be the tower. Have that already written down or in your radio and you don't have to remember it when you're repeating it back, you can read it.

When you're going on a cross-country flight and use flight following. Map it out on Foreflight, or SkyVector which is free, then look at small airports along the way. Click on the airport info and see what is listed as the Approach frequency. That will be the next frequency they'll send you to. Write it down and be ready.
This is good advice. Also, learn to discern what it is that you need to write down.

If I am picking up flight following at my airport it might go like this:

Exec. Tower this is Skyhawk N25XXX at Ambassador with Kilo, requesting Flight Following to KSAT at 4500, ready to taxi...

They might come back with:

Skyhawk N25XXX on departure fly runway heading, maintain 2000, squawk 5250, departure frequency 125.2.
If you practice enough, you can develop a "shorthand" of sorts - and not need to write down as much information.

RH would be Runway Heading, 2000 with a line above it as well is my altitude, 5250 being the code is obviously not an altitude, and 125.2 is obviously a frequency.

So the scribble looks like:

RH 2000 5250 125.2
 
Is English a second language for you? That would explain a few things.
English is my first language.

You mention a speech / attention deficit. That may cause more serious issues farther along, especially if your goal is commercial operations. I of know someone who was eventually grounded because of an attention deficit issue.
It's not the attention deficit in the sense that my mind is distracted by other things. It's that I'm so nervous that I don't actually focus on what was said so I can't repeat it.

Many people in this thread admitted that they go through or went through that process. Why would you think what I am doing is abnormal to the point that I shouldn't be flying?
 
Lotta good suggestions here. One that helped me during the (relatively short) time that I was memorizing the international alphabet, knowing that I'd need to recall it quickly while flying, was to call out the license plates of cars I'd pass or that passed me while driving.
 
I agree with listening to the radio. You don't need an aircraft hand held, a cheap scanner would work. But if you think you will keep flying, a hand held it nice to have as a back up.

But don't just have it in the background. LISTEN. Have paper and pencil and copy clearances to planes.

Also, the clearances will come in the order of CRAFT.

Cleared to
Route
Altitude
Frequency
Transponder Code

Listen to tower/pattern radio calls. Have something like Flight Aware or Plane Finder running so you can see where the planes are to hear what they are saying and being told and how that relates to the airport.
 
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