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How to Talk to ATC: 6 Tips for Brand New Pilots





Learning how to talk to ATC can be intimidating…

Communicating effectively with Air Traffic Control (ATC) is a vital skill for all pilots. But mastering this aspect of aviation communication can seem daunting due to the precise nature of the language.

This article offers 6 practical tips to help pilots of all levels improve their interactions with ATC, aiming to build confidence, improve understanding, and create clearer communication.

After you read this guide, be sure to review these common ATC communication examples and phrases every pilot needs to know.

How To Talk to ATC

1. Make Sure You Are On The Correct Frequency

2. Plan Out What You Will Say When Transmitting to ATC

Be concise when talking, and think before you talk! Follow this formula when thinking out what you will say so that you’re always concise:

  • Who you are talking to
  • Who you are
  • Where you are
  • What you want

“Addison ground (who you are talking to), Thrust 980TF (who you are), holding short of Alpha over Romeo (Where you are), ready to taxi to active with information tango. (What you want)

Air traffic controller

3. Anticipate What ATC Will Say

After flying a few times, it becomes a little more predictable what ATC will say, so use that to your advantage!

Anticipate what your directives will be. This will help you listen and you will be more prepared with what you will respond with.

But don’t ever assume what ATC is going to say and start acting before they give you instructions. That’s how accidents happen.

4. Read Back All Pertinent Information When Communicating With ATC

Let ATC know that you understood what they told you and that you’re going to follow their directions. For example, your takeoff, landing, or taxi clearance.

As a brand new pilot this may feel a little funny but this is a fundamental park of effective ATC communication.

This is how ATC can confirm you heard them correctly and are going to comply with their exact instructions.

Remember, the controllers are monitoring and speaking to multiple aircraft so repeating their instructions is a fast and effective way to ensure you’re doing exactly what they want.

Air traffic controller

5. Write Down Any Instructions ATC Gives You

Especially at larger and busier airports, you’ll want to write down everything you’re told.

Directions can get long and complicated at times, so the fewer transmissions it takes to get instructions to you, the better for ATC and for you.

6. No Conversations In The Cockpit During Transmissions

There’s nothing worse than missing out on a transmission and not being sure if it was meant for you.

Pause all conversations in the cockpit when ATC is transmitting a message so that you are sure to not miss any transmissions intended for you.

For a more condensed version of this information, check out our youtube video below- 6 Tips for Communicating with ATC.

How to Practice Your ATC Communication

One of the best ways to become more confident in your ATC communication is to practice over and over again.

An easy option to get you started on learning how to talk to ATC is to listen in to LiveATC. If you’re training at a towered airport then listen to that airport.

While it may be interesting to listen to LAX tower, that’s not going to help you out much when you’re training at a much smaller, less busy airport. Listening to your home airport tower will help you get used to how they communicate.

Another great way to practice is with your instructor. They can take on the role of ATC and you can practice your various calls with them. It’s an effective method when you’re just starting out.

Are you a new pilot? Check out some of our other helpful articles covering everything from holding patterns and airline pilot schedules to how to choose a flight school and Envoy Airline Pilot Salaries.

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