Reliable Aviation Radio Communication is a Must For Pilots. Here's Why.
The playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." On the ground, such a failure in communication is usually amusing or annoying at worst. However, in the air communication is vital. Let AVI Helicopter Helmets guide you in illustrating why reliable aviation radio communication is one of the most important things a pilot can have. It can easily mean the difference between mission success and mission failure.
Aviation Communications and Safety
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires all aircraft operating in high-traffic areas to be equipped with a two-way radio for communication with Air Traffic Control (ATC). In the early decades of aviation, rigorous communication wasn't seen as necessary by many pilots since the sky was so large and open that a collision between aircraft seemed improbable at worst. However, the 1956 Grand Canyon mid-air collision served as a wake-up call to how important aviation communications are to safety. This event was the catalyst for improving American ATC and investing in civilian radar stations. Aviation radio communications have come a long way since then, but they are still essential to flying.
There are three main types of aviation radio communication: Air Traffic Control (ATC), pilot-to-pilot, and emergency locator transmitters (ELTs). Let's take a closer look at each one.
- Air Traffic Control. Also called ATC, air traffic control is the service provided by ground-based controllers who direct aircraft on behalf of air traffic management (ATM) organizations. They provide clearance for takeoffs and landings and information about weather, airspace, and navigational aids.
- Pilot-to-pilot. Aviation radio communication between pilots is just as important as talking to ATC. It's often the only way to communicate when flying in remote areas. That's why having a reliable pilot-to-pilot radio is essential.
- Emergency locator transmitters. Also known as ELTs, these devices emit a distress signal if an aircraft crashes. They help search and rescue teams locate the plane and any survivors.
Aviation radio communication is essential for pilots. It's the only way to talk to air traffic control and other pilots. It can also help locate a plane in an emergency. That's why having a reliable aviation radio is so important.
Common Aviation Communications Problems
Communication issues can occur between pilots and air crews, air traffic control, and the ground crew. These include:
- Information overload. The more information being transmitted at one time, the greater the chances that it will be misunderstood or lost.
- Pronunciation issues. For English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers, misunderstandings due to pronunciation issues are always possible.
- Misunderstandings. Most errors in aviation happen due to misunderstandings. Changes in the rate of speech, tone, stress, sentence structure, and pauses can all contribute to misunderstandings in the air.
To ensure safe and efficient operations, pilots must communicate clearly with air traffic control. Aviation radio communication is a vital part of this process, and there are specific procedures that pilots must follow to ensure that the message is received and understood correctly. Transmitting too much information, transmitting unclear information, or transmitting information without clarification impede proper communication.
What To Do
To avoid these potential problems, it is essential to use aviation radio communication that is clear and concise. This precision means using proper pronunciation, speaking at a slow and steady pace, and enunciating words. Aviation radio communications should also be kept as brief as possible to reduce the chances of information overload or misunderstanding. The most important things to remember are always to use proper call signs and avoid using slang or jargon. It is also essential to listen carefully to the instructions that you are given.
When in doubt, always ask for clarification. Pretending to understand a transmission might be tempting to avoid looking foolish, but the safer option is always to request clarification.
The Four Ws
A common mnemonic among pilots is the "four Ws." These are guidelines that pilots use when communicating information to ATC. The pilot should give ATC four basic but vital pieces of information on initial radio contact. As follows:
- Who you are calling. Clearly state the name of the facility you call, e.g., NY APPROACH CONTROL.
- Who you are. State your complete aircraft identification as logged in your flight plan, e.g., M458ZW.
- Where you are. State your position, e.g., 12,000 feet heading 180.
- What you want. State your request, e.g., requesting landing clearance.
ATC may ask for additional information, but these four items should be given on initial contact. This information helps the controller determine what services he can provide to you and how best to vector your aircraft. Now that we've gone over some of the basics of aviation radio communications, let's move on to more specific topics.