The exchange of clear and accurate information between a pilot and an air traffic controller plays an important role in ensuring everyone’s safety. In fact, one of the marks of an experienced pilot is the ability to converse clearly with ATCs. If you’re a complete newbie in the field of aviation and you’re planning to take on the role of a pilot in command (PIC) in the future, communicating with an ATC is a skill that you should try to build on, as it will be one of your responsibilities once you take command of an aircraft.
The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for you to hone your communication skills as you go through your pilot training in the Philippines. It’s one of the capabilities that aviation schools in the country impart to their students, and there are instances where you can practice your communication skills in the classroom and receive feedback from your instructor. Despite the practice, however, it can still be nerve-wracking to communicate with an ATC on your own.
Should the time come, remember these tips to help you convey and receive information as clearly and as smoothly as possible with ATCs.
Check for the Right Frequency
First and foremost, you want to be able to talk to the right person. Before thinking about the message and how to deliver it, you need to make sure that you’re on the right line. If there are certain frequencies that you usually use or need to take note of, write them down before the flight so you can access and check your notes whenever you need to. It’s helpful to keep a few pens and a notepad near your person or in your flight bag at all times so that you can jot down notes when making or receiving a transmission.
To avoid miscommunication, it’s a must to focus. In the cockpit, you can practice this by pausing conversations when you are about to receive a transmission from the ATC. This way, you can hear the message loud and clear, and you can take note of the important details that the ATC just relayed. Also, make sure that the message is intended for you and not someone else.
Plan What to Say
If it’s your turn to respond or send a message, what do you do? Don’t panic! Instead, plan what you want to say. There are a few details that you need to take into account when sending a transmission. These include whom you are talking to, who you are, where you are, and what you want. Using the said information, formulate the message that you want to convey in your head before sending the actual transmission.
Rehearse Your Words
It takes more than having a clear train of thought to convey a message. You also need to be able to enunciate words in a manner that is clearly intelligible to the person you are conversing with. Practicing what you need to say ahead of time will help you get rid of unnecessary pauses and help you express your words clearly and smoothly. This will help reduce instances of miscommunication or confusion.
Anticipate Possible Responses
Considering the message that you want to transmit to the ATC and what you want to get out of the conversation, how do you expect the person at the other end of the line to respond to you? Are you aiming for a yes or no answer? Perhaps you need detailed instructions on how to proceed with the next part of your journey? In the case of the latter, you might want to get your notepad ready. As you gain more experience in communicating, you’ll get better at anticipating what the ATC’s typical responses will be.
Listen Carefully to the ATC
Even if the responses of the ATC have gotten predictable, don’t make the mistake of tuning it out. Make it a point to listen every single time and follow instructions as closely as possible.
Write Down the Instructions
Take notes when receiving a transmission, and when in doubt, it’s always a good idea to double-check the details. If the ATC sends instructions or useful information your way, jot it down for reference. This is especially important when you’re in a large and busy airport and it’s fairly easy to get lost or confused by complicated directions.
Declare Emergency When Needed
It can be a challenge to determine an emergency when you’re used to dealing with stressful situations, but do not hesitate to ask for assistance if there’s a real reason for doing so. Remember, others can’t help you if they are not aware that you need help. Also, declaring an emergency when there really is one can help ensure your safety and that of everyone around you.
With enough experience, communicating clearly with the ATC should get easier and less stress-inducing over time. Just keep practicing, ask for feedback in a learning setting, and make an effort to improve yourself, and you’ll eventually get better at it.
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