In the description to this video, Captain Joe says that it took this inexperienced person 20 minutes to establish radio contact with ATC (in an A320 simulator).

This seems like an awful lot of time just to find and push the "push-to-talk" button. So, is there something more to it, like having to enter the right frequencies or something?

In the hypothetical case described in the video (passenger having to fly the plane), would it be enough to push the PTT button to establish contact with ATC, or are there other steps that need to be taken?


1 Answer 1

  1. You need to even realize that you have to push a button to talk. Not everyone grew up with ham radio, CB radio, or walkie-talkies, especially nowadays where everybody has a mobile phone.
  2. You need to find the PTT button.
  3. You need to select where you want your headset to be routed: you can talk to your co-pilot, you can talk to ground crew, you can talk to the cabin crew, or you can talk to you radios.
  4. Note the plural above: the plane has multiple radios. You need to select the right one.
  5. You need to know the frequency of the ATC entity you want to talk to.
  6. You need to tune the radio (the right radio) to that frequency.
  7. Every radio has an active frequency and a standby frequency. You need to make sure that you change the right one. (Either change the active one, or if you change the standby one, you need to make that one active.)
  8. You need to realize that radio is a shared medium, and that only one person can talk at any one time, and that you need to wait for a break.
  9. Depending on how busy the frequency is, you might not even recognize where the pauses are, or you might not be able to squeeze yourself in because you are not used to talking that fast and efficient.

I consider myself technically adept, and I used to do a little bit of CB radioing in my youth, but I'm not sure if I could figure all that out in 20 minutes.

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    $\begingroup$ And that's just one of the reasons why a pilot has to be certified for a specific airplane to be able to fly it effectively. They're all just a bit different and once you're on your way you don't necessarily have the time to figure out what buttons you need. $\endgroup$
    – Mast
    Jan 13, 2019 at 11:48
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    $\begingroup$ Surely any radio frequency would do as long as you say "Mayday Mayday Mayday"? Anyone hearing you would respond on the same frequency right? And then guide you what to do next? $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2019 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidPostill: If no one is listening at all (for example because you've fumbled the radio channel to some unused frequency), then no one will respond. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Jan 13, 2019 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Kevin That's why I said "anyone hearing you". The point being that the channel doesn't matter for Mayday as long as someone can hear you. There is no wrong channel for Mayday, right? $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2019 at 22:18
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidPostill A channel no one's on is definitely the wrong channel for a Mayday. $\endgroup$
    – ceejayoz
    Jan 14, 2019 at 0:20

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