Is there any button which needs to be pressed when the pilot or co-pilot wishes to talk to ATC?

Normally in videos on YouTube they don't seem to be doing anything special other than speaking, but I believe that there's more to it. Probably the push buttons (like on a walkie-talkie) are located very close to their hands?

I'm generally asking about all aircraft that communicate with ATC, not any specific airliner.

Please note that I know the handshake stuff and the frequencies and the radio part of it. My question is only about whether they do or they don't have a push button when they have to send a message. It doesn't seem to be an always on thing because obviously that would clutter up the channel and ATC guys don't need to listen to what the pilots are talking in the cockpit routinely.

  • $\begingroup$ There is usually a PTT (push to transmit) switch on the yoke or column, right under the pilots thumb. Press and talk, release to listen. You won't see it on a video. Imagine pressing a button on the steering wheel of your car right under your thumb. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Simon, that makes sense. When the aircraft is flying on auto pilot and hands aren't necessarily on the Yoke do they still need to hold the yoke fist and press the button or there are alternate buttons too? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ There is usually also a button on the control unit which does all of the audio switching and volume, often on the pedestal or console. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 11:13

1 Answer 1


There is a push to talk (PTT) button located at the yoke or sidestick, in small and large aircraft likewise. When the PTT button is not triggered, all communication is routed through the intercom and not broadcasted on the frequency. Once the button is triggered, communication is broadcasted on the active frequency.

In the below picture of a glider, it is located on top of the middle stick. On the second picture is it behind the yoke, to be used with the index finger. Glider Cockpit
(Image Source: WikiPedia)

B738 Yoke
(Image Source: Private Blog)

  • $\begingroup$ Really? I thought VOX will be used. $\endgroup$
    – Narayanan
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 11:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Narayanan So far, I am not aware of any aircraft using this. I also doubt that in environments with high ambient noise this would be effective. It also would trigger when pilots talks to their copilots etc... so how to determine when it will be broadcasted on the frequency? PTT is still the technology of choice here. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 11:45
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Narayanan: Pilots say a lot of things that are not intended for broadcast. So they must indicate that they want to say something that is. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ Why is there a PDA mounted to the instrument panel? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 15:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Someone Some pilots rather use a personal device for flightplanning or flightracking. Glider Pilots use handheld devices often. I personally use SkyDemon on an iPhone for Navigation in tight cockpits where I cannot mount my iPad directly anywhere. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 19:54

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