# What are the proper radio call-outs on uncontrolled airfields?

I know that there are many non-commercial runways that do not have an active Air Traffic Controller on-duty, and that many small aircraft use these runways for takeoff and landing, but I never actually learned what the proper communications were for this. I also do not know the terminology for it either (what it is called flying without an ATC in local airspace).

Generally, private-owned or community-owned airstrips are typically only large enough to support small aircraft and do not have an ATC. I know that pilots usually communicate with the local airspace to signal what they are doing, etc. But, again, I have no clue what the official terminology is, nor do I know the proper call-outs regarding actions, inquiries, information, etc. Does anyone mind informing me on the subject? It's better to learn something from someone rather than searching up the answer.

• This seems to be a dupe of this question although it has no answers right now. You might also want to mention if you're interested in a specific country: US practices in particular are often slightly different from the rest of the world. – Pondlife Apr 12 at 17:16
• I believe the term you're looking for is "untowered airport", and there are quite a number of questions here about that. – FreeMan Apr 12 at 17:16
• Uncontrolled airfield, would be the non-USA term. – expeditedescent Apr 13 at 6:45

I can only speak as to the situation in the US, I don't know what the rules are elsewhere.

When operating at an untowered airfield in the US you're not actually required to have a radio at all. Thus all those restored vintage biplanes and other radioless aircraft can operate perfectly legally from an untowered field without having to get any kind of special permission.

If you do have a radio, you're strongly encouraged to monitor and periodically report on the CTAF (Common Traffic Advisory Frequency) assigned to that airport when you're within 10 miles of it. Such communications are detailed in AIM 4-1-9, but the standard format is basically "<airport name>*, <your id>** <your position>, <your intentions>, <airport name>*". For instance, "City airport, Skyhawk 1234A (or 'white and blue Skyhawk') is 5 miles to the North, going to overfly the airport at 2,000 feet and enter the left downwind for runway 27, City airport."

* Since the range of VHF communications varies, it's entirely possible that two airports with the same CTAF might be in range of each other, so saying the airport name twice, once at the beginning and once at the end, helps reduce confusion between nearby airports.

** There's an ongoing debate in the aviation community about whether to use your tail number to identify yourself, since that's guaranteed unique, or a description of your plane, since that's easier to tell from a distance.

• I would definitely use description of plane, since it is far more useful information to the receiver of the broadcast than tail number. So make-model-colour would be my choice. – Jpe61 Apr 15 at 6:39
• It's true that some pilots like to debate using the tail number or not, however you might like to mention that the FAA's position is that you must use it in calls. They're fine with pilots adding color to that, but the tail number is always required. The details are in AC 90-66. – Pondlife Apr 16 at 16:11

The specifics vary a bit around the world, but the basic call anywhere is a position call; this is a radio call on a common frequency or "in the blind" to alert listening aircraft to one's position. It will include the party addressed, identification, location, generally from a known reference point, one's altitude, and direction of flight or intentions. If approaching a uncontrolled field to land, for example, one might say "Coolaroy traffic (party addressed), Cessna 12345 (identification) is ten miles south (location) at five thousand feet (altitude), northbound (direction), landing Boogan (intentions)."

Operations to and from runways will use standard terminology about movement on the surface or in the air, using the same basic format as a position report. This may include position in the traffic pattern (downwind, base leg, final approach, etc, or taxiing or taking off.

Calls may include calls to other traffic to to coordinate. Traffic may announce a longer downwind leg to accommodate another airplane, or coordinate the entry into a traffic pattern. Aircraft may also call out identificatin of another aircraft, to put everyone on the "same page," or in other words, to enhance understanding and clarity.

When in doubt, it's best to be as clear as possible. I can't tell what the registration number is on another aircraft at any distance I'm likely to see in flight, but I may be able to tell the color. If the other airplane says "Bisquick Traffic, red Cessna 469Z is left downwind for runway 18, it helps me identify which aircraft on the downwind is talking; there may be several. If see the red one, I have a better idea. Conversely, I might ask, "are you the red one?" A little plain communication goes a long way. The general rule is to minimize conversation and excess language: don't use any more radio time than necessary, because it may be the words you miss that are the most important ones spoken. Someone might have called a position or intention or even an emergency during the time someone was talking too much. The general conventions and concise use of the radio are fairly universal.