For example: London Control says:

BAW211 contact London Approach 118.1, call sign only.

What will the pilot say to approach on 118.1?

London Approach, BAW211.

Or just:


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What info are they asking you to leave off? In my experience, the "full" call would've only been "London Approach, BAW211, 4500, descending". I cannot believe that adding altitude and v-speed contributes to "channel congestion". $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    May 11, 2022 at 14:53
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @abelenky According to the UK's Radiotelephony Manual, an example for an initial call would be "Westbury Departure, BIGJET 347, BIGRO 5D, Passing Altitude 2300 feet climbing FL80", so more than twice as long as callsign only. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    May 11, 2022 at 15:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ... And having experienced the LHR approach a number of times, it gets very busy there... $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    May 11, 2022 at 21:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's used outside of LHR, and it's not even when things are that busy. I get handed over to Southend Director with a 'callsign only' when it's dead. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    May 12, 2022 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD if they’ve got systems in place to handle it when it’s busy, there’s not much reason to turn those systems off. $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    May 12, 2022 at 20:21

3 Answers 3


You always start a communication with the intended receiver, so in this case it would be London Approach, BAW211. What the controller is telling BAW211 is that London Approach has the relevant details of the flight so BAW doesn't need to communicate anything further or make a request of london approach. This helps keep the frequency clear of redundant communications.

As for why you always lead with the recipient in the communication, not only is it in the regs it just makes sense. Think of it this way, if you get on the radio and say 'It's Frank.' nobody will know who you're taking to, if you say 'Mary, it's Frank.' then it's clear who you are speaking to.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ also if you open with BAW211 other listeners will think the message is for you, how will approach know it's addressed to them? $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    May 14, 2022 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ A very good point @Jasen. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    May 14, 2022 at 8:26

You always include the identifier of the addressee, so London Approach, Speedbird 211.

This triggers the air traffic control officer, who may be mentally busy with something else, to listen. If the London Approach bit is left out, there is an increased chance of the whole message being missed or misheard, leading to a need for additional communication which the call sign only method was designed to prevent.


According to the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations, it does cause some confusion:

[...] However, as there is no internationally recognised version of this procedure some confusion is known to exist in the pilot community [...] (ifatca.wiki)

Your safest bet is always to check the local AIP; as an example they quote Netherlands AIP, and I have confirmed it:

EHAM AD 2.22 [...] [...] While being transferred from Amsterdam Radar to Schiphol Approach, initial contact shall be restricted to SCHIPHOL APPROACH + CALL SIGN only in order to avoid channel congestion. In specific situations, Amsterdam Radar may request pilots to report additional information to Schiphol Approach in the initial contact. (lvnl.nl)


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