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PPL student here. I recently had someone ask over the radio if there was any traffic in the pattern (uncontrolled class G airport). I could make out everything that pilot said except for his radio call sign. (I'm still struggling a bit with understanding certain transmissions due to the "radio effect" and other interferences).

What is the appropriate thing to do when you want to respond to a transmission but couldn't make out the sender's radio call sign?

In this particular case I responded anyway, without addressing them explicitly, which didn't feel 100% "by the book". I later thought leading my response with "Calling aircraft..." might have been appropriate, but I'm not sure.

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Non-towered airports are a bit less "by the book" than towered airports in general. More important than strict protocol and the stress that can bring upon new pilots, the most important thing to remember about communications is that the purpose is to...

...communicate.

Didn't catch his side number? He/she doesn't care, they just want to know where you are in the pattern. Simply key the mic and say something like "aircraft calling Binford traffic, N1234, it's just me in the pattern, red and white Cessna 152, midfield, left downwind runway 36."

Disclaimer: Italicized text in my example above is non-standard and some won't like it, but it's folksy and real, and not a big deal between two people at a small country airport enjoying the freedom of the skies on a sunny day...

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    $\begingroup$ Agree that exact phraseology is far less important in this sort of situation than communicating. If the "aircraft calling" gets what he needs from your one transmission then that's a success. Might add an abbreviated callsign at the end, just so the next time you call turning base (or whatever call you make next), there's no question if that is the same aircraft that answered as "just me" earlier. But that's a nitpick. When plain English best conveys the necessary information, that's what's worth using! $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    May 26 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ In fact since common practice is to simply make position callouts addressed to “<airport> traffic” anyway. I’d probably just take that as an opportunity to make a normal position callout. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    May 26 at 6:53
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    $\begingroup$ Good answer. Small improvement is to not say "its just me in the pattern" as you cannot be sure. Say something like "not aware of any other trafiic", or "believe I am only one i pattern". $\endgroup$
    – ghellquist
    May 26 at 14:07
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    $\begingroup$ "Station calling" is standard in both amateur radio and, I believe, Marine VHF, so it's not at all surprising that "aircraft calling" is the aviation equivalent... $\endgroup$
    – Muzer
    May 26 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ @ghellquist, I get your point and agree to an extent, but if you are doing touch and goes and don't know whether or not there are any other planes in the pattern with you, there are bigger problems to deal with than how to respond to inbound traffic on the radio. Situational awareness... it isn't optional!!! Again, my point was to intentionally included a snippet of real world non-standard phraseology to break through the rigid mindset that can lock up new pilots and lead to stilted, robotic transmissions in an attempt to be professional and 100% "correct", not to provide a perfect example. $\endgroup$ May 27 at 16:26

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