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From the AIM 4-2-3:

The terms initial contact or initial callup means the first radio call you make to a given facility or the first call to a different controller or FSS specialist within a facility. Use the following format:

[...]

(e) The word “Over” if required.

It is mentioned later than "Over" can be omitted in subsequent contacts if the transmission requires an obvious reply and there is no possibility of misunderstandings, but no other guidance is given for initial contact.

How do I determine if the word "Over" is required on initial contact?

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  • $\begingroup$ If "over" is generally required, but there is an exception for certain subsequent contacts, wouldn't that imply that it is required in any initial contact? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Someone On initial contact it already says "if required," it just doesn't clarify when it is required, so it's not clear to me. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 17:38

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In my experience, the word "over" is rarely used. Almost all ATC/Pilot transmissions imply "over" at the end of the transmission (meaning the person you are transmitting to recognizes that a reply [e.g. "over to you"] is being requested). Of course, if the pilot or controller is responding to a transmission and does not expect a response back, the word "over" would not be used.

If, as a pilot or controller, you make a transmission that implies that a response should be made, but a response is not made, the word "over" can be used in a subsequent/repeat transmission to emphasize you are awaiting a response.

As an example, in my opinion, if the pilot says "Bay approach, this is November 12345" and nothing else, the word "over" might be used at the end (e.g., "Bay approach November 12345, over") signifying that the transmission is over and a reply is expected. However, even without the word "over" being used it is likely that the pilot would receive a response from Bay Approach.

But, if the pilot says "Bay approach, November 12345, 15 miles south of Oakland inbound for landing with information Charlie," this makes it fairly clear that the transmission has ended and what type of response is expected from Bay approach control. In this case, adding the word "over" should not be necessary.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't think I've ever heard anybody say over, except when talking on HF. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnK As a controller, I've heard what I believe were new or student pilots use the word "over." Or, if a transmission is not responded to, on occasion I have heard the word "over" used on a repeat transmission. As a pilot I cannot remember using it, although I may have (I'm old). But I agree it's rarely used. $\endgroup$
    – user22445
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ I used to hear it all the time when pilots would call FSS over a VOR (both from the pilot and the FSS operator). I suspect this is because such transmissions, often a weather brief or filing a flight plan, can be quite lengthy, and "over" is a useful cue that a long transmission is finally... over. $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Someone Indeed it does. Many VORs have two-way voice capability and are tied to an FSS. The pilot transmits on a frequency depicted on the chart above the VOR info box and indicates which VOR they're listening to, then FSS responds directly on the VOR frequency. $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ @757toga In NA the audio has become so good it's like chatting on a duplex FM channel. I once did a ferry trip from S America, 10+ yrs ago. and it was a trip into the past that I wasn't really ready for. ATC audio was not much better than HF, Spanish accents (we avoided Brazil), odd turns of phrase, no surveillance radar beyond large cities, requiring pos reports. The comms workload was the biggest headache. We were regularly looking at each other, saying "Did you understand what he said?" And when you made a boo boo, the controllers would scold you. Otherwise, great fun. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 21:59
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It is neither required, nor necessary for brief, clear, and concise ATC to pilot communications on VHF and UHF when standard phraseology is used and the essential elements of a typical transmission are all present.

For example, "N123SM taxi Runway 16 via Alpha" is complete. There's nothing else to say, nothing more expected. As soon as the controller unkeys their mic it is obvious that the pilot should now respond. The word "over" is simply unnecessary.

Where it becomes necessary, (and is expected) is when communication becomes lengthy, non-standard, or transmission quality is low. A perfect example is a long range mid ocean phone patch via HF radio. Reception may be weak and fuzzy, and you may have a lot more to say. You may even unkey the mic momentarily to take a quick breath before continuing on. It is important that the receiver understand when you have finished so as to not step on you with a response before you have passed all the information along. This is when the term becomes useful.

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  • $\begingroup$ "For example, "N123SM taxi Runway 16 via Alpha" is complete." How do we know that? What if it was intended to be "N123SM runway 16 taxi via Alpha, hold short of Charlie"? $\endgroup$
    – user71659
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ @user71659, because if the controller stopped talking and you read it back without including the hold short instruction, they would repeat it and expect you to acknowledge. Alternately you could remain silent, and when they ask you can reply "but you didn't say 'over'". Let us know how that goes... $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 14:45
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AIM aside, and relying on decades of flight experience, I only use "over" to clearly signify the end of a long-winded transmission. Usually those don't occur on ATC frequencies, but do occur on company and other frequencies. For some, a common occurrence is when providing a detailed, therefore longer, PIREP.

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