Questions tagged [radio-communications]

Radio is the primary way that pilots communicate with air traffic control and with other aircraft.

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97
votes
5answers
21k views

Why is “Affirm / Negative” used instead of “Yes / No”?

Does anyone know why we use Affirm and Negative in RT, rather than Yes and No? I assume it's to prevent confusion with accents and other languages - but Yes and No sound very different to me!
76
votes
4answers
13k views

How do civilian pilots and ATC verify that other people on the radio are who they claim to be?

I am interested in authentication - how identity is verified - in civilian aviation radio transmissions. I know that when someone is speaking on the radio he tells his call sign. But is there any ...
72
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6answers
14k views

What happens if a language other than English is used over the radio?

In many non-English speaking countries, communication with ATC may be conducted either in English or the native language. Famous examples are China, Russia, France and possibly Germany. When a pilot ...
67
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3answers
75k views

Why do English-speaking pilots and ATC say “Niner” instead of “Nine”?

Besides the fact that it's now a standard, why do American-English-speaking pilots and ATC say "Niner" instead of "Nine"? None of the other numerals are pronounced in an atypical fashion. For what ...
63
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2answers
16k views

How was I able to just plug in my headphones and listen to ATC and pilot chatter?

I was travelling from Mumbai to Newark Liberty Intl on United Airlines 49, a Boeing 777-200. I was sitting in the economy section, last row, last seat to the plane's left, basically, I was literally ...
60
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4answers
26k views

Why do airplanes use MAYDAY when in danger but ships send SOS?

I thought SOS means "save our souls", but apparently it doesn't. But ships send SOS when in danger and they used Morse code. Why do airplanes use MAYDAY?
48
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3answers
13k views

How can I politely remind ATC that I'm waiting for instructions or clearance?

(background: low-hour, low-experience, private pilot.) I've got an issue regarding talking to air traffic controllers, especially when I think they may have messed up, yet still giving them the ...
46
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3answers
14k views

Is it OK to greet ATC?

My instructor told me that courtesies are forbidden in radio communication, however, we usually start conversation as "Turany Ground, OK-ABC, good morning, (... request)". I find it natural. Is that ...
45
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9answers
171k views

What are the advantages of squawking 7700?

I was reading this question about how do pilots send distress signals in emergency scenarios, and that got me thinking... In voretaq7's answer, he states that there are three ways to send distress ...
44
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4answers
20k views

Who has the higher authority, the pilot in command or ATC?

I'm sure many people have heard about the communication between a Delta flight 2244 and Atlanta tower being on news today. When the Controller informs the Pilot he is on a wrong taxi-way, things get ...
43
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6answers
12k views

Why do military pilots report “gear down” during their traffic calls?

I've noticed that military pilots will often say something along the lines of: <airport> traffic, Basher 5-2 left base, full stop, gear down. Why the additional "gear down" call? Shouldn't it ...
43
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3answers
35k views

Why do pilots have the ability to turn off the transponder in-flight?

These days, when reading news about missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200, I keep coming across a scenario where pilot might have deliberately turned off the transponder which is used for the ...
43
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2answers
4k views

What does it mean when the controller uses the word “request”?

I recently had the opportunity to fly a PAR approach into Büchel Airbase in Germany. It was a ton of fun and I'll definitely try it again when I get the chance. However, as we were getting set up for ...
42
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1answer
9k views

How does an Airbus aircraft connect to the Internet? [duplicate]

I would like to understand better where (physically in the aircraft) and how the Internet connection is received on an Airbus aircraft, in particular in an Airbus A380, and then how this system is ...
37
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5answers
9k views

What prevents someone from hijacking a radio frequency mid-air?

For someone who wants to stay anonymous and probably terrorize the skies, what protective measures do we have? Without even thinking too deep, I can imaging the following scenarios for someone who's ...
36
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6answers
17k views

Why do we say certain things three times (e.g., “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday”), rather than two or four?

Repetition is a key characteristic of communication in the control tower, cockpit, and control room. Some phrases, like "Mayday" get repeated. The speaker says the same thing three times. We know ...
36
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1answer
4k views

How are duplicate call signs dealt with?

Many airlines (at least here in the U.S.) have flight numbers that use different aircraft for different legs of the flight. For example, Delta 158 uses a 747-400 from Incheon International in Seoul to ...
36
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4answers
77k views

When are winds given with respect to true vs. magnetic north?

Wind information can be reported by various sources (ATIS, METAR, TAF, spoken on the radio, etc). I was taught that officially some of these sources are relative to magnetic north and others to true ...
33
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6answers
23k views

How would an airplane land if the on-board radio breaks down?

Is there a special protocol for a situation where the on-board radio communication equipment suddenly breaks down? Would the pilot be able to land on a busy towered airfield or would they be forced to ...
33
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1answer
4k views

Is the “Red two standing by” dialog in Star Wars: A New Hope sensible for real fighter pilots?

This SFF.SE question: " Why did Red Squadron give their call signs in random order? " raises a good point: for some reason, the "Standing by" responses Red Squadron pilots give before attacking the ...
32
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4answers
5k views

What kind of assistance can another aircraft provide to an incapacitated pilot?

A recent incident unfolded as follows: An aircraft overflew the planned destination and did not respond to radio calls on any frequency. ATC decided the pilot might be incapacitated and asked another ...
32
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2answers
5k views

Should I contact ATC if I don't have a transponder?

The flight school I usually rent from is under the shelf of class C airspace. If you're going out to a practice area, the standard procedure is to contact approach control and get a squawk code, so ...
31
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3answers
5k views

What does ATC do during “slow” times?

I know at larger airports, it's NEVER a slow time. But what about at smaller airports that are large enough to rate manned ATC, but things aren't always fast-paced, high-traffic like at JFK or DFW, ...
31
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5answers
5k views

How do commercial pilots keep situational awareness of their current call sign?

Air transport pilots operate flights with a variety of flight numbers, often with multiple flights in the same day. This means, as a result, the callsign that they are using changes as well. Also, ...
31
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3answers
66k views

“What's our vector, Victor?”: What does this mean?

In Airplane there is a famous sequence: ...
29
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5answers
18k views

Why is the quality of radio communication bad?

Why don't modern planes and ATC centers have good-quality audio for communication? For example in this video: Or basically any other example of pilot communication(...
28
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2answers
19k views

What does ATC mean when they refer to “company”?

Listening to LiveATC there are references by various ATC entities (towers, approach, etc) to "company". To what does this refer?
27
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5answers
18k views

Which ATC instructions should be repeated back by the pilot?

AIM 4-4-7 (b) says: Pilots of airborne aircraft should read back those parts of ATC clearances and instructions containing altitude assignments, vectors, or runway assignments as a means of ...
27
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2answers
7k views

Does air traffic control identify a distress situation when an aircraft flies triangles in the sky?

There is an account in a TSB Canada investigation report after a loss of radio and transponder: The emergency procedure to be followed by a pilot to alert radar stations when in distress and unable ...
27
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3answers
4k views

What could cause an inadvertent squawking of 7700?

I get alerts whenever a plane squawks 7700, using a popular flight tracker application. It happens quite frequently that the aircraft, reported to squawk ...
26
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5answers
11k views

When should a pilot use the word “takeoff?”

I've been taught before that the word "takeoff" should only be used when reading back a clearance, and that when requesting a clearance pilots should advise "ready" or "ready for departure." Here's ...
26
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4answers
7k views

Is there any specific reason why Delta Air Lines doesn't have its own callsign?

Many airlines have their own callsigns for use over the radio. A British Airways plane is called "Speedbird", US Airways was "Cactus", etc. So why doesn't Delta Air Lines do the same? It would seem to ...
26
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3answers
4k views

How do I get attention on a busy radio channel?

As I understand it (I'm not a pilot), radio communications are a more-or-less first come first served proposition. If I'm in busy airspace with near constant communication between ATC & aircraft, ...
26
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2answers
38k views

Are “Kennedy Steve’s” various jokes allowed in ATC communications?

Forgive me if there is an obvious answer to this, but I was just listening to this “Kennedy Steve” playlist, and he seems to joke a lot more than most ground controllers I’ve listened to. I have ...
25
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4answers
6k views

Where do extra planes come from?

Last night, I had to change planes at LAX because the United Airlines B737 that I was flying on had radio problems and thus could not fly over the ocean. One of the hi-frequency radios had problems, ...
25
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3answers
7k views

Why are the call signs of some airlines completely different than their name?

The call sign of U.S. Airways is "Cactus", and that of British Airways is "Speedbird"; while for Malaysia Airlines is "Malaysia", Qantas is just simple "Qantas". Why is it that the call signs of some ...
25
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1answer
9k views

Callsign includes the term 'with Kilo' ; What does that signify?

In FS-X I sometimes see with Kilo at the end of a Call-sign. For example the one from last night had Mike Sierra Alpha Bravo with Kilo What does With Kilo mean?
24
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4answers
9k views

Is it legal to use handheld radios to listen to aviation frequencies in the USA?

Is it legal to use handheld radios to listen to (general aviation) airport frequencies in the USA? Can I go to an airport with a handheld radio and listen to their frequencies?
23
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3answers
8k views

Why does the ICAO alphabet use “Charlie” for C?

Why does the ICAO alphabet use "Charlie" for C? Specifically, why choose "Charlie", which has a "Ch" sound, rather than a word with the hard "C" such as "Carl"? A cursory Googling turns up nothing.
23
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3answers
7k views

What is your responsibility when a distraught pilot is on frequency?

I found the recent SeaTac incident with a suicidal pilot frightening. I myself remember being in very bad places mentally, and it got me to wonder what I should do if someone is on frequency, making ...
22
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6answers
19k views

Is there a dedicated emergency frequency?

Coast patrol has a dedicated frequency for emergency that must be watched at almost all hours, and even if I recall, it had a "dead silent period" to prioritise whatever emergency might be reported. ...
22
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4answers
27k views

Why is 121.5 called “guard”?

What is a "guarded" frequency and how does it differ from a frequency that's unguarded?
22
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1answer
63k views

How do I contact Flight Service while in flight?

How do I contact a Flight Service Station (FSS) in the United States in order to receive weather information or open a flight plan after I've already departed.
21
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2answers
9k views

How do fighter jets communicate with an intercepted plane that's lost comms?

RAF Typhoons were scrambled today to intercept an Antonov 26 that lost comms, triggering a sonic boom over London. The flight was escorted to Stansted airport, and the answer at What's the point ...
21
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1answer
3k views

How do airline pilots contact their company while in the air?

Sometimes airline pilots need to get in touch with their company while in the air, for example diagnosing cautionary messages or reporting a diversion. By what means is the communication channel ...
20
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3answers
8k views

How should I establish initial contact with ATC after being handed off by another controller?

What is the proper way to contact a new air traffic control facility after you have be instructed to do so by the controller you are currently interacting with? As a practical example: Here in ...
20
votes
1answer
927 views

Practice Pans - are there any genuine reasons not to use them?

I'm a low time PPL. In my personal opinion, practice pans, perhaps one or two a year, are a good thing. Practice in a procedure that builds confidence removes one more item from the pucker factor ...
19
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5answers
7k views

How did aircraft communicate during early air travel?

During the initial era of air travel how do the pilots/Navigation officers would communicate with ground stations? Do they use radio communication? Or Telegraph was used?
19
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2answers
4k views

When replying to ATC, callsign first or last? [duplicate]

When I was in flight school, some instructor told me that it is the unknown ICAO standard that you should reply to an ATC call with your callsign first, like this: ...
19
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2answers
7k views

When do pilots actually use ‘wilco’?

I know it means “I have understood the instruction and will comply.” However, any instruction that is a clearance, concerns runway use or contains altitude/level, heading, speed or squawk code ...

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