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Non-Towered Airport Communications

Featuring Bob Martens

A word here on communication. We recommend effective communication in the non-towered environment, what's too little and what's too much? We have standard calls that we ask people to make. We're all aware though that on any given Saturday or Sunday, you can't get a word in edgewise on the CTAF or the UNICOM frequency.

I know that at one airport down in Connecticut several years ago, congestion on the radio got so intense that all the locals had their own discreet frequency that they used when they were in the pattern. Of course, that helped nobody.

We need to look at each situation as unique. But there are times when making a call will only make the situation worse, so you need to use good discretion when in the traffic pattern, knowing when to talk and when not to talk.

Let's also remember that information we receive on UNICOM is advisory only. When we're in the towered airport environment, ATC communication, instructions to us, must be complied with. On a UNICOM, they are advisory only. We as the pilot in command, must determine what we are being told to do or asked to do by someone on UNICOM is the most safe and efficient way for us to conduct our flight operation.

Two-way radio communication on UNICOM or CTAF is not a regulatory requirement. It's certainly good operating procedure, but there are still a goodly number of pilots that enjoy flying without their radios, and they're certainly entitled to do so. Non-radio aircraft, NORDO aircraft, utilize non-towered airports all the time, and have the same right to be there as we do, so we must be cautious.

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