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Talking To Busy Controllers

Source:, Featuring John Krug

Subscriber Question:

"From time to time I log onto internet sites that broadcast ATC traffic. I am always a bit overwhelmed by the rapid fire delivery of instructions from some controllers. Clearly they are busy, and I realize that most of the internet sites broadcast traffic from Class B airports with more traffic than is reasonable. Should GA pilots do all we can to just go to the nearest, lesser volume airports. Also, can you give us some tips on communication, such as basic communication/phrases to use in class D, class C (for clearance, ground, take off, departure, approach, etc)." - Terry N.

John Krug:

"Don't be afraid to fly into a busier airport.

We are really funny sometimes as pilots the way we approach training and some aspects of flying. If you were having difficulty with crosswind landings, you would not hesitate to go out and get an instructor and get some dual. Communications and busy airports should be no different.

Get a good CFI and visit several busy airports as an instructional flight. Preplan the flight by writing out the frequencies, study the airport diagram, study the sectional for local landmarks - they're all marked with a flag and usually very predictable, i.e. Arriving from the south expect to report the bridge or the lake.

Prepare for the instructional flight by reviewing the Communication section of the AIM. It contains all the phraseology you need. Practice writing out what you will say and what the expected responses will be.

There are only certain set responses to each exchange with ATC. Examples: Initial call to a RADAR controller will respond with a Beacon Code, after RADAR contact expect instructions depending on situation. If your initial call is to a Tower controller, expect instructions to enter the pattern. It's a canned set of exchanges.

Listening to Internet sites is a good way to become familiar with ATC phraseology, especially if it is an airport that you plan to go to. You will hear the same pattern repeated; i.e. Instruction and Response. A good example is"

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