Clarity and Brevity

The single, most important aspect of radio communications is clarity. Brevity is also important, and contacts should be kept as brief as possible. All frequencies are shared with others.

Procedural Words and Phrases

The Pilot/Controller Glossary found in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), published periodically by the FAA, contains correct language for communication between a pilot and Air Traffic Control (ATC). Good phraseology enhances safety and is the mark of a professional pilot. Following are some common words and phrases from the AIM.

• “ABEAM—An aircraft is abeam a fix, point, or object when that fix, point, or object is approximately 90 degrees to the right or left of the aircraft track. Abeam indicates a general position rather than a precise point.”

• “ACKNOWLEDGE—Let me know that you have received my message.”


• “CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF—ATC authorization for an aircraft to depart. It is predicted on known traffic and known physical airport conditions.”

• “CLEARED TO LAND—ATC authorization for an aircraft to land. It is predicted on known traffic and known physical airport conditions.”

• “EXPEDITE—Used by ATC when prompt compliance is required to avoid the development of an imminent situation.”

• “FIX—A geographical position determined by visual reference to the surface, by reference to one or more radio NAVAIDs, by celestial plotting, or by another navigational device” (such as GPS).

• “GO AHEAD—Proceed with your message. Not to be used for any other purpose.”

• “HAVE NUMBERS—Used by pilots to inform ATC that they have received runway, wind, and altimeter information only.”

• “HOW DO YOU HEAR ME?—A question relating to the quality of the transmission or to determine how well the transmission is being received.”

• “IMMEDIATELY—Used by ATC when such action compliance is required to avoid an imminent situation.”

• “I SAY AGAIN—The message will be repeated.”

• “LOCAL TRAFFIC—Aircraft operating in the traffic pattern or within sight of the tower, or aircraft known to be departing or arriving from flight in local practice areas, or aircraft executing practice instrument approaches at the airport.”

• “MAYDAY—The international radiotelephony distress signal. When repeated three times, it indicates imminent and grave danger and that immediate assistance is requested.”

• “MINIMUM FUEL—Indicates that an aircraft’s fuel supply has reached a stage where, upon reaching the destination, it can accept little or no delay. This is not an emergency situation but merely indicates an emergency situation is possible should any undue delay occur.”

• “NEGATIVE—‘No,’ or ‘permission not granted,’ or ‘that is not correct.’”

• “OUT—The conversation is ended and no response is expected.”

• “OVER—My transmission is ended and no response is expected.”

• “PAN-PAN—The international radiotelephony urgency signal. When repeated three times, indicates uncertainty or alert followed by the nature of the urgency.”

• “PILOT’S DISCRETION—When used in conjunction with altitude assignments, means that ATC has offered the pilot the option of starting climb or descent whenever he wishes and conducting the climb or descent at any rate he wishes. He may temporarily level off at any intermediate attitude. However, once he has vacated an attitude, he may not return to that attitude.”

• “RADIO—(a) A device used for communication. (b) Used to refer to a flight service station; e.g., ‘Seattle Radio’ is used to call Seattle FSS.”

• “READ BACK—Repeat my message back to me.”

• “REPORT—Used to instruct pilots to advise ATC of specified information; e.g., ‘Report passing Hamilton VOR.’”

• “ROGER—I have received all of your last transmission. It should not be used to answer a question requiring a yes or no answer.”

• “SAY AGAIN—Used to request a repeat of the last transmission. Usually specifies transmission or portion thereof not understood or received; e.g., ‘Say again all after ABRAM VOR.’”

• “SAY ALTITUDE—Used by ATC to ascertain an aircraft’s specific altitude/flight level. When the aircraft is climbing or descending, the pilot should state the indicated altitude rounded to the nearest 100 feet.”

• “SAY HEADING—Used by ATC to request an aircraft heading. The pilot should state the actual heading of the aircraft.”

• “SPEAK SLOWER—Used in verbal communications as a request to reduce speech rate.”

• “THAT IS CORRECT—The understanding you have is right.”

• “UNABLE—Indicates inability to comply with a specific instruction, request, or clearance.”

• “URGENCY—A condition of being concerned about safety and of requiring timely but not immediate assistance; a potential distress condition.”

• “VERIFY—Request confirmation of information; e.g., ‘verify assigned altitude.’”

• “WILCO—I have received your message, understand it, and will comply with it.” Jargon, chatter, and CB slang have no place in ATC communications.

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