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4 Tips for Getting Comfortable with Radio Communications

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

So you’re a little afraid to push that button and talk on the radio. Maybe you’re afraid to mess up when everyone can hear you. Maybe you don’t know what to say. Or maybe you just don’t quite understand what the controllers are asking you to do. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! There are plenty of students that get caught up on the radios.

Here are a few tips to help you out:

  1. Take a tower tour. Taking a tour of the control tower can be very helpful to get comfortable with talking on the radio. Contrary to popular belief, controllers aren’t robots; they’re just people like you and me. They have to listen to you and respond, just like you have to listen to them and respond. And guess what - they make mistakes too. It also helps to meet the people on the other end of your microphone. You can ask them questions and they’ll tell you that it’s okay to make mistakes and you shouldn’t worry about it. We all have to learn somehow.

  2. FMX time. CHI Aerospace’s Redbird FMX is a great way to practice your radio communications. Bring an instructor and have them play the role of the air traffic controller. Radio communications are easy when you’re sitting at a table and all of your focus is on the task at hand. However, some students get overwhelmed when they have to fly the airplane, plan their pattern entry, watch for traffic, and talk on the radio. The FMX is a great way to practice doing all of that at once. You can practice other skills in the Redbird FMX such as pattern work, navigation, aeronautical decision making, and much more. The best part, you can do all of that while saving money! Check out the Simulator Membership while you’re at it and you could save even more.

  3. Listening to radio communications can be a great way to get comfortable hearing and understanding them. In fact, this was how I got comfortable with my radio skills. On LiveATC, you can listen to almost any frequency you’d like, live! Whether it’s Boston Approach or Portsmouth Tower, you’re bound to learn something. There is also an app for iPhone and Android for purchase so you can listen on the go. Put it on while you’re driving or listen to it as background noise. It’ll really help you get comfortable.

  4. Books or online courses. Some people learn best by reading or using an interactive online course. Both are available cheap or even for free. One of the most popular books for learning radio communications is Say Again, Please written by Bob Gardner. As for online courses, there are quite a few to choose from. A couple of the most popular ones are Sporty’s VFR Communications course and AOPA’s Say It Right: Mastering Radio Communication.

Whether you’re just starting to learn radio communications or maybe you just need to brush up, the resources above will be a great help. Remember, we have all made mistakes on the radio. It’s okay - it’s all part of the learning experience!

- Ryan

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