Radio Telephony 101

Some guidelines to get you started with radio communication. It's worth noting - especially for VirtualFlight.Online - these are guidelines - not rules. Nobody is going to be reprimanded for not following correct etiquette, or using incorrect phraseology. You might receive constructive feedback, but it will always be in the spirit of helping improve rather than critiquing efforts.

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate

It's always worth remembering that if you're struggling to keep up with the workload of flying the aircraft, navigating, and communicating, the aircraft always comes first. If needed, a short message to ATC briefing your situation will avoid repeating calls to you - and may even result in ATC clearing airspace for you. Remember ATC is there to help you.

Don't Stand On Others

A memorable radio telephony phrase - "don't stand on others" means "don't transmit on a channel when somebody else is transmitting" - i.e. don't talk over each other. This correlates with why it is so important to use "push to talk". Always wait for somebody else's communication to complete before making your own transmission.

In an emergency, you can transmit over others - beginning your transmission with "BREAK BREAK" . This will silence all others on the channel. If you hear "BREAK BREAK" in the middle of your own transmission, stop transmitting immediately.

Always spell your callsign using the phonetic alphabet

When communicating, always spell out your callsign using the phonetic alphabet - so "Cessna G-ABCD" becomes "Cessna Golf Alpha Brave Charlie Delta".

Only abbreviate your callsign after ATC has abbreviated it

Always address air traffic control with your full callsign during first communication with them. If air traffic control responds using an abbreviated form of your callsign - which they may after a first communication - you may respond using the abbreviated callsign too. e.g. "G-ABCD may be abbreviated to "G-CD", or "Golf Charlie Delta". Be mindful of listening for both your full callsign, and the abbreviated form.

When initiating communication with ATC, lead with the target, your identity, location, and intentions

If you are initiating communication with air traffic control, begin by naming the target of your communication, followed by your aircraft type, callsign, location, and intentions.

e.g. Booker Tower, Cessna G-ABCD, ten miles south of you, heading three five zero, height two thousand feet, requesting full stop landing

It is common during online flights to hear shortened forms of communication - e.g. "Booker Tower, Cessna G-ABCD requesting full stop landing". Shortened communication is at the discretion of ATC - at the very least they may respond with requests for further information, which you can avoid by informing fully on first transmission.

When responding to instruction from ATC, read back, and finish with your identity

If you are responding to an instruction from ATC, read the instruction back to them, and finish with your identity - e.g. "Maintain course and climb to two thousand feet, Cessna G-ABCD".

You no not need to read back informational transmissions

When ATC transmits information to you, such as the current weather at the airfield, you do not need to repeat the full transmission back to them. Read back is only strictly required for instructions - not for information. A simple response of "Copy, G-ABCD" is sufficient to let ATC know their information was received and understood.