Initial Radio Calls for Beginners

Have you been working on radio calls lately and struggling to get them down?

Let's talk about how to at least make your initial call and go from there.

Ok so here's the scenario: you're sitting at a towered airport and completed all your checklists that were called for so now you're ready for taxi. Your hand goes to the PTT (push to talk) and your mind goes blank. What do you say?

This is the format to use on the ground:

-Who you're talking to

-Who you are

-Where you are

-What you want

So let's say this towered airport is KEFD (Ellington Field), your plane is a Grumman Tiger N9696W (this is just a fictional tail number I created), and you're in front of the FBO Signature there waiting to go on your flight to KACT to Waco. Using all of that information as well as knowing they have an ATIS there you need to listen to for information, let's put it together for a radio call.

"Ellington ground, Grumman 9696W at Signature, ready to taxi with information Papa"

Some people can argue you don't need to say direction of flight on the ground, only after you switch to tower, but I sometimes let ground AND tower know. I simply do this because often when I call ground at a towered airport, if I don't say it they come back with "say direction of flight." So here it's your preference, given that at the minimum you let tower know which direction you're headed.

Okay now let's say it's the same situation except you're at an uncontrolled airport T41 making an announcement call. This sounds almost the exact same (using the same format still) but you start AND end the radio call with who you're talking to. Remember at uncontrolled as well you're not asking for clearance, so you're only announcing what you're about to do.

Assuming there is a Signature there as well (though in reality there is not) and we want to taxi to runway 12 via Alpha here's what this radio call would sound like:

"La Porte traffic, Grumman 9696W at Signature taxiing to 12 via Alpha, La Porte traffic"

The call for takeoff would sound the same, except then we'd be announcing which direction we'll be departing to to let other traffic know. If we're going to Waco from T41, the direction is to the northwest. Here's what that would sound like:

"La Porte traffic, Grumman 9696W taking the active 12, departing to the northwest, La Porte traffic"

Still generally the same format as we first talked about. Just to keep elaborating, if I'm now holding short of 17R on Bravo at Ellington and ready to takeoff here's my call to tower:

"Ellington tower, Grumman 9696W holding short of 17R on Bravo, ready for departure VFR to Waco"

You notice how in every call they're all similar? The format may change in some calls as you'll learn the more you practice using radios, but this is always the basis most of them follow. 

There comes the subject of after making your initial call what to repeat back at a towered airport and what you don't need to repeat back, or in uncontrolled airspace how to communicate well with other pilots. There's a lot more that can be talked about with radio calls, so we'll likely talk about them another day. 

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, stays safe, and sounds like a pro on the radios now!

Questions or comments concerning radio calls? Let us know below!

Happy Landings,