Radio Telephony Revision and Study Guide
Our Radio Telephony RT exam revision guide gives an overview of RT, and covers what you need to know for the practical exam.
Chatterbox Radio Telephony Manual
1. Using the Transmitter
4. When to use callsign
6. What needs to be read back
7. Readability Checks
8. Altitudes and Flight Levels
9. Initial Calls
10. Passing your message
11. Position Reporting
12. Types of ATSU (Air Traffic Service Units
12.2. FIS (Flight Information Service)
13. Types of Service Provided
13.1 Basic Service
13.2 Traffic Service
13.4 Deconfliction Service
13.4 Procedural Service
14. Aerodrome Phraseology
15. ATIS – Automatic Terminal Information Service
16. TakeOff in a ATC environment
17. Joining a circuit and landing in an ATC environment
18. Phraseology within FIS services
19. Aerodrome Air/Ground Communication
20. Unattended Aerodromes/SafetyCom
21. Direction Finding
22. Leaving a Frequency
25. Relaying of Emergency Messages
Using the Transmitter
Listen out and do not interrupt if anyone else is speaking
Keep messages short and to the point.
Avoid long silences, or errr, ummm etc
Be absolutely clear what you are going to say before pressing the PTT button.
Write down any important messages passed to you such as altitudes, altimeter settings etc.
Use an abbreviated shorthand that you are comfortable for this.
If in any doubt, simply say STANDBY, your Callsign and release the button.
If you are in any doubt about messages that have been received, simple reply SAY AGAIN.
For the purposes of this course and the practical exam, the official pronunciations are not required, but for the theory test it should be used.
Individual letters should be transmitted as follows.
A Alpha AL FAH
B Bravo BRAH VOH
C Charlie CHAR LEE or SHAR LEE
D Delta DELL TAH
E Echo ECK OH
F Foxtrot FOKS TROT
G Golf GOLF
H Hotel HO TELL
I India IN DEE AH
J Juliett JEW LEE ETT
K Kilo KEY LOH
L Lima LEE MAH
M Mike MIKE
N November NO VEM BER
O Oscar OSS CAH
P Papa PAH PAH
Q Quebec KEH BECK
R Romeo ROW ME OH
S Sierra SEE AIR RAH
T Tango TANG GO
U Uniform YOU NEE FORM or OO NEE FORM
V Victor VIK TAH
W Whiskey WISS KEY
X X-ray ECKS RAY
Y Yankee YANG KEE
Z Zulu ZOO LOO
0 Zero ZERO
1 One WUN
2 Two TOO
3 Three TREE
4 Four FOWER
5 Five FIFE
6 Six SIX
7 Seven SEVEN
8 Eight AIT
9 Nine NINER
. Decimal DAYSEEMAL
00 Hundred HUN DRED
000 Thousand TOUSAND
Number combinations should be transmitted as follows.
10 One Zero WUN ZERO
100 One Hundred WUN HUN DRED
4500 Four Thousand Five Hundred FOWER TOUSAND FIFE HUNDRED
14000 One Four Thousand WUN FOWER TOUSAND
27000 Two Seven Thousand TOO SEVEN TOUSAND
Headings should be transmitted as 3 digits eg:
Heading 90 would be 090 or ZERO NINER ZERO
Frequencies are transmitted as 3 digits and 3 digits separated by a decimal point. Each digit is read out, so 100 would be ONE ZERO ZERO not ONE HUNDRED. The Decimal point is written as DECIMAL.
The only exception is where the last 2 digits of the 2nd group are both zeros, in which case it can be shortened to just the 1 number. eg in the example above 100 can be shortened to 1 or ONE.
118.250 ONE ONE EIGHT DECIMAL TWO FIVE ZERO
121.400 ONE TWO ONE DECIMAL FOUR ZERO ZERO or (121.4) ONE TWO ONE DEIMAL FOUR
Time is transmitted as FOUR digits representing the HOUR and MINUTES.
1345 ONE THREE FOUR FIVE
Where this time is during the current hour and it is obvious what the hour will be, the hour can be omitted and we can just use FOUR FIVE.
When first making contact the full aircraft callsign must be used. Once communication has been established the ATC unit may use the abbreviated callsign. The pilot must only use the abbreviated callsign once an ATC unit has already done so, and must go back to the full one when commencing communications with another ATC unit.
The abbreviation will take the form of the prefix and the last 2 letters.
G-ABCD will become G-CD for standard UK callsigns.
We can use various prefixes on ATC calls to alert the ATSU of certain things to be aware of. Of interest to us are probably STUDENT. This should be used on INITIAL contact only, not repeatedly.
When to use callsign
One of the most important things to understand is when to place your callsign and the callsign of the ATS unit into conversation.
1. Initial Contact - STATION followed by CALLSIGN
Eg Blackpool Tower, G-ABCD
2. Passing a new message to existing station - Callsign then message
Eg G-ABCD, downwind
3. Response to message from station - message then callsign
Eg Cleared for takeoff, G-ABCD
A readback is where the instructions given are read back. This is important for certain critical information, so that if something has been misheard it can be corrected. However, not all instructions should be read back as it can lead to conversations becoming unnecessarily verbose. The general reasoning as to what needs to be read back is how dangerous it could be if something is misheard.
Example of a readback.
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD Contact moorfield approach on 118.250
PILOT: Contact Moorfield approach on 118.250, G-ABCD
If the information does not have to be read back, we can just say WILCO (I will comply)
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD Report Downwind
PILOT: WILCO, G-ABCD
What needs to be read back
Airways or Route Clearances
Runway in use.
Clearance to Enter, Land On, Take-Off On, Backtrack, Cross, or Hold
Short of any Active Runway
SSR Operating Instructions
Altimeter Settings, including units when value is below 1000
Type of ATS Service
Should a readback be incorrect, the controller will respond with NEGATIVE and repeat the instruction.
Before commencing communication (just the first connection - it is not required to check each ATSU) it is a good idea to check radio comms.
PILOT: Blackheath Tower, G-ABCD, RADIO CHECK 112.750
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Blackheath Tower, READABILITY 5
It is also a good idea to confirm the ATSU readability back to them.
The readability scale is from 1 to 5:
2 Readable now and then
3 Readable but with difficulty
5 Perfectly readable
Altitudes and Flight Levels
DO NOT use the word TO when referring to flight levels.
For Height or Altitude use the word TO followed immediately by ALTITUDE or HEIGHT.
When referring to altitude or height, the QNH/QFE setting must be announced on the initial message.
QNH and QFE pressures must be followed by the word Hectopascals for pressures lower than 1000.
QFE refers to the height above a fixed point (usually an aerodrome)
QNH refers to the altitude above MSL (Sea Level)
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD descend to altitude 2000ft Bromley QNH 1012 Hectopascals
PILOT: Descend to altitude 2000ft Bromley QNH 1012 Hectopascals G-ABCD
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD Report passing FL130
PILOT: WILCO, G-ABCD
PILOT: G-ABCD passing FL130
Pilots are not required to report reaching or passing a level unless specifically requested to do so.
On IFR flights making an initial call as well as reporting current level the pilot should report the level they are climbing or descending to if they are not in level flight eg
Passing Altitude 2500 climbing FL120
Or Maintaining FL120
On VFR flights
The initial call should just be the callsign and service provided.
Eg PILOT: Keswick approach, G-ABCD, request joining instructions
Passing your message
The ATS unit will then reply with their callsign and possibly asking for more details - "PASS YOUR MESSAGE"
A Aircraft Callsign and Type
D Departure Aerodrome
D Destination Aerodrome (via also)
P Present Position including heading
A Altitude or level
A Additional info - intentions, squawk, next route point etc
PILOT: Keswick Approach, G-ABCD, Request Basic Service
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Keswick Approach
PILOT: G-ABCD, Piper Arrow from Liverpool to Newcastle, 20 NM SW of Carlisle, altitude 3000 ft QNH 1023 hectopascals, tracking to Hexham
CONTROLLER: G-CD, Roger, Basic Service, report Hexham
PILOT: WILCO, G-CD
Regular position reports must be made, particularly on VFR flights. Where ground radar is able to gather sufficient data to monitor flight progress IFR flights may be exempt, but it is still good practice.
It is important to report properly as if you give an expected time/location and do not report in the ATSU may instigate search and rescue procedures.
Next position and ETA
Types of ATSU (Air Traffic Service Units
They will issue instructions and you must comply.
Will use phrases such as "Cleared for takeoff"
2. FIS (Flight Information Service)
Provides useful information to help with the safety of flight. No instructions can be passed in the air (they can on the ground)
The pilot is ultimately responsible for the safety of the flight, but the FIS will assist where possible.
Will use phrases such as "takeoff at your discretion"
Only limited information is available and all decisions are the pilots.
Will not even say "takeoff at your discretion", you will tell them you are taking off.
Will be postfixed TRAFFIC.
Only used to broadcast intentions.
Will not be manned.
But other pilots will be monitoring.
If no designated frequency, can use safetycom on 135.475
Use within 10nm of aerodrome, at <2000ft/1000ft over circuit height
Types of Service Provided
Different types of ATSU can provide different levels of service.
Most common for leisure pilots.
Avoidance of other traffic is purely pilots responsibility.
Provided with info on weather, aerodromes etc
Will usually provide traffic information if it can do, but is under no obligation to do so.
In addition to a basic service, will also give traffic information.
They will tell you about other traffic, but avoidance is still pilots responsibility.
In addition to traffic service, deconfliction advice will be given, and headings and levels/altitudes. Avoidance of other aircraft is still the pilots responsibility.
Using radar the ATSU will give commands for traffic avoidance and separation.
These instructions MUST be followed unless you are unable to do so, in which case report UANBLE TO COMPLY and why immediately.
The aerodrome circuit has 5 main positions.
1 Downwind - immediately opposite the end of the runway at the take-off end. REPORT DOWNWIND
2 Late Downwind - after downwind if it wasn't possible to report at downwind REPORT LATE DOWNWIND
3 Base - the turn onto the base leg at 90 degs to runway REPORT BASE
4 Final - the turn onto the runway heading REPORT FINAL
5 Long Final - if turning further out - between 4 and 8 miles REPORT LONG FINAL
Before reaching the circuit pattern for landing the standard overhead join method is:
1 Overfly at 2000ft AGL. REPORT OVERHEAD
2 Determine runway direction if not already known.
3 Cross to the 'deadside' of the runway and descend to circuit height (usually 1000ft) REPORT DEADSIDE DESCENDING
4 Cross the end of the runway and proceed to the downwind leg then continue on the pattern REPORT DOWNWIND
ATIS - Automatic Terminal Information Service
This is an automated recording giving current details of an aerodrome.
The information given will be:
ATIS Identification - A-Z in phonetic form. This is so the controller knows you have the most recent information eg INFORMATION CHARLIE
Time of origin
Runway in Use
Temperature and Dewpoint
Other useful information
TakeOff in a ATC environment
The following example is a full example of a takeoff in an ATC environment. Instructions from the controllers must be followed.
At busy aerodromes there may be a separate ATSU for Ground and Tower.
PILOT: Darlington Ground, G-ABCD, information CHARLIE, QNH 1012, request taxi for VFR flight to York
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Darlington Ground, taxi holding point D2 runway 27 via taxiway Delta, QNH 1018 hectopascals
PILOT: Taxi Holding point D2 runway 27 via taxiway Delta, QNH 1018 hectopascals, G-ABCD
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Contact tower on 120.4
PILOT: Contact Tower on 120.4, G-ABCD
PILOT: Darlington Tower, G-ABCD, holding point D2 runway 270 ready for departure
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Darlington Tower, line up runway 27
PILOT: Line up runway 27, G-ABCD
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, cleared for take-off
PILOT: Cleared for Take-Off, G-ABCD
Important - the only time TAKE-OFF is used is when you are actually cleared for takeoff. Prior to that the word DEPARTURE is always used.
Joining a circuit and landing in an ATC environment
If ATIS is present you should first obtain the full ATIS details in order to confirm in your initial call.
In a larger environment you would contact APPROACH initially but at smaller aerodromes there would just be a TOWER.
PILOT: York Tower, G-ABCD, request join
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, York Tower, pass your message
PILOT: Piper Arrow, 15 miles west altitude 2000ft, G-ABCD
(if we already had ATIS we would also give INFORMATION and QNH setting from that)
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, join overhead runway 09 height 2000ft QFE 998 hectopascals, report aerodrome in sight
PILOT: Join overhead runway 09 height 2000ft QFE 998 hectopascals, WILCO, G-ABCD
PILOT: G-ABCD, Runway in sight
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Descend Deadside, report Downwind
PILOT: Descend Deadside, WILCO
PILOT: G-ABCD Downwind
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, report Base
PILOT: G-ABCD Base
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, report Final
PILOT: G-ABCD Final
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD Runway 09 cleared to land, 270 8
PILOT: Runway 09, cleared to land, G-ABCD
Remain on tower frequency until the runway is vacated.
PILOT: G-ABCD Runway Vacated
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD contact ground on 119.6
PILOT: Contact Ground on 119.6, G-ABCD
Phraseology within FIS services
Flight Information Services were discussed earlier. They provide information and advice but CANNOT issue instructions.
Therefore, the terminology in a FIS environment is very different.
All decisions on whether to takeoff, land etc are the responsibility of the pilot. They are however allowed to issue instructions to aircraft on the ground eg Taxi/Hold.
An example of a departure would be
PILOT: G-ABCD, request taxi
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, taxi holding point A2, runway 09 via taxiway Bravo, surface wind 090 10 knots, QNH 999 hectopascalsCONTROLLER:
PILOT: taxi holding point A2, runway 09 via taxiway Bravo, surface wind 090 10 knots, QNH 999 hectopascals, G-ABCD
PILOT: G-ABCD, ready for departure
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD Hold Position
PILOT: Holding G-ABCD
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD runway 09 takeoff at your discretion, surface wind is calm
PILOT: Runway 09 taking off, G-ABCD
PILOT: G-ABCD, Downwind to land
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, one ahead is a Cessena 182, report final
PILOT: WILCO, G-ABCD
PILOT: G-ABCD, Final
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Roger, Cessena 182 ahead on final
PILOT: Roger, G-ABCD
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Runway 09, land at your discretion, surface wind is calm
PILOT: G-ABCD Roger, runway 09, landing
Aerodrome Air/Ground Communication
A/G operators use different phraseology.
They may not be able to see some or all of the aerodrome, so info is derived primarily from info provided by pilots.
They also will typically have far less training and equipment.
A/G units use the prefix RADIO.
The communication is purely informational, in both directions. There are no instructions. Note also that with the exception of “Roger” aircraft callsign is used as a prefix on calls, even though communication is already established.
PILOT: Cranford Radio, G-ABCD request taxi information
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Cranford Radio, runway 27 QNH 1010
PILOT: G-ABCD, taxiing for runway 27 QNH 1010
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Roger
PILOT: G-ABCD, ready for departure
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, no reported traffic, surface wind 180 degrees 8 knots
PILOT: Roger, taking off, G-ABCD
Not an ATS and has no ground station.
It is however a common frequency for pilots to use so they can communicate their intentions to other traffic.
There will never be a response, it is purely to broadcast intentions and position.
Because it is a standard frequency and could cover multiple airfields, all transmissions must include the aerodrome name.
The ATS alias will be TRAFFIC eg York Traffic
If a specific traffic service is not designated, you can use a dedicated safetycom frequency.
Eg Departure would be
PILOT: York Traffic, G-ABCD taxiing for runway 18, York
PILOT: York Traffic, G-ABCD is lining up for departure runway 18, York Traffic
PILOT: York Traffic, G-ABCD overhead, joining for runway 18, York
PILOT: York Traffic, G-ABCD deadside descending runway 18, York
PILOT: York Traffic, G-ABCD downwind, base leg runway 18, York
PILOT: York Traffic, G-ABCD overhead, final runway 18, York
Various stations offer VDF (VHF Direction Finding)
A pilot may request a heading or bearing
QDR Magnetic bearing of the aircraft from the station. Eg Approach G-ABCD request QDR G-ABCD
QDM Magnetic heading to be taken by the aircraft to reach the CDF station. Eg Approach G-ABCD request QDM G-ABCD
QTE True bearing of the aircraft from the station. Eg true bearing, true bearing, Approach G-ABCD request true bearing G-ABCD
The response will be the phrase, the bearing/heading, the class of the bearing, and optionally the time of observation.
PILOT: Rampton Approach, G-ABCD, request QDM G-ABCD
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Rampton Approach, QDM 090 degrees class Bravo
PILOT: QDM 90 degrees class bravo, G-ABCD
A +/- 2 degrees
B +/- 5 degrees
C +/- 10 degrees
D less than class C
Leaving a Frequency
When going to another frequency it is important you advise the current ATSU that you are doing so. Failure to do so could cause Search & Rescue procedures to be instigated.
For example, to leave and get a QDM from another station:
PILOT: Rampton Information,G-ABCD, May I leave the frequency for 2 minutes to contact Watford Homer on 128.250
CONTROLLER: Rampton Information, G-ABCD, ROGER, report back on frequency
PILOT: WILCO, G-ABCD
PILOT: Watford Homer, G-ABCD, request QDM, G-ABCD
CONTROLLER: Watford Homer, G-ABCD, ROGER, QDM 090 degrees class Bravo
PILOT: QDM 90 degrees class bravo, returning to Rampton Information on 118.2, G-ABCD
PILOT: Rampton Information,G-ABCD, back on frequency
CONTROLLER: Rampton Information, G-ABCD, ROGER
A transponder is a device which allows ATC to identify the aircraft on radar.
The ATC will ask you to SQUAWK a number between 0000 and 7777.
There are also some presets:
7600 Comms Failure
7500 Unlawful Interference
7000 UK Conspicuity Code
2000 Entering a FIR when operating under VFR
There are 2 states of emergency:
Distress – A condition of serious/imminent danger and requiring immediate assistance.
Urgency – A condition concerning the safety of an aircraft or other vehicle, but does NOT require immediate assistance.
Distress Call – MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY
Urgency Call – PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN
The following information should be given. Use memo CATNIPPO
1. The above call
C Name of the station addressed
A Callsign of aircraft
T Type of Aircraft
N Nature of emergency
I Intention of Person in Command
P Present or last know position (altitude and heading)
P Pilot Qualifications
O All other useful information
PILOT: MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY Gotham Tower, G-ABCD, Cessena 182, Engine failure, descending, 10 miles east of Nottingham, heading 090, 2000ft, 4POB
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Gotham Tower, Roger MAYDAY
Relaying of Emergency Messages
Any station or aircraft may re-transmit an emergency message for another aircraft to obtain assistance for it. This is particularly the case where they may have heard an emergency call but the tower it was intended for could not hear. This is known as relaying an emergency call.
It is important to make it clear that the aircraft relaying the call is NOT the aircraft in trouble.
PILOT: MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY Gotham Tower, G-ABCD, I have intercepted a MAYDAY call from G-DCAB, I say again G-DCAB, Cessena 182, Engine failure, descending, 10 miles east of Nottingham, heading 090, 2000ft, 4POB
CONTROLLER: G-ABCD, Gotham Tower, Roger your relayed MAYDAY from G-DCBA
Transmissions from aircraft in distress have priority over all other calls. On hearing a distress call all stations must remain quiet.
Cancelling a Distress Message
When an aircraft is no longer in distress it must transmit a message to cancel.
PILOT: Gotham Tower, G-ABCD, CANCEL MAYDAY, engine restarted, runway in sight>
A relayed mayday must also be cancelled by relay if the station does not respond.
In a non-radar environment such as FIS, you should periodically report your position. The pattern is :
A Aircraft Callsign
T Time (the time you were overhead that position, not the time now)
L Level or Alititude
N Next position and ETA
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