The operators at air traffic control towers (ATC towers) help keep pilots safe. ATC towers also help pilots navigate. Pilots must understand what air traffic controllers say and the appropriate way to respond to air traffic control tower requests.
Anyone who flies in smaller planes on a regular basis should familiarize themselves with some basic vocabulary for speaking with air traffic control towers. You don't need to get your pilot's license to learn the proper syntax to communicate with towers for air traffic control purposes. Commit to finding answers to the following three questions to get your ATC tower learning off the ground.
1. How do ATC tower facilities work? Learning how ATC towers operate and where they operate will give you a clearer understanding of what's going on in the sky.
2. How is talking to a tower for air traffic control different than having a conversation with someone?
3. What does it sound like when pilots and air traffic control towers talk to each other?
Find out how air traffic control towers operate in any given areaATC towers exist to keep planes from running into one another. Before you can learn the language spoken by ATC operators and pilots, make sure you know the principles behind having towers for air traffic control. Learn about ATC towers in your area.
Study the language and know the wordsJust as computer programmers or offshore fishermen use words specific to their work, ATC tower operators have their own jargon, too. A pilot can't tell an ATC tower operator that he wants to take off; he must make a series of requests and confirm that he has the proper information so that he takes off safely. Apart from the terminology used, towers for ATC also use acronyms.
FAA (Federal Aviation Association) has a comprehensive guide to air traffic control that explains the rules of the air. This guide includes a glossary of common air traffic control terms. Also keep a list of ATC tower acronyms like the one from ATCCenter.com handy for the next step, listening to ATC towers.
Listen to air traffic control towersTo better understand the language and common phrases, listen to ATC tower frequencies on a handheld radio or over the Internet. Even if you play the local ATC tower frequency in the background while you work on other projects, just hearing the way ATC operators and pilots speak helps you learn what things mean.
- Using a chart for your area, find an ATC tower near you and call them. Tell them that you want to learn about ATC tower operations, and arrange for a visit.