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Say goodbye to mic frightSay goodbye to mic fright

'Ask ATC' comes to the rescue of communication jitters'Ask ATC' comes to the rescue of communication jitters

It’s not unusual to feel intimidated keying the mic when you’re first introduced to radio communication, especially when talking to air traffic controllers. The seemingly rapid-fire instructions coming in over the airwaves can be startling at first, and it’s not always easy to recognize when an ATC instruction is for you, not another airplane.

But with patience and experience, basic communication skills improve and interaction with ATC tends to smooth out. However, lingering concerns and misunderstandings about controllers’ roles and the services they provide can hinder pilots from fully engaging with ATC.

For example, some pilots may worry about contacting ATC to request VFR flight following services because they think the controllers are too busy to help. Others are under the unfounded impression that declaring an emergency with ATC will have dire consequences—and they hesitate to confess their situation, when doing so would offer welcome assistance at a critical time. So it’s time to dispel these myths and encourage improved communication and more productive engagement between pilots and air traffic controllers. Enter the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s popular Ask ATC video series, which is getting a makeover.

The Air Safety Institute recently partnered with the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) to develop a new series of short videos that clarify ATC’s role and the assistance controllers can provide. In Ask ATC: Bothering ATC, the first installment in the updated series, ATC specialist Sarah Patten debunks the notion that talking to flights squawking 1200 is an inconvenience. Other videos offer pilots advice on how to participate in ATC services like receiving traffic advisories, flight following, and airspace clearances. They also cover communications during emergencies, air traffic controllers’ see-and-avoid limitations in nonradar environments, and the best way to contact ATC when they seem too busy for GA aircraft. You’ll also learn to overcome feeling intimidated, and Ask ATC: Fast Talkers explains how to communicate with controllers when they talk faster than you can comprehend.

The videos are featured on Air Safety Institute and AOPA channels such as YouTube and Facebook, and through NATCA’s website and the FAA’s website.

Machteld Smith

Machteld Smith

Aviation Technical Writer
Machteld Smith is an aviation technical writer for the Air Safety Institute. She holds a commercial pilot certificate with multiengine, instrument, and seaplane ratings.
Topics: Safety and Education, Communication

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