Air traffic control

Communication within United Kingdom (UK) airspace is undertaken by radio – this is often referred to as radiotelephony (RTF) communication. Radio communication needs to be clear, concise, and use standard phraseology.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) produces the UK Radiotelephony Manual (CAP 413) to provide pilots with guidance, and to operate a radio in a UK aircraft you need a Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL).

The following standard phraseology is used on a day-to-day basis by pilots and is therefore also tested within the practical RTF communications test for the FRTOL. You should always refer to CAP 413 for the latest standard phraseology and guidance.

Read back (CAP 413: Section 2.67)

  • Taxi/Towing Instructions
  • Level Instructions
  • Heading Instructions
  • Speed Instructions
  • Airways or Route Clearances
  • Approach Clearances
  • Runway-in-Use
  • Clearance to Enter, Land On, Take-Off On, Backtrack, Cross, or Hold Short of any Active Runway
  • SSR Operating Instructions
  • Alimeter Settings, including units when value is below 100 hectopascals
  • VDF Information
  • Frequency Changes
  • Type of ATS Service
  • Transition Levels

Taxi instructions (CAP 413: Section 4.12)

  • ATS Unit (for example, “Southend Tower”)
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Type (for example, “a C152”)
  • Present Position (for example, “at Southend Flying Club”)
  • Information (for example, “with Information B”)
  • QNH (for example, “and QNH 1011”)
  • Request (for example “Request taxi for VFR flight to Cambridge, 2 POB”)

Initial Call – VFR Flight (CAP 413: Section 3.28)

  • ATS Unit (for example, “Southend Radar / Southend Approach”)
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Request (for example, “Request Basic service / Traffic service / Join / Zone transit”)

Then Passing Message Details

Passing Message Details (CAP 413: Section 3.31)

  • Aircraft Callsign/Type (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Departure Point and Destination (for example, “from Southend to Cambridge”)
  • Present Position (for example, “overhead Sudbury”)
  • Level (for example, “at altitude 3,000ft QNH 1011”)
  • Additional details/Intention (e.g. Flight Rules, Next Route Point) (for example, “VFR, tracking to Cambridge”)
  • Request (for example, “Request Basic service / Traffic service / Join / Zone transit”)

Position Reporting (CAP 413: Section 3.32)

  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Present Position (for example, “overhead Sudbury“)
  • Time (for example, “TIME 23”)
  • Level (for example, “at altitude 3,000ft QNH 1011”)
  • Next position and ETA (for example, “Cambridge TIME 50”)

Conditional clearances (CAP 413: Section 4.34)

  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • The condition (for example, “behind”)
  • Identification of subject of the condition (for example, “the landing PA28”)
  • The clearance (for example, “line up Runway 26”)
  • Reiteration of the condition (for example, “behind”)
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)

Direction Finding (CAP 413: Section 6.37 – 6.41)

  • QDR / QDR / QDR / or QDM / QDM / QDM, or QTE / QTE / QTE
  • ATS Unit (for example, “Cambridge Approach”)
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Request QDR (Magnetic from) / QDM (Magnetic to) / QTE (True from) (for example, “Request QDM”)

Distress and Urgency (CAP 413: Section 8)

  • MAYDAY / MAYDAY / MAYDAY or PAN PAN / PAN PAN / PAN PAN
  • ATS Unit (for example, “Southend Radar”)
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • “Have intercepted from Callsign G-AAPN”
  • Type of aircraft (for example, “PA28”)
  • Nature of the emergency
  • Intention of the person-in-command
  • Present or last known position, flight level/altitude and heading
  • Pilot qualifications (e.g. Student, No instrument rating, IMC rating, Full instrument rating) (for example, “No instrument rating”)
  • Any other useful information (e.g. endurance remaining, number of people on board, aircraft colour/markings, any survival aids) (for example, “2 POB”)

Termination of Distress and Urgency (CAP 413: Section 8.32)

  • ATS Unit (for example, “Southend Radar”)
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Cancel MAYDAY or PAN PAN (for example, “Cancel “MAYDAY”)

Military Aerodrome Traffic Zones (MATZ) Penetration (CAP 413: Section 10.74)

Request when 15 NM or 5 min flying time from the boundary, whichever is the sooner.

  • ATS Unit (for example, “Lakenheath Approach”)
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Request (for example, “Request MATZ, and ATZ penetration”)

Then Passing Message Details

Frequency Change (CAP 413: Section 2.55)

  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Request frequency change to [ATS Unit] on [Frequency]

Clearance to enter Control Zone (CTR) (CAP 413: Section 6.67)

  • ATS Unit (for example, “Cambridge Approach”)
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Request (for example, “Request Basic service, and Zone transit”)

 

Practice Training Fix

  • “Training Fix, Training Fix, Training Fix”
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • “Training Fix”
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • ATS Unit (for example, “London Centre”)
  • “Your position indicates…”
  • “Do you require further assistance?”
  • “Negative” or “Request heading to nearest aerodrome”

Practice Pan

  • “Practice Pan, Practice Pan, Practice Pan”
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • “Practice Pan”
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • ATS Unit (for example, “London Centre”)
  • “Practice Pan acknowledged”
  • “Pass details when ready”
  • “Practice Pan”
  • ATS Unit (for example, “London Centre”)
  • Callsign (for example, “G-BOLW”)
  • Type of aircraft (for example, “PA28”)
  • Nature of the emergency (for example, “Engine failure”)
  • Intention of the person-in-command
  • Present or last known position, flight level/altitude and heading (for example, “Overhead Sudbury at 2,000ft”)
  • Pilot qualifications (e.g. Student, No instrument rating, IMC rating, Full instrument rating) (for example, “No instrument rating”)
  • Any other useful information (e.g. endurance remaining, number of people on board, aircraft colour/markings, any survival aids) (for example, “2 POB”)