Too Much Taxi Talk

May 21, 2008 by Bruce Landsberg

Last week we discussed the overcrowding on Common Traffic Advisory Frequencies ( CTAF) especially at non-towered airports. There were some strong opinions on chatter clutter regarding certain ground calls.

Taxi-out, and clear-of-the-runway calls in day VFR conditions are overkill in my view. The FAA implemented these as runway safety took center stage some years back. Presumably solving one problem often creates others – such as frequency congestion. The statistics and the operational realities at most small GA airports do NOT support these AIM recommendations in my view. Paragraph 4-1-9 and Table 4-1-1 in AIM have the recommended radio calls. I was unable to find a recommendation for a taxi-across-the-runway call so someone is being creative.

If conditions are such that pilots can SEE, there is no need for the above calls. On the runway or on approach, you and I should be scanning for conflicts, just like intersections when driving. It is a high-risk, high-alert time but yakking on taxi activities in high density is distracting from the greater need to avoid aircraft actually departing or airborne in the pattern.

There are three common-sense situations when you should speak up when taxiing. During night and IFR conditions where other pilots cannot easily determine if the runway is clear and in day VFR if the airport layout is such that a runway/taxiway intersection is not visible from the departure end.

Bruce Landsberg
President, AOPA Foundation

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62 Responses to “Too Much Taxi Talk”

  1. DaveS Says:

    Bruce is correct that frequency pollution from unessential calls (and verbose ones) derrogates safety. But taxiing onto a runway usually is worthy of brief mention AND a suitable pause for rebuttal before proceeding due to visual blind spots (note the Cherokee resting on top of the Stinson in this issue). The ideal call starts with the airport name for attention-getting, ends with the airport name because the other pilot likely missed it the first time, and has just the brief essentials in between. It is then followed by a second look and listen before taking action. The eyes have iit; the ears are merely backups.

  2. Don Hedeman Says:

    The big problem with radio calls is not the number of different calls, it’s the amount of information goven in each call. Most pilot’s radio calls sound like a chapter out of a book instead of a brief statement of POSITION.
    1—The only thing pilots REALLY want to know is WHERE the heck ARE YOU ?
    2—Pilots don’t care WHO YOU ARE! So ditch the N-number.
    3—Pilots don’t care WHAT YOU ARE in most cases (unless you’re a Citation screaming into a pattern full of Taylorcrafts) so, in most cases, ditch the TYPE.
    4—Pilots don’t care if you’re making a practice instrument approach, so ditch the detailed explanation. Just say “6 MILE FINAL 33, BOOMVILLE”
    5— Pilots aren’t listening to your call when you first start talking, and they usually miss your location — SO DITCH IT — just make sure you pronounce your location clearly and loudly at the end of your call.

    A typical call is something like this:
    “AHHH, BOOMVILLE TRAFFIC THIS IS, AHHH, CHEROKEE NOVEMBER 37334, AND IM TURNING ABOUT A 2 MILE BASE< AND WE’LL BE LANDING ON RUNWAY 24, AT BOOMVILLE. ANY TRAFFIC IN THE AREA PLEASE ADVISE”

    How about reducing this to the following:
    “BASE 24 BOOMVILLE”

    If other pilots wanna know more info, they can ask.

  3. roger perry Says:

    Recently had a radio communication with another pilot while approaching kphk in S.E. Florida.~~The other pilot insisted that every A.C. landing at (or, flying near) the airport give a report that included the A.C. “N” number.~~ I thought that the “N” number verbalization practice cluttered up airwaves, that were already too cluttered. My concern is mainly: What make A.C.~~Where is the A.C.~~What direction and altitude is the other A.C.~~~Finally, what are the other A.C.s intentions.~~~The “N” number of the other A.C. adds nothing to safe and/or expeditious sequencing of A. C.s going in to the airport. ~~~~~Comments and thoughts regarding this would be appreciated.

  4. Vic Roberts Says:

    I agree with the ” too much taxi talk”.

    Also, at an uncontrolled field, most FBOs will not give you an “active” runway but only the winds.
    At my location, KJKA, we have runways 9-27 & 17-35.
    I have seen aircraft using all 4 of these runways within a 10 to 15 minute time.
    My point is that to all of those pilots who use the term “active” when taking off or landing instead of using the actual runway number, this is creating a safety problem.
    So what is the “active” when multiple runways are being used & no runway is suggested on the CTAF ?
    I suggest that everyone wake up & stop using the obsolete term “active”. It’s just as easy to call the numbers.

  5. Harvey Jacobs Says:

    I used to agree with cutting the taxi chatter until one day when preparing to enter the runway of choice in clearly prevailing winds at a non-towered airport, a plane landed from the other direction unannounced. Now when there is no other traffic on the ground or enough departing runway chatter to indicate operational runway, I announce my taxi intent just in case there is someone up there preparing to land who isn’t talking, but at least hopefully listening.

  6. Tom Halvorson Says:

    Bruce is absolutely correct about CTAF congestion.

    However, lets focus on using fewer words and skip the chit chat!

    Habits are critical. If pilots don’t make calls at some airports some of the time, will they make calls at other airports where they may not be visible, or when they didn’t hear or see the plane on short final and decide to taxi on to a runway.

    Runway safety can not be over stressed and that is the time to make your position and intentions well known – just keep it brief.

  7. David Reinhart Says:

    The “wrong runway” poster has a point. At quite a few airports you can’t see one end of the runway from the other end. At my home base, pilots have a distressing tendency to use Runway 32 no matter what the winds are.

    Not long ago I heard a Cherokee call in asking for advisory and no one replied (after hours for the FBO, but the outside speaker was still on so I could hear). He evidently neve listened to the automated wx broadcast because he proceeded to do three T&Gs on 32 even though the wind was 140 at 15 with gusts to 20! Anybody else coming in and paying attention to the ASOS or windsock would have been on 32.

  8. R J STEPHANOFF Says:

    Sorry Bruce but I strongly disagree as well! I think that Don Hedeman above has got it just about right. Just about because while he is absolutely correct about brevity I think he takes it a little too far but still preferable to “blabber”.

    I like the announcements because you can easily multitask by keeping one ear on the CTAF while you are running up, preparing to taki to the fuel farm, exiting the runway, etc. as long as it’s brief. I think that most experiences pilots, upon hearing one of those annoying blind calls that express type, tail number, planes color, etc. roll their eyes but still listen for the info because it’s still better hearing it than not hearing it and having to rely upon seeing only. Goin on a limb I am going to suggest that on a practical level this even falls into the “all available info” catagory (certainly more vital than a fresh sectional when goin local for a burger)…

  9. Mike Brown Says:

    I tend to agree that “clear of runway” calls can be omitted, especially if there’s congestion, since the failure mode is benign (if someone can’t see you but thinks you’re still on the runway when you’re clear, they’ll just look harder). I do think it makes sense to announce your intention to taxi onto the runway, though – if you’ve missed incoming traffic for whatever reason, be it that they’re using the opposite direction on the field, obstructions, flying a nonstandard or high or low pattern, etc, it’s best to know and have them know before you take the runway.

    While it’s a good idea to keep transmissions short, I think the “Base 24 Boomville” example may be carrying it to extremes – I strongly believe in beginning the transmission with the location, as a flag to listeners to start listening, or that they don’t need to listen. In our area there can be many aircraft on 122.8 at many different airports on a busy day. When you hear a transmission starting “College Park” and you’re at Cortland, you know you can ignore it. When you hear a transmission which doesn’t start with an airport name you might not mentally key into it until you hear your airport at the end – and then it’s too late to try to figure out where the aircraft is.

    As to including the “N-number” in at least the initial call, I’d have to look at FCC regulations there rather than FAA – at least at one point, unidentified transmissions were a no-no. Besides, if there’s more than one a/c in the pattern, it is useful to know which one is announcing downwind, vs. the one you can see ahead of you. Is this a new a/c about to merge into you, or the one you were following?

    “Boomville, 493 turning base 24 Boomville” is maybe a second or two longer than “base 24 Boomville”, but it’s a LOT more useful to others.

  10. T. Florie Says:

    The term “active runway” is not applicable to an uncontrolled airport.

    Another disturbing trend is the broadcast of “position reports” on CTAF by aircraft conducting training activities well away from the airport. The fact that someone is doing S-turns 15 miles norhtwest of the airport is hardly relevant to operations at that airport. Likewise, the broadcast of simulated emergencies hardly seems appropriate. If you are on short final, announcing that you are pretending that your engine has failed adds no useable information.

    I disagree with the notion that call signs are not important on the CTAF. How do you know that the “white Cirrus” that just reported clear of the runway is the same one the reported on the downwind a couple of minutes earlier?

  11. Richard Walker Says:

    I am a professional pilot now for 39 years, and even at controlled airports things can get confusing if you don’t prepare yourself. Things like looking at the taxi diagram/airport layout before you get started and listening to other traffic before you move your bird would help you prepare. When I listen on the radio at either controlled or uncontrolled airports I am giving myself “The Picture” as much of it as is available listening. Over the years I have found that one of the most important things in safe flying is situational awareness. By that I mean where you are and what you are doing, and where everybody else is and what they are doing. I wouldn’t get much from “base 34 Boomtown” other than someone is on base leg runway 34 at Boomtown. What, a Gulfstream, a Piper Cub, what…? Using your N number is like using your name and gives folks something to call you, and calling that you are taxiing for departure runway 27 Jack Edwards is a meaningful call to those who are using the airport. So is “N920C is departing runway 27 westbound Jack Edwards”, since it gives a heads up for anybody in the area. I am sometimes guilty of “chit-chat” myself, but I first LISTEN on the freq before I open my mouth. If it is busy, I give only what is needed. If it is calm, I sometimes chat if a friend is on freq or I flirt with the FBO gals. As I said, situational awareness and being able to think will help anybody keep clutter to a minimum.

  12. Neil Ulman Says:

    Here’s an example of when a “clear of the runway” call would have helped a lot: A plane (unannounced on downwind or base) cut in front of me on final. I pulled up to go around while the other plane headed down for the runway. Now he’s beneath me on the runway and I’m overhead. What’s he doing? Touch and go? Full stop? I’m craning my neck and dipping my wings to try to see him. A “clear of the runway” call would have got my heartbeat back to normal a lot faster.
    In addition to pattern calls I appreciate hearing taxi calls and and calls from aircraft entering or clearing the area. Who are you? (Knowing your type helps me estimate your speed.) Where are you? Climbing or descending? What are your intentions? If you’re out there, I want to hear it. You tell me your plan and I’ll tell you mine. But briefly, please.
    The problem isn’t too many calls; it’s too much verbiage per call. If we all used the voice format In AIM 4-1-9, we wouldn’t be bothering with this discussion. (My one suggestion for AIM is to eliminate the preposition “for” lest it be confused with the numeral ” four.” I can’t think of any situation in which the preposition “for” clarifies anything.)
    The other problem is discussion of the weather, fishing plans, how the new mags are running and other non-traffic information on the CTAF. Pilots who need to communicate that stuff can do so by switching to dedicated aircraft-to-aircraft frequencies.

  13. Ken Stallings Says:

    Bruce,

    On this one I suspect most pilots are going to say you are dead wrong, which unfortunately can be literally true if your harmful advice is taken. I rarely take such exception to advice handed out by AOPA staff, but this advice to omit taxi and clear of runway calls is terrible. I urge AOPA to print a retraction.

    Frequency congestion at uncontrolled airports is rarely a problem, and when it is it is far more often due to cross frequency congestion as airports within line of sight range use the same CTAF frequency.

    But there is a far greater problem on CTAF freqs and that is pilot using them for idle chit-chat having nothing at all to do with aircraft deconfliction. Eliminate that clearly unprofessional discussions before going after legitimate uses.

    Many times on final I have appreciated a pilot who landed ahead of me providing a clear of the runway call. Taxi calls are also helpful because it makes little sense to taxi to a runway in light winds only to realize once there that there are three aircraft in the opposite runway pattern! A quick taxi call can solve this by other pilots announcing their pattern entry knowing what runway is already being planned for use.

    Bad advice, Bruce. Very bad advice!

    Ken Stallings
    Commercial AMEL/ASEL

  14. David Sims Says:

    I stongly disagree with this article about reducing radio usage. I work for a non towered commercial service airport. We have had multiple close calls due to guys crossing runways without radio calls. How hard is it to see a small experimental aircraft is painted in camo a mile away? Give it a try once and let me know. Now there are ways to reduce the congestion without reducing the information. One is for pilots to use proper radio procedures, and know what they are going to say ahead of time. Pretend you are using your “airline captain” voice and sound professional when using the radio. Be brief about where you are and what you are doing. And for god sakes, quit using the phrase “any traffic please advise.” That phrase has never been in the AIM nor accepted by the FAA. If anyone was going to advise you, they would do it without your prodding.

  15. steve miller Says:

    Must agree with the detractors on this one. Suppose the operative point is “audio traffic congestion”, and when it is really a problem getting in the way of more significant information being sent. I’ve yet to find the day there wasn’t room for me to tell someone on short final…..that was there but I did not see….that I was about to cross his runway……So, like all audio transmissions I don’t step on my fellow pilots, but I think a timely call can prevent my heirs from wondering how I could have missed seeing that twin on final…..and I’m not offended in the least when someone I’ve seen a mile out tells me he is clear of runway 10…..maybe I just need to fly out of your airport to experience congestion on the ctaf to understand how safety could be advanced with a gag on calling in the blind…

  16. Ben Inglis Says:

    I respectfully disagree with Bruce’s advice, too. As others have said, it’s really the appropriateness and brevity of radio calls which need to be improved. For me, short, appropriate calls help provide a 3D picture to other pilots when they can’t necessarily keep everybody else in sight (because of congestion, a plane behind, etc.). Done right, radio calls alone ought to provide traffic separation. (Not that I’m advocating it!) But that would make a neat back-up for see and avoid.

  17. Dave Howard Says:

    I think this is a judgement call, and I would be very cautious about making suggestions contrary to “reccomendations” in the AIM. We all know that the AIM is not officially regulatory in nature, but it is more and more frequently being applied and used in a regulatory manner so I would rather err on the side of safety: too many calls are safer than too few. Yes it gets annoying at times, but not that often.

    As a flight instructor instructing European and Asian students in Arizona, where every towered airport – except Sky Harbor – has multiple flight schools and frequency congestion and bad calls (verbose, imprecise, unintelligable [Pan Am, Silver Bells and Sabena] and lacking important information) are a huge problem. My school has published company NOTAMS on several occasions in an attempt to improve communications. We have also worked closely with the AFTW (Arizona Flight Training Workgroup)a local work group composed of representative from many of the local flight schools, to share information and standardize procedures as much as possible.

    I have to deal with congested practice areas in addition to crowded, non-towered airports and crowded Class D airports, and the only reason accidents haven’t occured is large doses of luck (God protects idiots) and the instructors keeping their eyes outside – frequently at the expense of training.

    Several of our points:
    1) If you’re passing nearby but not landing at an uncontrolled airport, just monitor, I don’t want to hear that you’re transitioning 2000 feet above TPA.
    2) Don’t broadcast position reports on CTAF if you’re practicing manouvers near an uncontrolled airport. If you’re that close – get away!
    3) Figure out what you’re going to say THEN press the button and transmit, not vice/versa.
    4) When in the traffic pattern (including on the ground/runway) its important for other to know not just where you are but what you’re doing “Coolige traffic, 123AB taking off runway 23, closed traffic, Coolige.” or “Casa Grande traffic, 123AB, entering left downwind runway 5, full stop, Casa Grande.” Frequently there are multiple aircraft taxiing for fuel, take-off and taxi-backs, while there are multiple aircraft in closed traffic and still more practicing instument holds and approaches. This merely requires patience and precise communication.

    As soon as you get frustrated or angry, you cease to be professional, your judgement becomes impaired, and you start missing important procedures and information.

  18. Brian Says:

    Another useless call is “any traffic in the pattern please advise”. I understand the purpose but no one is required to advise and also it clutters up the air waves. I hear this way too much.

  19. George Horn Says:

    Bruce, as always, there’s never an “always” answer. Check out today’s AOPA newsletter, Volume 10, Issue 21 • May 23, 2008 , story about the Piper that landed upon the departing Stinson. If taxi-out/take-off radio calls had been issued and listened to… it probably never would have happened.
    http://www.aopa.org/epilot/redir.cfm?adid=15552
    and
    http://www.aopa.org/training/articles/2008/080521pilots.html

    According to AOPA: “In 2004 a Cessna 152 and a Cessna 172 Skyhawk collided on approach to Cincinnati West Airport in Harrison, Ohio. The two aircraft became locked together in flight at 300 feet agl and spiraled into a gravel pit. The pilots and a passenger in the Cessna 172 suffered serious injuries.

    And in 1999, a student pilot and her CFI survived a freak midair collision involving a Piper Cadet and a Cessna 152 in Plant City, Fla., Municipal Airport.”

    Talk… AND… LISTEN!

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  20. Shane Gorman Says:

    I also disagree with Bruce. I believe the purpose for all calls is to provide situational awareness to other pilots. As a CFI working at a busy uncontrolled airport I spend considerable time with primary students on what to say, when to say it and how to listen. Learning to use the radio is a challenge for most new students. Once they get somewhat comfortable with making calls they begin to learn how to listen and develop situational awareness by knowing where to look when they hear a position call and then finally to look without hearing a call, a very necessary skill. I instruct them to make all the calls that Bruce dislikes for the same reasons others have stated. At the same time using correct phrasing is key to keeping communications to a minimum and still providing situational awareness. For example, “Minden traffic Skyhawk 876 turning left base 34 Minden” gets in all the info in about 5 seconds. I have personally been in situations where not making one of these calls could have resulted in an incident. Rather than making these calls only when the situation demands I make them every time since it’s the times I don’t realize they’re needed that are most critical. It’s the calls for “airport advisory” that should be eliminated as the frequency for that info is published on the chart. The other frequency hog is “other traffic please advise” which would require two calls when the info is avaiable by simply listening to the CTAF. Thankfully I have never heard anyone respond unless it sounded like they were going to get run over if they didn’t.

  21. Steve Koontz Says:

    I have to disagree Bruce. I fly out of a non-towered GA airport with moderate traffic and two runways. When aircraft tell me they are “Clear of 18″ I can remove that person from my situational awareness. This allows me to concentrate on the other aircraft in the pattern and on the ground.

    The airport that has plenty of business aircraft, consequently type info it also very important. If I hear there is a citation on the ILS I will most likely extend my downwind to let them smoke down final and I’ll follow at a more leisurely pace. Plus it’s cool to watch those slick birds fly.

    Many of the bigger turbos choose to land on the bigger runways even when prevailing winds do not favor that runway. Therefore crossing runway information is also critical to safety. More then once I have announced crossing the bigger runway and the corporate guys take note and sometimes ask for me to notify when clear of the runway.

    I do agree that the 5 minute talkers with the AHHH’s in-between every word need to cut the chit chat. Short and sweet is all that is necessary but runway and taxiway positional reporting is necessary for everybody’s safety and situational awareness.

    Additionally, as Mr. Brown noted, I too fly in an area where more then one airport can be heard on 122.8 so the airport name before and after are also very important for traffic avoidance.

  22. Zach Falkenberry Says:

    I would have to disagree. I fly in the Atlanta area and with all the congestion at many of the airports here, I believe it is important to make your position known at all times to any traffic. You never know when that one pilot isn’t going to be paying attention and your radio call may save your life. Take for example, the two planes that landed on top of each other on the runway last week. Sure would have been nice if one of them would have heard that the other was clear of the runway.

  23. Paul Furnee Says:

    I agree. Too much talk that is not relevant to the situation degrades safety and causes “dead ears”. So much so that a many pilots talk, but don’t listen. Listening is more important than talking. We do not need to know every move or intended move (on the surface) on a clear VFR day.

    Position reporting while IN THE AIR and IN THE IMMEDIATE VICINITY of the airport is prudent. But announcing that you are overflying an airport at 5000 feet, or performing stalls 10 miles from the airport.is unnecessary rubbish. Proper, concise and accurate radio phaseology is also critical to effective position reporting.

    We have at least tne airports within radio range on the same frequency. On some weekend days, frequency congestion and being “stepped on” makes the CTAF unusable for any purpose.

  24. R Sylar Says:

    Mr.Landsbery,

    Having flown for many years at uncontrolled airports, i must say that “clear runway” and “other traffic..advise” reports are meaningful and comforting to a landing pilot, especially one that is severely overtaking a much slower and lower aircraft. The fact of the matter is that all planes that land don’t feel the urgency to clear the runway and some barely arrive. Many harmlessly float in on the numbers and taxi gingerly to midfield unaware of any impending danger building behind them. Due to a variety of circumstances, many times they are hard to stop and/or control upon touchdown(s), during which period NO ONE will/or should transmit any type of delay. Simple math will not tell you when to expect the guy in front of you to be clear. Furthermore he may be hard to visually discern at 2 miles until he turns off. Often there can be intermediate traffic between you and the cleared one and the transmission can help you rethink or identify other landing traffic.

    So far as CTAF radio congestion is concerned, we should strive to keep it brief but meaningful. Reports such as “fixo inbound” don’t mean much to VFR guys out for the day and should be translated to “Citation56J 5 mi final 16″ or whatever. Center doesn’t turn you loose any too soon to try to evaluate the VFR layer under the IFR system. “No reported traffic” should not mean much to the landing IFR pilot blasting out the soup. “This or that dam or ditch, Hiway or road” doesn’t mean much to visiting traffic and towers are even bad about that.

    Chit-chat i.e. “Dave is that you” or formation arrangements and positions can be taken to 122.75 (air- to-air freqs) and are provided for that purpose. it is quite annoying and can be impolite and unsafe as well. “12PA meet me 22.75 when able” is a polite way to handle these calls and take them when you are able.

    So far a taxiing out reports go at a cozy airport a pilot can fire up at his hanger, taxi out a minimal distance and prepare to takeoff from the opposite end unnoticed while you are on downwind. Various ends of the runway are favored for various reasons, even proximity to one’s hanger. “Taxiing out” is almost like saying I’m on the freq and haven’t heard anything prior to this transmission. It should not be considered as meaningless.

    I admit multiple and redundant reports congest the freqs but often times I hear unsure pilots, some training, but all ensuring that other traffic is well aware of their position, intentions or presence near or on the airport. Occasionally some of these reports are in error and several reports may be required to identify his/or her type, position and evaluate the potential for collision. Face it, some people aren’t good at it. It happens frequently . Listen to the series of reports and try to figure out your situational awareness. Often a language barrier exists where the transmitting pilot doesn’t understand transmissions out of the ordinary as well as they recite them.

    We are pilots (and students), operators of very complex machines. We are professionals; striving daily for Professionalism. We need to keep that in mind every time we are addressed, key the mike, hear a transmission, or radically change the traffic environment in which we are operating. A few extra calls are not going to upset me in my immediate area. Furthermore you can’t believe everything you read. A couple of weeks ago AOPA was extolling the virtue of leaning piston aircraft while climbing out to save fuel.

    Hopefully all of this discussion is positive and will enhance our safety. Ultimately INDIVIDUALS striving to operate their aircraft in A SAFE MANNER is the most important building block in a safe operating environment.

    We all appreciate the work that you and the ASF are doing in that area.

    Sincerely,
    R Sylar

  25. Cary Alburn Says:

    I fly out of KGXY, Greeley, CO, which has a busy student environment because of a couple of active flight schools and a complete set of instrument approaches. I agree that unnecessary chit-chat shouldn’t happen (like about whether the restaurant is serving after 3 or not), but I’d rather hear too much than too little. Even a student saying that he’s taxiing from the Aims ramp can be useful, if I’m taxiing back in, due to the lack of visibility around the hangar and ramp area.

    If one gets in the habit of not speaking because of some fear that what he says is unnecessary, he might not speak when he should. I had a near mid-air about a year ago when just that happened–a 182 on a practice ILS approach to 34 blasted right through the very active pattern for 9 unannounced, and although I had looked toward the ILS path when I entered downwind for 9, I hadn’t seen him. When I did see him, he was directly in front of me and I could count the rivets on the empannage, way too late to take any evasive action. Whether a proper announcement from him would have made a difference, I can’t say for certain, but had I known he was on the ILS, I suspect I’d have circled to delay my entry into the pattern.

    On the other hand, “any aircraft in the area” should go the way of the dodo bird! :)

  26. Louis Mancuso Says:

    I think the clear of the runway call should only use when it is likely the landing aircraft may not easily see you, such as at night, if there is terain issues, or if the visability is less than 3 miles.
    I think Brookhaven, Cessna downwind 33 Brookhaven and Brookhaven Cessna truning base Brookhaven and Brookhaven Cessna turning final Brookhaven would be just enough. If I am not 100 % sure I am the only plane on final I occasionally ad Brookhaven Cessna short final 33 Brookhaven. I also tend to come in a little high so my final approach has my nose pitched down for good visability. I also use a forward slip sometimes to double check that my final approach path is clear. If I am number one to land I make a tight pattern so I can make the runway if my engine quits. A tight pattern also helps reduce the chances someone will cut in front of you on final.
    If I am on an extended final with new student, I am extra vigilant in my scan for other planes that might be turning final inside me.
    I think the plane type is important to help tell if the plane turning base is a high wing or low wing, but I do not see the need for the N#
    I often observe during a check out, the talkative pilot is not the best looker or the best listener.
    I think we should teach #1 LOOK, #2 LISTEN, #3 Talk.

  27. Jerry Brooks Says:

    Surely you jest! I would have to disagree with your logic Bruce! Flying out of a non-towered airport where you cannot see all of the runway and taxiways would be quite dangerous if your announcement omissions were heeded. There are a lot of non-towered airports in this country (and many others) that one cannot see the opposite end of the departing runway or most of a crossing runway because of geographic features and trees. How am I to determine if an airplane is clear of the runway or either departing opposite direction if no advisory calls are made to assure other pilots of their position. Any pilot operarating at such an airport would be gambling with disaster and imminent re arranging and swappong of sheet metal in the middle of said runway if calls were ignored.
    Burce must be a flatlander……..

  28. Tom Irlbeck Says:

    Bruce,
    I agree with you Bruce!!! At least 90% of the time. If you are going to rely on someone telling you that they are clear of the runway, you’ve got your eyes closed. I fly out of a lot of bush strips, and there are a few on the Snake River that a clear of the runway is needed, but lets use some common sense on the other 99% of the runways. Depending on radio calls is writing your own eptaph. About 90% of my flying is out of uncontrolled airports, and after 49 years of flying I’ve heard just about any call imaginable. There are a few times that I recommend to my students to make taxi calls, at night, lots of lights around an airport, lots of traffic, what I’m saying is evaluate the airport and your position. Think, Think, Think!!! Don’t rely on some else to make you safe.
    Have fun, take your time, and enjoy your flying!!

    Tom and “Bear”

  29. David Reasner Says:

    I fly out of a fairly busy non-towered airport with a flight school, a few jets, but mostly single engine airplanes. The amount of traffic and radio clutter varies by weather and day of the week. I try to adjust my radio protocol accordingly (the judgement part). I do not routinely announce my taxi to the runway, but that would change if I turned the corner from my hanger and the taxiways were crowded or complicated (e.g., banner towing). I regularly announce when I am clear of the runway when the spacing for the plane behind me on final is tight. Short final is a busy time and I appreciate a call. (The timing of the call can tell you when to confirm the plane’s position.) Another example is an airport where I fly regularly with a 5,000 ft runway, two parallel taxiways, and 10 runway exits. With traffic in the pattern behind you, I appreciate a call so I can plan my landing.

    David

  30. Mauro Giacomet Says:

    The really issue with frequency “congestion” is THE frequency. There is not a good geographical distribuiton of 122.8, i.e., a lot of airports near each other all using the same frequency. 123.0 is also a CTAF, but that is somewhat rare.

    The solution is for someone to put some effort, look at the charts and enforce:
    1. Use more of 123.0
    2. Spread 122.8 and 123.0 evenly (geographically)

  31. Brian Lansburgh Says:

    Bruce,
    Hooray, at last someone recognizes the silliness of the overused “clear of the active” call. Thanks. Now we need to change AOPA’s stance on “Other traffic advise” . This one is actually useful under many conditions. Thanks for all you do and I hope you eventually figure out how to spell your name.
    Regards,
    Brian Lansburgh

  32. Ron Reese Says:

    People… Let’s use some common sense here… There will NEVER be a ‘one size fits all’ agreement amongst pilots.. And likewise, there will never be just one right way to use the CTAF.. But we could use a dose of common sense.. So let’s see if we can agree on some issues…
    1.. For those airports where the departure end of ALL runways are not visible, announcements that an aircraft is clear of the runway might be adviseable. Might be is the operable word here.
    2.. Announcing that you are departing on a runway is also recommended.. And it doesn’t take but a few seconds to say, “At Skyport, Piper 12345 departing 32 to the north.”
    3.. Pattern announcements are also good but should be brief.. I endorse using the aircraft type because we all know the speed differences and can make allowances.. I own a Bonanza and I want to know if I’m following a C-172 or a C-210.. It makes a difference.. But all that needs to be said is, “At Skyport, Bonanza 12345 left downwind, 32.”

    Now here’s what doesn’t need to be said..
    1.. That you are taxiing to the runway.. Not taking the runway for departure, but that you are leaving the ramp and driving to the runup area.. This is no joke, I actually heard this at an airport near Huntsville AL.. (Madison County Unicom, Citabria 12345 with you taxiing from the T Hangars to the active runway) To this day, I still laugh at the absurdity of that transmission..
    2.. Multiple calls on the CTAF when you’re the ONLY plane at the airport.. How useless is it to make the same crosswind, downwind, base and final calls when there is no one else flying at your airport.. I hear this a lot down here in Florida.. If there’s no one around, it’s time to shut up and listen..
    3.. Asking for traffic advisories when you are far from the airport.. I once heard a C-152 ask for traffic advisories for the Rome GA airport when he was 32 miles away. 32 miles!! By the time he got to the airport, anyone in the pattern when he made the first call was at home eating dinner.!
    4.. Making continuous calls on the CTAF that you are approaching the airport. Again, I once heard a C-210 make calls starting at 12 miles and every mile thereafter that he was approaching an airport. That was a seperate radio call almost every 20 seconds. At 8 miles I politely asked him to stop it!
    5.. That you are clear of the only runway at an airport that has only one runway when the entire airport environment is visible from both ends of the airport.. At my home airport, Wauchula, we only have one 4000 ft runway… You can see the entire airport from any vantage point.. And quite frankly, most airports that I’ve seen in my 39 year flying career qualify to be in this category..

    So again, folks, let’s use some common sense when using the radio.. Let’s rid ourselves of all this ‘over talk’ and try some brevity. And while we’re at it, there’s one more item that we can kill in this process as we talk about radio procedure and that’s the totally useless phrase of “With You.”

  33. Paul vanderveen Says:

    I agree with Bruce — I have long thought that the “clear of active” was overkill and I generally don’t do it, although I’ve felt a little guilty not doing it because so many do. I do believe you need to use your aircraft type when announcing — if there are 3 planes in the pattern it helps to figure out if you really are following the one you think you are (a Mooney vs. a Cessna is quite obvious). I do disagree with the post that says you shouldn’t make the calls at each leg when nobody’s at the airport. The frequency is not congested if you’re the only one, and there may well be somebody coming in or getting ready to leave who’s monitoring the frequency — it is nice to know there’s a plane in the pattern and where they. It also often helps because you’ll know what runway’s in use and how to plan your approach.

  34. Marissa LaCoursiere Says:

    I trained at Skyhaven in Rochester, NH. I was taught to use “Clear of 15″ because it is impossible to see the other end of the runway when you’re sitting on the numbers waiting to take off. My having to wait for you to turn to a place that I can see you wastes my time and anyone else’s who’s behind me. Instead of “clear of active” state that you are “clear of #” it lets everyone know which runway is active and that the next person can take off (or land) safely.

    As for the “Ahhh’s” find out who’s using it, it’s probably a student. Did you have clear, concise calls every time you flew in your first 100 hours? Do you have clear, concise calls every time you fly in your 1000th hour? There will always be sometime that something comes up and breaks your concentration for a split second while transmitting. It may even be trying to avoid that aircraft that didn’t make a call and suddenly appeared!

  35. Vince Giampa Says:

    All of this discussion and the variety of opinions, many of which are valid and justified by their authors, seem to add validity to the argument that the FAA needs to re-examine what is appropriate today, and standardize appropriate phraseology at this critical phase of flight.

    Everyone has an opinion, but the FAA has the responsibility! Discussions like this and the involvement of the ASF can go a long way in making this happen.

  36. Cast Sail Says:

    In response to the poster who proposed… “The ‘N’ number of the other A.C. adds nothing to safe and/or expeditious sequencing of A.C.s going in to the airport.”

    I disagree.

    Example: In the 1999 midair collision involving a Piper Cadet and a Cessna 152 in Plant City, FL, the pilot of the Piper stated that he saw “the Cessna” shortly before landing. “I heard him call downwind, then base leg, and he said he ‘had the Cessna in sight’…but there were two Cessnas in the pattern that day.”
    http://www.aopa.org/members/files/pilot/epilot/991224epilot.html

    Providing the type along with the N number, or at least a shortened version of the N number, seems like a good practice to potentially reduce the occurrences of this failure mode (a pilot confusing two or more aircraft of the same type).

  37. Alan Williams Says:

    Bruce,

    Believe you are wrong. Didn’t the Stinson and the Piper in TX show us anything. You assume that the pattern is full for ghost rider and that making reasonable calls is a hinderance. The “taxing to” call is a god sent for those inbound so they can plan ahead of time which runway local traffic is planning to use. There is no “Cleared the active” except at towered airports where there is an active. “Cleared runway xx ” lets people who may not otherwise see that you are out of the way. Imagine the events in TX several weeks ago if the Stinson had made a taxi or on the runway call. Maybe the Piper would have made it to the tarmac. All this jabber about cutting down on radio traffic. Why not turn off the radios and go back to the 30′s. Of course the accident rate was >50 per 100,000 compared to today’s 6.xx. But the pattern would be quieter! If you want to quiet things down, focus on those who treat unicom as there own private cell phone. Can’t count the number of times I’ve learned to rebuild a car engine or heard all about last night’s big game while trying to say where I was comming from. Even worse when they’re not even at the same airport. How about quieting the pattern by getting the FAA to spread out the unicom frequency overlap. They and the FCC made us to go 760 channel radios, why do we still have to use 360 channel frequencies for unicom>

  38. TJ Jones Says:

    Instead of “clear of the active” how about “clear of rwy 25″? When another airplane is inbound and just tunes in, and hears 25, at least they know which runway is probably in use. If you’re gonna key up, us the syllables for something useful.
    As for “other aircraft in the area please advise”…each time I hear that i am thinking, “I plan to, just as soon as you shut up”. Pilots hear a position report and anyone with any common sense will make their position known, as a response to the one they just heard–without prompting.
    Another waste of 5 syllables on the air, “approximately”. It’s all approximate, we know that, so don’t waste the air time.
    The radio is supposed to be an aid, a lot of new pilots are putting it first, ahead of flying the airplane. Please remind your students–Aviate, Navigate, then Communicate.

  39. Bruce Landsberg Says:

    Great discussion. Well reasoned differences of opinion and the main idea is not to swap paint.

    You’ll be pleased to know that late this yearor early next ASF will be doing an online program on this topic of communications. It’s based on seminar we did last year called “Say it Right.”

    Perhaps we should survey the blog responders and a few thousand other pilots for their thoughts on some of these hot communication issues.

    Thanks for the response – pro or con. Keeps us thinking…..

  40. Don Eck Says:

    I agree that the “clear of runway” calls are probably unnecessary whenever you’re in plain view, especially in daytime on single runway airports.

    But I disagree about the “taxi out” call. When there’s no one in the pattern, it “sets the stage”, by allowing anyone listening to know what runway is about to be used, especially in the ambiguous situations when the wind is either calm or a direct cross wind. It also alerts other aircraft on the surface to the presence of aircraft that might not be visible.

    One easy way to clean up congestion is to eliminate the unnecessary, (and completely unrecommended), “radio check” calls. I don’t know where this practice started, but in 15 years of Part 121 flying, I NEVER heard the pratice by any pilot, at any carrier. If you can hear the ASOS/AWOS/ATIS, or anyone on the CTAF frequency, then your receiver’s functional, and you can hear other aircraft make their calls. The only possible justification for this procedure is when departing IFR in IMC from an uncontrolled field that doesn’t have an RCO or GCO.

    Paragraph 4-2-2 of the AIM addresses Radio Technique. The very first sentence is simple: LISTEN. The information you seek is frequently already there.

  41. Don McLean Says:

    Too much traffic on CTAF is a problem in California. I hear calls for several airports on busy days, many are 50 to 100 miles away. Less traffic, and shorter calls would help. I really think it helps to say your airport at the beginning and end of each call, however. Those pilots who are in the Citation landing at Truckee and requesting the rental car need to realize they are sending their message to dozens of airports in a 100 mile radius.

  42. T. Florie Says:

    The explosion in “radio checks” at uncontrolled airports in likely due to a popular aftermarket “checklist” publisher including it on their checklist.

    I would also like to encourage commercial operators (charter operators, in particular) to conduct their administrative business via alternate means rather than on the CTAF. In most cases, no one needs to know exactly how much fuel you want to buy or exactly how many passengers you are going to pick up.

    Here is one that I heard recently: “Maintown unicom, this is charter flight 711. We are 15 minutes out. We’ll be there in 15 minutes. (Imagine that!!!) And we require no services.” (No doubt, the crew must have thought that the FBO needed 15 minutes to get prepared to provide no service!!!)

  43. Bruce Landsberg Says:

    In re-reading some of the posts, there were a few who may have overlooked some of my qualifying remarks. So here are a few clarifications and dissenting views are always appreciated – even been known to change my mind occasionally.

    1. The Stinson/Cherokee accident is in preliminary stages and I am always hesitant to comment on those – been wrong too many times. A departure announcement is always appropriate and provides typically a 20- 30 second warning that one is about to take flight on a particular runway. A ramp departure announcement is less valuable to me but if it works for you —OK. At most airports one can usually pick up a pattern announcement to determine which runway is being used by most pilots.

    2. Clearing the runway announcements is also recommended when the ends of the runway or the intersections are not visible due to terrain or foliage, at night, or in IMC.

    3. Many of you agreed that the appropriate radio communication was essential to collision avoidance – we agree and the reason all this isn’t in a part 91 rule is that there are many variables when operating non-towered.

    Again — thanks to all….

  44. Jack Silva Says:

    At a boy Bruce. I’m sure glad somebody is talking about radio congestion. I agree with the excess anouncements at uncontrolled field. I also may add that there is way too much chatter at controled fields. Its getting crazy. I use the AIM guide for my radio communications, and only read back anyghing with the word hold. I was at Long Beach airport one day and a very frustrated controller said ” why are you guys all stepping on each other” ? I felt like saying ” because they are reading back everything includeing what they had for lunch”. Another pet peave is the pilot wasteing radio time by saying ” ABC approach, request”. Hello ! do you think the controller figures you just called him for the heck of it, or maybe you called him because you have a request in mind. The controller will handle the guy who is brief much quicker. Try it. If the controller is really busy I’ll throw my A/C number out to him. If he’s not too busy, I’ll shoot him the whole request right away and will usually get a quit approved as requested or something similar.. J. Silva

  45. Jon K Kummen Says:

    We live on a small residential private airstrip east of Seattle. According to the AIM we found that a private not for public use airstrip could use 122.85 instead of 122.90 as our airstrip frequency. This was instigated by AIRNAV which advertized our frequency incorrectly as 122.95. They would not change even though AIM regs. do not apply and insisted that they got their information from the FAA. We finally got it changed (years!) only to now find out now that the FAA does not want us to use 122.85 (” verify that you have changed the freq.”) because the FAA is changing the AIM regarding private use not for public use airstrips. Check it out. This has been very frustrating when private entities (AIRNAV) a) will not check the regs. (122.95) and b), the FAA will not allow use of a frequency . What happened to the FCC? So much for wanting to use a frequency that seemed to be little used and available to our situation.

  46. John Cosby Says:

    Announcing aircraft type has been valuable to me. As a soloing student, I was overflying KFDK at 2500 (per the instructions the instructors drilled into me) and announced, also per their SOP, “Frederick traffic, Cessna 331 over the field at 2500 maneuvering for the 45 for 23, Frederick.” Five seconds later, a Bonanza announced he was east of the field, descending from 2500 to pattern altitude for the 45 for 23. Looking around, I could see a Citabria, another Cessna, and a Piper, but no Bananza. He and I continued to announce location until we finally had eyeballs on each other – I joined the 45 ahead of him, and after we landed we met at the fence and chatted. He’d seen my landing lights in the haze (another good idea for pattern areas), and I’d checked off other planes but kept looking until I saw a Bonanza. We talked more than either of us really wanted to, but we were both heading for the same spot in the sky (over the Frederick landfill) and REALLY didn’t want to spoil our days.
    The flight school there teaches scripts to their students, and I think those scripts are valuable. It gives a framework for people to work through (and hopefully cuts some of the “aaah, ummm” off the air) and ensures the AIM framework is followed, so we can all be good aerial citizens wherever we fly.

  47. jon wood cfi Says:

    keep in mind ,these calls are in the blind. we need to know where an a/c is in the air. not information that he is not in the air.TAIL NO. clearing type info. does not help another pilot who has not kept up with tail numbers. Did that come out right?

  48. Joe Myers Says:

    Bruce,

    I fly out of a busy, non-towered airport (KPUW) and I hear a lot of pilots report that they “have you in sight”, or that they are “number three for landing”, etc. Statements like these could lead to a sad misunderstanding of the actual situation in the pattern. What is your opinion?

  49. Rick Clark Says:

    Everytime I hear “clear of the active” I want to say “yeah, so am I”. But I control myself ;-)

    BTW, I love KPUW. Go Cougs!

  50. Mark Hutchins Says:

    There wouldn’t be as much frequency congestion if each airport had a discreet frequency.

    At my airport there are at least 5 other airports with the same frequency that can be heard….. It is not the broadcasting of position or intentions… although, to be sure, there can be cases of “too much information”….. let’s get each nontowered airport their own frequency.

    My runway has a hump in it….so it is good to know when someone is clear of the holdline at midfield.

    If the number of operations at an airport like Frederick, Maryland are becoming a problem, then maybe it should have a tower.

  51. safety signs Says:

    safety signs…

    I have to admit that anything to do with ghosts and hauntings and…

  52. Dean Gibson Says:

    Leaving the aircraft ID off is not only technically illegal, but means that if someone wants to ask you a question (like “say again”), they have to repeat part of what you said; eg, “aircraft which said, ‘on downwind at Frizzbee’, say again’”.

    The rest are judgment calls. Eg, if you make a “downwind” call and don’t hear anyone else on the freq. at your airport, the other calls are probably unnecessary. On the other hand, if there are several other aircraft operating around/on the airport, additional calls might be necessary. It’s an issue of positional and operational awareness. The overwhelming rule is, “keep it succinct”.

  53. Brad Moore Says:

    Excellent discussion. I fly an Aeronca 7AC Champ and my biggest fear near busy airports is being run over by faster aircraft! I let traffic know concisely where I am and what I’m going to do and otherwise I just listen and try to stay out of the way! I will say that on the 4th of July weekend I announced my intention to taxi across the east end of runway 9 from the hanger. As I was about to announce “clear” I looked to my left to see an AT-6 at eye level climbing out behind me on 9. He never announced his intention to taxi, take the runway, depart, or whatever. I didn’t know he was anywhere around. Did he hear me? Was it a close call? Were my calls superfluous? I have flown in an AT-6 and I suspect he never saw me as the vision over the nose is notoriously poor on takeoff. I don’t know if he heard me. All I know is I never heard a word from him and it would have been safer or at least a courtesy if I had.

  54. Joe Marley Says:

    My own common sense says CTAF is a limited, unsaveable resource.

    When traffic is very light, I tend to be more verbose on radio calls of all kinds. As CTAF traffic load increases, I abbreviate or don’t transmit messages, from the least important to the most important.

    For example, if I’m the only guy around I very well may announce crosswind when doing touch-and-goes. Add another aircraft or two to the radio traffic, and I’ll quickly omit that leg of the patten to give them more space for their announcements.

    My theory is that when the chatter is missing, the extra calls (or verbage) may help a silent observer to find me : or at least to be aware that I exist. When traffic is heavy, though, all the non-essentials need to go just to give the other traffic chance to give their essentials.

    Last I heard, it was called “sharing”.

  55. John Winston Says:

    Yes, please keep all transmissions relevant and brief. No answer doesn’t mean no traffic. Never assume all the aircraft at a non-towered (formerly called “uncontrolled”) have a radio.

    Pilots of Cubs, Champs, Gliders, Ultralights, etc. with no electrical system may not be able to easily use a handheld radio. So SEE and AVOID, and never assume the airplanes you are communicating with paint the entire picture around your airport.

    Stop asking “Traffic in the area, please advise.” The AIM says this call is NOT recognized as valid and “should not be used under any condition” (read your AIM section 4-1-9, paragraph G.) Just because one pilot replies doesn’t mean there aren’t 6 other aircraft in the area. Never trust a Unicom report from a person on the ground inside the FBO. LOOK at the darn windsock and don’t trust AWOS for wind reports either, especially out west where thermal updraft inflows can swing the windsock for a minute or two in another direction from the prevailing wind. Circle the airport above the pattern altitude and take a look at wind and traffic yourself. (You might see an “X” on a runway as well if you haven’t checked NOTAMS.) YOU are the PIC and therefore must figure out the wind on your own, or confirm what someone else told you. It is your decision, so never let another pilot or FBO person play ATC with you at a non-towered airport.

    Assume there ARE no radio aircraft and always yield right-of-way to gliders and the towplanes towing a glider, unless you are on fire. See FAR 91.113.

    Never cut off a glider in the pattern. Rude, dangerous and a violation of FAR’s.
    Note that gliders may be using a right-hand pattern. Only airplanes are required to fly left-hand patterns at non-towered airports. FAR 91.126(b) (Class G airports.)

    Please briefly report your heading, intentions and your altitude MSL. Never set an altimeter to zero feet unless that is the field elevation of the airport (Florida Keys?)

    Gotta go fly my glider now. Watch for me, and yield right-of-way.

  56. Lee Allen Says:

    Bruce: You are right on in this matter. God gave us two eyes for a reason, utilize them. You as the PIC are responsible for keeping clear of other aircraft while taxiing out, so just do it! It creates nothing but frequency congestion, which we all know is way too much. This says nothing about the guy who has no electrical system, thus no radio, so pay attention folks. And everyone needs to read AIM 4-1-9g, “traffic in the area please advise” is not to be used under any conditions. You are the PIC, so act like one!

  57. Chris Marz Says:

    Bruce:

    Position and intentions provide a lot of information for our use. Most can plot the next 10 min of the other pilots location with that data.

    Adjusting to conditions will tailor the length and detail of the call above min. req.

    Past experance in tight spaces, poor vis with additional aircraft at same alt have lead to additional info like “North side of the Hwy over the church”. The other guy knew just were to look.

    Local porocedures lead to other amusing reporting points. ie Southern Seaplane in NO has calls such as “float plane XYZ at the bridge over the cannal, in bound. We all know were that is and can judge how fast and at what alt.

    Use the tools you have to fit the conditions at hand.

  58. Bob H. Says:

    From ePIlot 7/25:

    “A departing aircraft is expected to self-announce “before taxiing and before taxiing on the runway for departure.”

    Are you on the same page over there? Expected? Recommended? Or none of the above on taxi. I vote for the latter. Good grief!

  59. Bare Says:

    A bit belated here, but the pilot announcing that he was using a different runway than was indicated by ASOS would tell me he was practicing Xwind landings. I do this quite often at one of our local airports where the long runway is 24/6, but it’s quite likely you’ll have a wind out 05 340 at 20 G 30. The preferred runway at that point is 35. I still use 24 or 6 to give my students their Xwind practice. If the other guys (not much traffic there) want to use 35, I’ll give them room. They know I’m there if they are using there radio.
    And not all traffic patterns at non-towered airports are left hand. The one I’m referring to isn’t and there are several others in this area that aren’t.

  60. Harry Cool Says:

    In my opinion it is safer to speak up than not say anything. Yes, pilots are supposed to be looking (and listening also). Just because you are looking for something does not mean you will see it! Happens a lot.

  61. Bill Stein Says:

    Am I the only person who does not know the meaning of the word “next”? At two different airfields during landing rollout and taxiing to a takeoff runway, I was approaching a taxiway when the controller directed me to “take the next taxiway”. I proceeded past the immediate taxiway to the following taxiway. Both times, the controllers expressed disappointment when I proceeded to the following taxiway and did not turn onto the taxiway nearest me. To me, if tomorrow is Friday, next Friday is a week later. Likewise, a taxiway. The controller should have directed me to turn onto a lettered/numbered taxiway vice calling out the next taxiway. The latter would have eliminated any misunderstanding.

  62. Andrew Says:

    LOL
    that doesn’t even make any sense!

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