February 07, 2022
Have you ever needed to talk to ATC but had to wait in line because another pilot was asking the controller to “say again?” We all know those situations can be frustrating, but if you have been a pilot for any length of time, odds are you have either spoken these words yourself or heard them from ATC (probably more than once).
The FAA pilot/controller glossary defines the phrase “say again” in the following manner: “Used to request a repeat of the last transmission. Usually specifies a transmission or portion thereof not understood or received; e.g., ‘Say again all after ABRAM VOR.’”
There is more than one reason you could need to request a repeat of the last transmission. Some of the most common situations that prompt a communications breakdown and need for “say again” include:
“Say again” is not a phrase reserved solely for pilots to use. You may also hear it directed to you from ATC for similar reasons. Perhaps you spoke too quickly or used nonstandard verbiage. A poorly positioned microphone or faulty radio can also garble communications.
In a busy airspace, it is easier to accidentally walk on another transmission. If someone cuts into your message, the controller will ask you to “say again.” Depending on the airfield or airspace, the controller could be juggling the needs of aircraft across multiple channels. If you transmit a detailed message before the controller has acknowledged you and told you to “go ahead,” they may be speaking with another aircraft and not be ready to copy your transmission. In this case, you are setting yourself up for a “say again” response.
Although odds are we will all need to use “say again” at some point, there is good news. You have the power to improve your ATC communication and decrease the need for “say again” by taking the following actions:
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