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Flight Emergency Communications Management: Building Muscle Memory

Flight Emergency Communications Management: Building Muscle Memory

Aug 11, 2020

Emergency situations in flight are rare but not uncommon, and a lack of training can lead to catastrophic events.  As a pilot, you are required to know how to conduct emergency procedures for the type of aircraft you are flying.

However, most pilots do not practice these procedures often enough to instill the muscle memory it takes to react without hesitation. Admittedly, the live practice of emergency procedures can be dangerous.  Nonetheless, there are ways to ensure these processes become second nature.

It takes time and practice to develop muscle memory and become an expert at a particular task. Malcolm Gladwell published Outliers in 2008, which discusses how only a few are able to achieve greatness. The New York Times bestseller was based on the research of Anders Ericsson. Ericsson and Gladwell concluded that it takes around 10,000 hours of practice to master a particular skill.

Based on the 10,000 Hour Rule, It would take you 90 minutes of practice every day for next 20 years to develop the muscle memory needed to become an expert in radio communications.

Luckily, becoming a great pilot doesn’t end when you get your license. Being a pilot is a life long skill and requires hours of studying and practice. One vital skill that all pilots should strive to develop is the muscle memory for emergency flight communications.

During a crisis, it can be easy to allow panic to set in. However, if you take the time to develop the muscle memory to make the radio calls correctly, you stand a greater chance of coming out of the dilemma unscathed.

Practice Emergency Flight Calls

practice communicating with atc

Practicing emergency flight calls will significantly increase your ability to remain calm under pressure if and when an emergency situation arises after take-off.

Establishing active communication links between Air Traffic Control (ATC) and the pilot is essential to the safety of everyone in the air and on the ground below. The FAA has developed standardized basic radio operating procedures that ATC and aviators are required to follow.

Having a systematic radio communication language and terminology reduces misunderstood messages and radio traffic congestion, and it creates a safer environment for all. By standardizing the emergency communications procedure, pilots and ground crew effectively communicate and reduce the chances of an accident.

Although emergency procedures are standardized, failure to actively convey the situation in the air to the ground crew has to lead to incidents on numerous occasions. This is why it is essential to develop muscle memory for making the proper radio calls.

Simulated Radio Calls

Aviation Radio Simulator ARSim by PlaneEnglish helps you practice radio calls outside the cockpit, and the app gives you instantaneous feedback on your performance. It also enables the pilot to build proficiency in in-flight radio terminology. It is a great resource for anyone who needs to rehearse emergency flight calls.

ARSim provides five practical lessons that will help you master critical aviation skills. The interactive lessons help develop muscle memory for emergency communications without putting yourself or the aircraft in any danger.

Simulate to Stimulate: Flight Simulator Training  

Professional airline pilots often conduct emergency procedure training in a controlled environment. A flight simulator will help develop muscle memory with scenario-based training.

Combining ARSim lessons with a simulated flying environment is a great way to reinforce your communication muscle memory.   

Since we don’t all have access to professional flight simulators, there are other alternatives. Xplane 11 Flight Simulator offers one of the most realistic flying experiences you can get without breaking the bank. It is a flight simulator software that can be installed on your PC or gaming system.

This can be an invaluable resource to prepare new pilots for real-world situations. This approach enables users to conduct hands-on flying while practicing radio communications phraseology in a controlled environment.

The simulator is easy to use, and external PC flight controls can be added. It also comes pre-loaded with several models of aircraft that are equipped with realistic flight characteristics. To enhance the experience, the operator can choose from a variety of scenarios, locations, and flight conditions.

 Many aviation enthusiasts use X-Plane to keep their skills sharp. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has seen the benefits of exercising your muscle memory for emergency procedures in a simulated environment. The FAA stated, “Flight simulation software on your home computer or personal electronic device can also help you practice handling a variety of malfunctions and failures.”

Flying is much more mental than physical, and it requires confidence to command an aircraft. Most pilots gain confidence through their experience and practice. Still, the greatest aviators spend the time to create the muscle memory needed to act when danger arises.

There are several excellent resources that can be combined to enhance your learning and help you prepare for a scenario that may one day save your life.