For most pilots, communicating with ATC is not a skill that comes naturally or comfortably at first. Rather, communication skills are gained through hands-on experience and countless hours of practice. Traditionally a good bulk of that training takes place during flight lessons, but if you want to get over your radio nerves faster, there is a secret: schedule in some dedicated comms training.
This dedicated comms training is important for several reasons including:
Effective radio communication is a safety necessity. In a high-stress emergency, time and details matter. It is vitally important to have the ability to quickly and effectively communicate with ATC.
Through practice, pilots can develop “muscle memory” with their communication skills so that even in an emergency, their training takes over. They can simply, efficiently and effectively communicate with ATC without stressing about what to say and how to say it.
A solid grasp on the particulars of comms is also important because misunderstandings or miscommunication with ATC has resulted in pilots taking a dangerous action like inadvertently landing on an incorrect runway or making an unauthorized and fatal turn into the path of an unseen aircraft.
Dedicated training and practice will help to make radio use second nature and mitigate these communications safety concerns.
None of us want to be “that guy” always having to ask ATC to “say again” because we cannot keep up. That said, when you first start learning, the pace at which comms traffic takes place can feel far too fast to grasp. There may also be certain comms scenarios that do not come up during your flight lessons. If you have not been devoting dedicated time to training, you could be caught off-guard and unsure what to say when you encounter such a situation in real life.
It takes a lot of flight time to build up a pilot’s competence in comms, so speed up that process by logging some extra hours of dedicated comms training in between flights.
Learning one new skill at a time is challenging enough. Add multiple new skillsets layered on top of one another, and it becomes harder to really focus on and perfect the details of each. When you are up in the air doing your flight training, much of your focus is on flying the airplane, as it should be. Comms may take a backseat.
Investing time on dedicated comms training allows pilots to put all their focus on learning the ins and outs of communications without also juggling flying at the same time. The next time you are back in the cockpit, your on-air traffic will be that much smoother for having spent dedicated training time polishing it.
There is a saying the “confidence comes after,” and that certainly proves true when it comes to radio communications. When they are first starting out, many pilots are uncertain, tentative, and even apprehensive about the need to communicate with ATC. The more practice and experience you have, the more comfortable and confident you will feel about getting on the radio. Employing a dedicated ground-based comms practice plan helps to take you from nervous new pilot to confident seasoned professional much faster.