Visibility: undetermined
Temperature: 19°C
QNH: 1013hPa
Location: subway
Equipment: the mighty iPhone

I am listening to American 142 heavy being cleared for take-off from runway 31 right by New York departure control. A Boeing 777-200 from JFK to London Heathrow. I understand about every other word of the fast exchange of information, carried out by trained professionals with a lot of routine on a less than clear connection.

The voices in my head are thousands of miles and half a dozen time zones away and are brought to me by on the mighty iPhone. LiveATC is a free service that lets you listen in on ATC, the Air Traffic Control.


I am working on my radio license at the moment. Every pilot has to have one of several levels of radio licenses in order to be able to participate in the elaborate system of communication in the air. With my sports pilots license I only had a small section of the theory test to cover radio communication. With this limited radio license I can not fly into the controlled airspace of larger airports.

Now I have to get the next license because flying in controlled airspace is part of the requirements for the private pilots license I am working on.

The trick of the efficient radio communication is standardization. There is only a limited number of things I can communicate to ATC. For this I have to use standardized phrases in a standardized order. If everybody knows what can be said, it is much easier to understand what is being said. This makes possible the rapid exchange of information despite interferences on the radio.

For a low time student, this means practice, practice, practice…

To be continued…


(originally posted on February 20, 2012 by tilbo at

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