What can an instructor do to help ease the anxiety of a student pilot who is having trouble with talking on the radio?
Tim Busch has been involved in aviation education for more than 20 years. He is a Master CFI and the president of Iowa Flight Training. A self-proclaimed aviation evangelist, Busch is also the president of the nonprofit Iowa Aviation Promotion Group (flyiowa.org) and an FAA FAASTeam representative. He says:
It is understandable when a student gets mic fright while listening to the fast-paced banter between a controller and an experienced pilot for the first time. I have also seen that some students who start at tower-controlled airports fear the nontowered environment because “there is no one to tell me what to do!” But there are many methods to reduce mic fright.
To get started, the instructor should provide a set of examples, in print, for each basic scenario the student will be expected to communicate. Common wording for ATIS or AWOS, clearance to taxi, clearance for takeoff, transitioning to departure control, calling approach control, clearance for landing, etc. can be written out on laminated cards for easy reference. These cards, with an erasable marker, go a long way to ease the communication learning curve.
Next, it helps to listen to air-to-ground communication. There are several options for listening, including purchasing a radio scanner and hanging out at the airport while watching the activity, or in many cases, the student can listen on the Internet via liveatc.net and its team of volunteer contributors. Many airports are now listed on LiveATC.
Another way to help ease the transition is simulating communications. This can be a great deal of fun in a classroom setting, where the instructor plays the part of ATC and the students each have queue cards, each with an aircraft N-number and a simulated flight requiring communications. The students will quickly learn situational awareness of other aircraft while increasing their comfort level.