However, these ideas don’t get the student past the fear of the scary voice on the other end of the radio. Schedule an appointment with the tower and go visit the scary monsters that live up there. Students often find that the scary monsters are really just regular people who care about helping you through your flight experience.
Will Dryden is the president and founder of Coast Flight Training. He is a career instructor with both Master Flight Instructor and Gold Seal CFI designations. Dryden founded Coast (iflycoast.com) with the focus of breaking aviation flight training paradigms. He says:
The perfect way to reduce students’ anxiety about radio communication is to start by explaining to them that the air traffic controller they’re talking to is most likely wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt and sipping a cup of joe. He or she is no one to be afraid of. The job of the ATC is to keep the pilots safe and help them when they have questions.
A common mistake instructors make is telling students that ATC radio calls have to be perfect and in a particular order. Instead, the instructors should encourage students and be positive. And while instructors should initially avoid fixing their students’ communication mistakes, it’s important that the students can rest assured that the instructor is there to back them up and can finish the call for them, in case they are having trouble.
Here are some simple steps to improve students’ radio calls:
• Let the student talk on discrete pilot-to-pilot frequencies, without the pressure of talking to a controller. Have the student call “in the blind” to get used to hearing his or her own voice in the headsets.
• Use a full-motion simulator with an intercom system to practice radio calls under simulated circumstances.
• Prior to each flight, go over what needs to be said to the controllers during airport operations by role-playing until the student is comfortable with the wording.
• Teach the student to anticipate what communication is coming and how to respond to or initiate it.
• For some students, it helps to let them write down exactly what to say on a cheat sheet, but this technique should really only be done during their first couple of flights.
Air traffic controllers talking fast can be intimidating, creating a psychological “mountain” for the student. Reminding students that they’re just talking to that guy in the Hawaiian shirt can generally ease a lot of the pressure, and identifying themselves as a “student pilot” will alert the ATC to give them the extra attention they need and deserve.
Send reader mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 8500, Winter Park, FL 32789.