When new student pilots first begin training, one task that can cause trouble is speaking to air traffic control over the radio. It takes practice and experience to learn the specific phraseology used on aviation communication frequencies, and many students can experience “mic fright” when it comes time to answer ATC instructions or properly communicate intentions.
To help new student pilots, certificated pilots who may experience pause when keying the mic, or non-current pilots who just want to keep their radio-comm skills sharp, an app has been developed by PlaneEnglish called ARSim to provide very specific training to learn how to communicate like a pro, for both VFR and IFR radio calls.
Platinum Cirrus standardized instructor pilot (CSIP) and host of the Aviation News Talk podcast, Max Trescott, confirmed that like many CFIs, he occasionally experiences new student pilots who struggle when first learning radio comms. “While some student pilots are afraid to talk with ATC, an even bigger issue is that most pilots, regardless of experience level, have room to improve their radio skills,” he said.
PlaneEnglish was founded in 2018 by three Purdue University graduates who saw a need to provide a better way to learn aviation radio communications. Muharrem Mane, Eren Hadimioglu, and Sam Dickson developed ARSim with real-world scenarios that can be completed at the user’s own pace or as part of a formal ground school curriculum. ARSim provides task-based instruction with more than 200 airports and portions of airspace included and thousands of scenarios to practice for all phases of flight. Users can easily learn aviation phraseology and proper communication procedures while the app scores the tasks based on phraseology corrections, speech rate analysis, and radio proficiency. Included airports are mostly in the US; however, some airports in Canada, Australia, England, and the Netherlands have been added.
“During our flight training, Eren and I realized that there was no good option for practicing comms outside of the cockpit,” said Mane. “We could listen to other pilots talk on the radio, read the AIM, or even invest in a flight simulator and hook up to ATC services to get some exposure to radio comms. None of these would train us on aviation phraseology and radio procedures or provide any feedback on how we were doing.”
Mane added that during 2020, PlaneEnglish has been adapting the ARSim app to the phraseology and radio procedures of the US Air Force, through an SBIR Phase II award. The company released the final product to the USAF last fall and is in the evaluation stage for its integration into flight training. And in August 2020, PlaneEnglish published a manual (printed book or PDF) to further speed up a student pilot’s mastery of air traffic control communications. Used alone or as a companion to the ARSim app, “The Easy Route to Aviation Radio Proficiency” offers even more in-depth information about phraseology, procedures, and scenarios that parallel those in the app-based simulator. A sample of the manual can be viewed here.
ARSim is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play, with a free seven-day VFR+IFR trial offered and subscriptions starting at $4.99/month.