Don’t Fear the Radio

Radio HappinessDo you know what one of the most common causes of anxiety is for many student pilots and some experienced GA pilots? No, it's not emergencies, turbulence, stalls, or even spins.

It's talking on the radio with Air Traffic Control!

Considering that here in Coeur d'Alene at our non-towered field pilots don't have to talk to ATC very often, if at all.

For me, the fear came mostly from not knowing what to say, not understanding the controller, and concern that I might mess it up. I avoided towered fields for the first year after getting my PPL, severely limiting where I was willing to go.

So how did I get over this and how can you get over it?

Well, the first thing is to start out using flight following on your solo flights. Ask your instructor to show you how.

Interaction with ATC is fairly straight forward during flight following around our area. It's easy to follow along and ATC doesn't typically talk at warp speed while you're trying to fly the plane. If they do, just ask them to Say Again and let them know you're a student. That slows them down considerably. In speaking with a few controllers over the past three years, I've learned that ATC would actually prefer VFR pilots to ask for flight following. Evidently, it's not a bother and it's rare that they will say no.

Another way, and I think this is absolutely the best way, to get over radio anxiety is in Latitude Aviation's flight simulator.

Latitude's flight sim has live ATC simulation for just about all the Charlies, Bravos and a many of the Delta airports in our area from Billings to Seattle. The sim's ATC is provided by actual live human controllers at These controllers follow all the VFR and IFR rules, filing your flight plan, clearance delivery, taxi instructions, etc. You can ask for flight following or shoot an ILS approach if you want. Or simply take off from KCOE and ask for clearance to land at KGEG.

Best of all, if you mess up or miss a radio call you don't have to worry about getting in trouble. However, the Pilot Edge controller will certainly let you know that you messed up and how to do it right the next time. Though this can be slightly embarrassing the first few times, consider it good practice.

Experienced pilots should keep in mind that PilotEdge offers ATC within the Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque ARTCCs, covering approximately 50% of the contiguous United States. So. if you are planning a flight to an unfamiliar airport, say near Portland or San Francisco, you can use the sim to fly your route with ATC and knock off some rust before you set out for real.

Using Pilot Edge in the flight sim has given me the confidence I need on the radios and it will work for you.

PS, Freedom Club members your monthly fee includes solo use of Latitude's Flight Simulator at no additional cost when used without an instructor. You can use your own PilotEdge account (get a two-week free trial here) or pay the sims regular solo use fee to cover the cost when using Latitude's PilotEdge account. Just ask how.

PPS, What's the Freedom Club? Learn more about Latitude's money-saving flying club right here.

Live ATC simulation training in Latitudes Flight Sim