It used to be my fault that I did not teach my ab-intio students to use the aircraft radio from the first lesson. Because :-
It is not compulsory to have a radio license along with a pilot license
There was no radio station or ATC at the grass fields I used to fly from
It felt like a chore to spend time briefing the student and not get paid for it
The student had no interest in learning how to use the radio, as it is not mandatory
The radio was not fitted in the aircraft
The radio did not work most of the time
There was not controlled airspace that we needed to fly through
No one else on the airfield used the radio
The above reasons and excuses are not applicable any more. All my flight students learn to use the radio and communicate far better than they used to, with precise, concise, accurate and correct, standard phraseology. This makes them safer and more alert in flight.
Am I feeling better after this confession? Yes and No.
No, because I continue to hear on the airwaves very poor communications from GA pilots flying helicopters, light aircraft, and microlight aircraft.
The EASA private license has made it mandatory to have a radio operator’s license with sufficient knowledge of the hardware as well as the language skills. But the NPPL and the LAPL do not have such mandatory requirements.
The majority of private pilots do not fly regularly enough to keep on top of the game, so their skills atrophy. They generally plan their flights alone and with no peer reviews. They are too proud to ask their mates or other club members for help and assistance in flight planning.
They are very reluctant to approach a flight instructor (who in turn in reluctant to advise and help for free), resulting in most flights being poorly planned and executed.
This brings me to microlight pilots who do not use the radio to communicate effectively. This is because their flying instructors are reluctant to use the radio because they are not required to do so from isolated grass strips or small airfields which do not have a radio service.
Once the NPPL has been achieved, the microlight pilot generally will venture forth far and wide because their microlight aircraft are fast, frugal, cheap to operate and reliable (unlike the heavy, expensive, noisy, old GA metal planes).
Learning to speak and transmit effectively on the aircraft radio is a skill that has to be learned carefully, under supervision so that the communications enable the pilot and others on the ground (ATC) and in the air (other pilots) can visualise a 3-D scenario of traffic in uncontrolled open airspace.
Not having the skills to communicate leads the pilot to skirt around the edges of controlled airspaces, sometimes infringing it inadvertently and causing other aircraft to divert or delay their flights.
This summer I have heard many private pilots of all kinds of aircraft all over Europe making radio transmissions incorrectly, wasting time for all and in some cases causing confusion and anxiety in other pilots during critical periods of taking off and landings.
We don’t have the monopoly in Britain of communicating atrociously on the radio in our native language, English. This happens in many countries all over Europe, where ATC are bi-lingual and can switch back and forth instantly from English into their native language, sometimes causing problems for mono-lingual pilots.
How would I remedy this? Simple solution is to make all pilots and flying instructors to have a Radio Operators license regardless of the type of pilot license. I know many hundreds of pilots will rail against the compulsion, but the barrier is easily overcome with a simple training course and test.
There are many flying schools who offer radio telephony courses and exams all over the UK so there is no excuse for not learning how to communicate effectively making flying safer for all. The CAA and NATS have several videos and learning materials available for free on the web, so there is no excuse not to study this subject.
Controlled airspace is becoming more widespread; pilots are routinely flying further afield and overseas as microlight aircraft have become more reliable and faster.
Lack of planning or a weather diversion can be made less stressful with effective and timely communications during the approach and landing phases. ATC will help pilots when a concise request is made with a few minutes to help them plan and gather information to help the pilots.
The ability to communicate effectively on the Radio during an inflight emergency might just make the difference between a reasonable outcome and a disaster.
Will you write your script for your radio calls when you plan your next flight?