Listen Up ATC

by Wally Moran on May 9, 2012

While returning from Sun and fun in Lakeland Florida last month on an IFR flight plan, I was disappointed to hear several lectures from the ATC controllers to the enroute pilots. Yes, it was extra busy as it was Sunday the last day of the show and there were lots of planes out there trying to get some attention. But the lectures I heard from ATC did nothing to help the situation.

Almost every frequency I used on that flight had an ATC comment something like “Everyone listen up out there,” “Don’t all try to talk at once,” One fellow was so frustrated that he said “ Don’t anyone talk, just listen, I will do all the talking and you do the listening.” Not a very professional solution to the problem and in fact these lectures simply wasted air time and made the situation worse.

While I can clearly understand the frustration that the controllers were experiencing, I would like to remind them that we as pilots have already been trained to listen up. The greatest percentage of problems are not caused by pilots not listening up, it is the fact that with multiple users on one frequency, no one can tell exactly when the next guy is going to push that transmit button. So we often wind up pushing it at the same time. That is what was happening this day in Florida. This is nobody’s fault; it is just a product of our party line type communication system.

In my years of flying into and out of many very busy airports populated with skilled controllers and professional pilots, blocked transmissions still occurred on a regular basis. This is not because the pilots did not know to listen up; they just can’t tell when the other guy is going to push that button. Some of the best ATC controllers I have worked with take control the conversation when things get very busy. For example; they will ask pilots to hold their read back while they issue multiple clearances and then get the pilots one at a time to confirm the read back.

Now I know that there are some pilots who are so poor at communication that they may need a lecture and perhaps even remedial work. When that is the case, please give them a phone number and do that work off the air.

So pilots, let’s pause a moment to organize our thoughts before we push that button and of course listen. Mr. ATC controller, please don’t give us lectures on the frequency as they won’t improve the situation. We all need to work together to make this system work.

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Comments from Facebook pilots:

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

John Worsley January 5, 2014 at 10:06 pm

I think Ivan misses the point. I don’t think most pilots will jump in on a transmission that obviously requires a response. The problem is having no way of knowing when another pilot is making an initial transmission at the same time you are making an initial transmission.

pilot okulu February 24, 2013 at 7:50 am

i think the most stressfull job is ATC. If a pilot makes a mistake it can be handled again. But if an ATC makes a mistake, he/she pay for that mistake about hundred lives.

NBA Beats June 16, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Great post! Totally agree. It is “This is nobody’s fault; it is just a product of our party line type communication system.” That is true. Just like in life nobody likes to be unpleasant and told what to do. So the pilot or the ATC need to chillax and make the best of the situation. Pilots need to listen and ATC need to do a good job and not waste radio time.

Ivan Cifuentes May 20, 2012 at 8:45 am

One thing that would help prevent pilots keying the mike at the same time is to
use professional knowledge and common sense…if you hear a controller transmit
a message that requires a read-back…wait and allow the pilot to do so…don’t rush in with your message…listen and maintain order / sequence of radio messages and find
APPROPRIATE TIME to talk. Clearances, headings, level changes, critical conflicting traffic information and immediate frequency change to other controlling sectors (i.e. approach to
tower; center; terminal; apprach, etc. for sequencing, etc.) among other, require pilots to acknowledge instructions. If you hear a pilot requesting confirmation of something, allow
ATC to respond. The safe, orderly movement of aircraft can only be accomplished in a well ORCHESTRATED manner with all “musicians” listening to the tune and playing their turn.

Thomas Ivines May 17, 2012 at 6:46 am

When adults are given the opportunity to speak, they usually do, sometimes talking over one another. If and when there is congested traffic, the mode of communication needs to be controlled like we have so often done with our children: We have said to them, “Speak only when you are spoken to.” The problem is pilots don’t like to be talked down to like we do to our children, even if they do at times act like them.

dayle stevens May 16, 2012 at 1:30 pm

how about adding extra channels.one for odd ending N #s, one for even#s at busy times like sun & fun or something to that effect ?

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