Are Comm Short-cuts Good or Bad?

As I have progressed through my flight training this has been a question that I have asked and have gotten different answers. I want to see what you guys think. During the PPL stage I was taught proper radio phraseology. Fortunately, I was able to talk comfortably on the radios pretty early in my training (not saying that I never struggled in the beginning). Overtime, after hearing other guys on the radio I have heard many shortcuts. Some examples are:

“22-85” instead of “122.85”
“Nine” instead of “Niner”
“Two ninety” instead of “two nine(niner) zero”
“Sixteen hundred” instead of “One thousand six hundred”
“Skyhawk 738 (Seven Thirty-Eight)” instead of “Skyhawk 7-3-8”
“In the box”
“Got em on the scope”

On my second flight I heard someone say, “landing on runway thirty-six” but he got corrected on frequency so I got the hint about that one :joy: . I am guilty of the first three and sometimes do the fourth but not as often. I don’t personally use the last three but I hear them on frequency too. After asking multiple instructors and other pilots I get mixed answers. Some say that as long as ATC understands you then you are fine while others say that it is looked down upon and proper phraseology should be used at all times. What do you guys think about this? Also, what are some of your pet peeves that you hear on the radio that cause you to cringe?

I am a radio stickler. Every one of the short cuts that you mentioned drives me nuts, including the three that you do. Short cuts lead to errors, which leads to deaths. There is simply no reason to not use proper phraseology.

Think about it this way, however the controllers speak, so should you.

If you were my student, or co-pilot, I would correct you on all of these.


Concur with Chris. Have spent the majority of my aviation career as a GIB (Guy in Back) of military aircraft where I’m typically monitoring up to 5 radio frequencies & 4 internal nets simultaneously. Aviation is dangerous enough in and of itself. Losing precious seconds by requiring an aircraft to “say again” and/or correct an error could be the difference in avoiding an accident.
“SAFETY IS PARAMOUNT” is drilled into your head from the day you step up to the ready line at your first USAF training school through ground & flying training. Communication discipline is an important part of that safety focus. Ignore it at your and others’ peril.


I think we have all seen those videos of pilots abbreviating terminology to ‘sound cool’, but like Chris said, it’s improper and it can lead to serious injuries or death. I once found myself repeating back “# in the box” one time during my PAR training at my local flight school and went back and watched my GoPro footage to review my flight and I cringed when I heard myself say that…since then it has always been “squawk #” whenever referring to a transponder code and I feel more comfortable hearing myself ‘say it right’. We all make mistakes, some we learn from and others grow into habits.

It’s cooler to be proper than to be improper.

1 Like


It’s not even a question. There’s a reason it’s called proper phraseology and a reason why you were corrected. There’s the right (correct) way then every other and if it’s other it’s not correct.



Ok, Got it!

This post turned out exactly as desired. As I mentioned in my post, I asked just about everyone I could about this and I have gotten both ends of the spectrum. This is the first place where I received a consistent answer. Safety is the biggest thing that stuck out to me in this discussion post. I’ve never thought about it jeopardizing safety because so many people use either the proper or improper phraseology. After reading all of your posts, I totally understand how something can be misconstrued. Not only by ATC but also by other traffic. I remember hearing some of the slang and turning and asking my instructor, “What does that mean?” Now thankfully I had an instructor but what if there is a student on his first solo cross country or something like that. Again, thanks for giving me a consistent answer about this subject and correcting me on this in the earlier stages in my training and not later in the training or after I am a CFI and my future students do exactly as I did and pick up on some bad habits from me. Have any of you had to correct someone in cockpit before?

Daily. Part of the job of a Capt is to mentor.



One of my biggest pet peeves is not using your full call sign on the radio. I hear it quite often, including among ATP aircraft (I.e., “white and blue Archer…” instead of “Archer 123AB…”)

I always use the full call sign, as the AIM and an Advisory Circular are very clear on this topic.


All the time, that is our jobs as pilots. It takes two people to fly an airplane and we are both there to catch each other’s mistakes.

Hit it right on the head! Besides “fish finder” that is one of my biggest pet peeves. There were a few at my location that would do that.


I should point out that GoPros are not legal to use if your flight was filed IFR

Furthermore, their use is banned in ATP aircraft, this can be found in the student and instructor handbook. I know you said that was at your local flight school, but just wanted to point it out. I personally would leave the GoPro at home.


1 Like

Something else for everybody to think about is that this whole thread is centered around radio usage with the FAA. When flying overseas or in another country, exact radio terminology becomes even more important.

When flying oceanic, we use HF radios, which is similar to talking on an AM radio (think trying to dial in the ball game from 300 miles away at night on your AM radio). The radio operators for New York Oceanic, Gander, Shanwick, etc use very precise terminology, much more so than even the FAA. There is a certain way in which position reports must be made, things requested, numbers said, etc. If not done correctly, the radio operators will correct you. The correct terminology is so important because there are many airplanes on weak radios, talking in English (which is not the native tongue for many) in a non radar environment. A simple misspeak has the potential to cause a major accident. Here is an example of the correct, and only way, to make a position report while out over the Atlantic:

Pilot: Shanwick, Shanwick, United 304 (said three zero four) position

Operator: United three zero four go ahead

Pilot: United three zero four position five seven north, three zero west, one six five four Zulu, flight level three four zero. Estimating five six north, two zero west, one seven four two Zulu, RESNO next. Fuel three two decimal eight. SELCAL romeo lima, delta bravo (our unique radio code so they can call us)

Operator: reads back entire position report verbatim the says: primary frequency six four, seven eight, secondary one four nine eight five. Approaching RESNO contact Shannon on VHF one one eight decimal three. SELCAL romeo lima, delta bravo (they then ding the airplane via SELCAL)

Pilot: reads back frequencies exactly as stated, confirms if the SELCAL check worked correctly

This happens every ten degrees of longitude when crossing the Atlantic, procedures can vary slightly in the Pacific, but are generally the same. There is no room for deviation in these transmissions.


We’ve had guys bust OE because they couldn’t do the above and we even you a form with everything printed verbatim.


Hopefully this isn’t too dumb of a question but what is OE Adam?


That makes sense, especially the point of most of the people in frequency learning English as a second language. I can see how deviation from proper phraseology can lead to confusion.


Not a dumb question at all. It’s actually IOE (Intial Operating Experience) I was referring to. After you complete all your classroom and sim training as a newhire at an airline you then have to spend X amount of hours actually flying the plane on live flights with passengers and a check airman. This is the final stage of your training before you’re signed off to “the line”. While this is the fun part and people seldom fail out at this point it does happen and poor comm skills can definitely be the reason.



I did search the legal for Part 91 prior to using it for training at my local flight school and with my instructor, all the training was done all in VFR conditions for the standard PAR! And I do recall reading that in the handbook for the legality of things, thanks for the reminder.


To follow up on this discussion of radio short cuts. The pilot on Delta 300 did not read back the hold short instruction, which nearly had catastrophic consequences. Proper radio terminology and disciple is vitally important. No short cuts.

1 Like

I saw that video yesterday and thankfully I changed my ways since getting your input. I have a couple questions though.

  1. When you call the tower, what is happening/ what is the conversation?

  2. When she said “possible” pilot deviation, what does she mean by that. Isn’t a pilot deviation already committed by the delta pilot?

  3. I scrolled through the comments of this video and I saw multiple people say that the controller was at fault too because she didn’t request a read back from the pilot, your thoughts?

  1. I have never had to call the tower, but I have heard that it is to get a dressing down from them. I personally would say very little as anything can and will be used against you.

  2. The controllers always say “possible” deviation because they are not able to assign deviations. Only an FAA inspector is after an investigation or admission by the pilot.

  3. Yes, the controller was also required to conform that the pilots read back the hold short instructions, which she failed to do, so there is lots of blame to go around here.

This incident could have been just as deadly as the Tenerife accident, which was caused largely by poor radio communications:


  1. NO ONE likes getting a phone number (it’s the equivalent of 1-800- UMessed-Up). That said tower/ATC isn’t always right. As a union rep I’ve heard plenty of these calls. Rule#1 is always be respectful and calm (start cursing or yelling and you’re immediately wrong). The second thing you’ll do is file an report. The FAA is very big on self notifying and if you’re honest, forthcoming and it wasn’t “intentional” you’ll be fine. Fun fact: I have on occasion asked Tower for THEIR number so I could yell at them.

  2. We heard the tapes, they had not, yet but they will and then yes there will be.

  3. That is correct but 2 wrongs…