Real Answers from Real Pilots

Radio Practice

Hi all, I hope you are doing well.
Today I completed my intro to flight and am embarking on my private license before I commit to ATP. At this point, I would like to be able to understand what is going on around me with other planes in the air before I start up. Does anyone have any insight to where I can listen to recordings, or what to search on youtube?

Thanks in advance.

Personally, I got on YouTube and listened to arc recordings that had subtitles so I could know what was being said before my ears were trained to understand what was going on. Next, I went to liveATC and chose JFK tower frequency to learn what to listen for in a busy environment once I knew the basics of what was going on.
Also, in my PPL training I spent as much time as possible in class C airspace on cross countries (CRW, ROA, RIC) and even made a trek in Pittsburgh international to get class B experience. Some of it was tough as a student pilot, but I feel it really helped me learn how to handle radios.

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There is certainly some radio lingo that can be learned before you start initial PPL training, but I personally found that by the time I got to my first solo flight without my instructor (around 23 hours) I was quite comfortable on the radio. Also, some of the things to learn on the radios are a lot easier to figure out once you’ve at least begun the “ground school” portion of your training because you’ll better understand the context of what the other voices on the radio are saying and be able to visualize what they’re doing.

Anyway, once you start training definitely ask your instructor in the airplane if you hear something and don’t know what was said, and like Kamrin said is useful for hearing busier airport operations but it can be a lot of nothing for the small airports which are available like my home airport. I would suggest doing a ground school course (Sporty’s/King/community college/classroom/etc) before you start training in the airplane, I did ground school while beginning to fly the airplane and probably could have saved myself a few hours by taking in all that ground knowledge beforehand.


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I agree with Kamrin I like liveATC as it’s “live ATC” and that’s what you need to understand. If you are going to practice I’d encourage you to do it with a pad handy and try and develop your own shorthand. Equally important (if not more so) is your ability to read the instructions (aka clearance) back. That said I really wouldn’t worry too much about it. Radio comm is something that is best learned by doing. I’ve had students who’ve practiced and those who haven’t I honestly I never saw a difference in their abilities. This is why again I’ve always been a fan of training in a busy environment. I’ve known many licensed pilots (with all their ratings and hours) who’ve done all their training in the boonies. Day 1 of IOE at a Regional they find themselves on the ramp at ORD and it isn’t pretty.


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Hey Harvey, as many have mentioned Live ATC is a great way to learn, they have a cheap phone app($2 or so) and I’d frequently turn it on when I was working or on lunch breaks. Keep in mind that while most of what you hear on there is correct phraseology, you’ll also hear plenty that is non-standard, and hearing both before understanding which is correct could lead to you developing bad habits. The best advice I ever got is that realizing communication is more about listening and understanding rather than speaking. I believe there are a few videos on YouTube about aircraft comm procedures, however some may be dated. Best of luck. -Bob

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Like Adam said, I wouldn’t worry about it too much now. If you go online and listen to you will hear a lot of pilot lingo, but much of it will not be relevant to what you will need to know for beginning to solo. If you listen to SFO tower for example you will hear all sorts of phrases that do not really pertain to you yet and might just be confusing. You will pick up much of what you need to know during your training.

If you want to get a head start check out this video:

As a welcome to aviation you should know that people either love the King’s video series or can’t stand them. I happen to be a big fan of their’s.


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Your best bet is just to jump in the water. Most students who just do it without thinking of it too much seem to figure it out sooner than others who think way too much.

Just remember that you are talking to another person, in english, on the other side of the line. The lingo will all fall into place with time. If you spend too much time and effort trying to ‘prepare’ for it, I can guarantee that you will have more trouble (you will overthink it and try to sound like what you heard earlier).

A good rule of thumb that you can use is to break down each radio call into 4 parts:

Who are you calling?
Who you are?
Where you are?
What you want?

Make a habit of always including these 4 parts into each radio call, that’s pretty much what ‘pilot lingo’ is… just saying those things in that order.


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