Radio Communications, Facilities and Equipment

Oddball Approaches
VOR approach that turns into a visual approach

IFR Communications

  • The IFR system is established so that operations can still take place in the event of a communication failure
  • No radio = NORDO

Communication Equipment

  • VHF 118.000 to 136.975 MHz

          –25 kHz spacing

          –“If ATC assigns a frequency that cannot be selected, ask for an alternative frequency”

  • Simplex Operation

      –One frequency for transmission and receiving

Duplex Operation
Not used much anymore, but it is still out there
Check the VOR freq box, if you see an R or a T then you know your in duplex territory
R stands for receive only
T stand for transmit only
Call FSS on 122.1
They talk back on 113.3, the VOR freq
Waimea HI

ATC radar sends out a signal (interrogator)
Transponder sends out a signal back (reply)
Every time the light flickers you just got interrogated
Must be checked every 24 calendar months
If it’s in the plane and not placarded it has to be on
Mode C is required above 10,000msl, class B, 30NM mode C ring and class C

Radar and Transponders

  • Primary Returns

      –The energy reflected from a surface

  • Secondary Returns

      –Transponders augment the return to make the primary signal more reliable

  • Read back all numbers and clearances including transponder codes
  • When asked to “Ident” no reply is necessary, but if the freq is not busy, you may do so

The Encoder
There are 2 types:
Blind encoders
May use solid state transducer or aneroid wafers
Encoding Altimeter
Use aneroid wafers
This unit feeds your pressure altitude into the transponder signal (mode C)
Wired into the transponder
Connected to the same static lines as the altimeter
ATC radar computer then translates it back into msl
This is why it’s important to have a current altimeter setting that matches what ATC is using
Regs say the altimeter and encoder have to be within 75 feet of each other

Mode S

  • Similar to Mode C, but also transmits identification of the aircraft
  • Will likely become required when ADS-B becomes the standard (slated for 2020)

Phonetic Alphabet
You should have this memorized


  • Altitudes are stated as individual numbers

       –“One-thousand, three hundred”

       – “flight level, one-niner zero”

       –“one-zero thousand”

  • Avoid the overuse of “to” and “for”

      –“descending for four thousand” is not descending 44,000”

      –“Climbing to four thousand” is not climbing to 24,000 because FL240 is used—not “two-four, thousand”

Communication Facilities
Flight Service Stations
RCO Remote Communications Outlet
Remote transmitting antenna
Used to contact FSS
Usually for airborne communications
GCO Ground Communications Outlet
Also a remote transmitting antenna
Placed so that pilots on the ground at a specific airport may communicate with FSS or ATC
4 key clicks will get you ATC
6 key clicks will get you FSS
RTR Remote Transmitter Receiver
Used to contact terminal ATC facilities

The Clearance Process
The FSS briefer takes your flight plan and loads it into the computer
If you electronically file this step is skipped
The computer system then sends a “strip” to the tower or ARTCC serving the airport of departure and the center whose domain you’re in
Delivered 30 minutes prior to ETD
If not opened it drops out of the system after 2 hours

Operations at Class E Airports
Clearance is received via radio or telephone
Issued with a clearance void time
Aircraft must be airborne within the void time
If it includes a release time, do not takeoff until after the release time
You can ask for specific void times when filing the flight plan

Communicating IFR Flight Plans

  • Available 30 minutes prior and typically held for 2 hours
  • Can be relayed through a flight service station (FSS)

     –State the runway and time frame used

     –Usually a clearance void time will be given

  • The clearance is void at that time—not “you must take off before”

       –If a release time is given, do not take off until

  • Not necessary to “close” flight plans at towered airports

Towered Airports
If clearance delivery is available you must use this frequency to get your clearance before contacting ground
If none is available use ground freq

Clearance Copying
C – clearance limit
R – route
A – altitude
F – frequency
T – transponder code

Clearance Shorthand
Develop your own shorthand
Taxi 36 hold short 4
Upon missed approach turn left heading 180 climb and maintain 3000
Climb to 4000
Descend to 3000
Left turn heading 350 maintain 3000 until established cleared ILS 32R approach
Cleared to PELLY via direct climb and maintain 4000, departure frequency 126.4, squawk 5521
Hold southeast of PELLY on the 144 mag bearing from, maintain 4000, expect further clearance at 16:45 or sooner at pilot request

Common Phraseology
“Radar service terminated” resume normal position reporting (nonradar)
“Resume own navigation” means you are off vectors and are responsible for your own nav
“Radar contact” means you have radar flight following, that’s it
“Pilot discretion” your choice when executing said clearance

Terminal Radar Approach Control
This is what Grant Co is
Goes out to about 30 NM and 10,000 feet
Address them as approach unless directed otherwise “contact departure”
If you get a “hold for release” call from tower it means they are clearing the airspace for your takeoff
As soon as the computer picks up your transponder, your flight plan starts ticking
Your data block includes N#, aircraft type, altitude and airspeed
They do have limited weather with the radar
Light aircraft should avoid level 3 or higher

Tower Enroute Control
Usually applies to traffic below 10,000 feet
Established where busy airports are close to each other
Instead of being handed off to Center, Approach control hands off to Approach control
Descriptions are in the AFD
The Approach Control Area
The route
Highest altitude
Minimum Safe Altitude Warnings (MSAW) projects what your path is 2 minutes ahead
If your low, the controller will issue a warning

Air Route Traffic Control Center
They have limited weather radar data with only 3 levels visible to the controller
Divided into low and high sectors, when it’s not busy, you may hear the same guy talking to traffic miles and miles away

Center Approach/Departure Control
Center will handle any other airports not controlled by TRACONs
when center issues a heading, direct route or says “direct when able” the controller becomes responsible for terrain and obstruction clearance
The further the airport is away from the radar antenna, the harder it is to provide accurate vectoring
They set the range on the scope to 125 NM so outside of that and you probably won’t get much vector assistance

ATC Weather Display
A lot less accurate than the WSR-88D dopler used by the NWS
Light precip they can’t even see on their scopes
So data from NEXRAD may be superimposed on the scope
May be 6 minutes old
If this isn’t available then a lesser accurate system is used which gives
Moderate 30 to 40 dBZ
Heavy to Extreme >40 dBZ
Can’t detect turbulence
Can’t detect tornados
Can’t detect wind shear
Can detect when the mother in law is in town because of the high reflectivity of such a large mass

Weather Avoidance Assistance
You may request a deviation to avoid bad weather
It will usually come in the form of a vector for weather
You may also initiate the request by telling the controller how far you would like to deviate off course “request a turn 30 degrees right to avoid these build ups”

Control Sequence
Call FSS and get a standard IFR weather briefing
ATIS for current conditions
Clearance Delivery for all your clearance needs
Ground Control for taxi clearance
Tower for takeoff clearance
Departure Control control around the terminal area
ARTCC center takes care of enroute stuff
EFAS/HIWAS for enroute weather updates
ATIS for info on what runway is in use and wx
Approach control where you will get your approach clearance
Tower cleared to land
Ground control cleared to taxi to parking
Unicom for rental car to get to the $100 hamburger place
Bail bondsman phone number to get out of jail when having too much fun at the hamburger joint


  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast
  • There are a couple of components to the ADS-B system

–TIS-B Traffic Information Services

–FIS-B Flight Information Services

  • TIS-B broadcasts relevant traffic position reports to appropriately equipped aircraft.
  • TIS-B information is available to aircraft that utilize 978 MHz (UAT), 1090MHz (1090ES) or both.
  • The aircraft must be within coverage of an ADS-B ground station and an FAA radar or multilateration system to receive the target information.
  • With TIS-B, a pilot will not only see air-to-air traffic, but also the radar targets sent from ground stations
  • The range includes TIS-B targets that are within a 15 NM radius and +/- 3500 ft altitude of the client aircraft.


  • FIS-B is only available to aircraft who can receive data over 978 MHz (UAT).
  • FIS-B automatically transmits a wide range of weather products with national and regional focus to all equipped aircraft.
  • The oldest weather radar data on the display can be up to 15 to 20 minutes older than the display’s age indication for that weather radar data.
  • The ceiling for FIS-B is 24,000 feet (FL240), however it is expected that users can receive the FIS-B service above that altitude.


  • In a typical applications, the ADS-B capable aircraft uses an ordinary GNSS (GPS, Galileo, Glonass) receiver to derive its precise position from the GNSS constellation, then combines that position with speed, heading, altitude and flight number.
  • This information is then simultaneously broadcast to other ADS-B capable aircraft and to ADS-B ground, or satellite communications transceivers which then relay the aircraft’s position and additional information to Air Traffic Control centers in real time.
  • The 978 MHz Universal Access Transceiver (“UAT”) variant is bi-directional and capable of sending real-time Flight Information Services (“FIS-B”), such as weather and other data to aircraft.
  • In some areas, conventional non-ADS-B radar Traffic Information Services (“TIS-B”), can also be uplinked as well.
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