Talking to ATC

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StudentPilotSNA

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Jul 19, 2014
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Hello everyone. I am a student pilot that fly's out of KSNA. I have just started to solo and my instructor told me to get flight following from ATC when I am out on my own just flying around so they can inform me of traffic in my area. I am all for this; however, every time I call ATC it is extremely busy and I am still new at the radio and how to talk. I feel like the controller is getting frustrated with me and I really don't want to be a hinderance to him/her. What can I do to help this situation besides just getting better with talking on the radio? Can I explain to the controller I am new and if he could take his/her time? Just looking for the best way to approach this as I know you have a very important job to do and I don't want to take away from that.

Thank you,

Charles
 

phillyman2633

Epic Member
May 13, 2010
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Yes, advise ATC that you are a student pilot and that should loosen them up a bit. Controllers would be more apt to help you and more understanding if you let them know from the start that you are a student pilot. I am sure SCT can be very hectic to deal with and very intimidating for a student pilot, but flying around in busy airspace will make you a better pilot (don't use ATC traffic advisories as a crutch, though, as when you leave controlled airspace you'll assume responsibility for traffic watch).

Since SNA is a Class C airport, you have to get clearance before taxiing. Your best bet is to let CD know when you call up that you would like flight following...they should add it to the remarks section for your VFR strip and then you're set from there. CD is one of the least congested and least hectic frequencies you can deal with as well.

"Santa Ana Clearance Delivery, Skyhawk 12345 request VFR clearance to Long Beach airport at 2500, with information Charlie, request flight following."

Short, sweet, to the point.
 

BNADA

Newcomer
Jan 31, 2012
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TN
Yes, advise ATC that you are a student pilot and that should loosen them up a bit. Controllers would be more apt to help you and more understanding if you let them know from the start that you are a student pilot. I am sure SCT can be very hectic to deal with and very intimidating for a student pilot, but flying around in busy airspace will make you a better pilot (don't use ATC traffic advisories as a crutch, though, as when you leave controlled airspace you'll assume responsibility for traffic watch).

Since SNA is a Class C airport, you have to get clearance before taxiing. Your best bet is to let CD know when you call up that you would like flight following...they should add it to the remarks section for your VFR strip and then you're set from there. CD is one of the least congested and least hectic frequencies you can deal with as well.

"Santa Ana Clearance Delivery, Skyhawk 12345 request VFR clearance to Long Beach airport at 2500, with information Charlie, request flight following."

Short, sweet, to the point.
Leaving a Class B airport you would need a "VFR clearance" but not Class C. But Class C does require VFR-IFR separation so a call up to CD would be appropriate. I would amend the call-up to "Santa Ana Clearance Delivery, Skyhawk 12345, student pilot, with (appropriate ATIS code), VFR to Long Beach airport at 2500, request flight following."
 

jonnboy

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Jan 9, 2014
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Another small input...remember that while it is nice to use proper phraseology, don't stress out if you can't think of the right thing to say. Always use plain English whenever necessary. Speak with confidence and don't be afraid to tell ATC to stand-by or repeat...no shame in it.
 

Klown

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Feb 2, 2014
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I'm out here in Afghanistan and we talk to a lot of Afghan pilots that are students as well. Before keying the mic, make sure you know what you want to say, and like Jonnboy said, if you can't think of the proper phraseology, then just use plain English. Try not to make your transmissions 30 seconds long to just request something simple. If need be, practice your most common transmissions while just out walking around or driving a car. Thats how they taught us to give traffic calls in school... While driving give traffic to yourself on other cars or for one car to another... The more you talk the better you get. Best thing is, if you keep stumbling over your words, unkey recompose yourself and try again.
 

SnowAviation

Senior Member
Jan 29, 2009
292
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Southern California TRACON
When you are flying and not getting advisories, listen to the frequency
for your area. Pay attention to phraseology, listen to call ups and
controllers responses. The more your get accustomed to the phraseology
then more confident you will be. Never be afraid to call ATC for advisories or
help, that's why were are here. Remember that you are a user of the system
and are entitled to service as much as Jet Blue or anyone else so take
advantage of the system and the services we provide. Oh, and don't hesitate
to mention that you are a student pilot.

Example:

You "SoCal Approach Cessna 2134 Lima"
SCT "Cessna 2134L SoCal Approach Go Ahead"
You "Cessna 2134L student pilot, C172, 3 miles south of Orange County, at 2,300, request advisories to Long Beach at 2,500" I have Information Alpha
SCT "Cessna 2134L Squawk 0215 and Ident"
etc...

Every time you contact ATC you get a little better and be more confident.
 

atcbrownie

Trusted Contributor
Jun 14, 2008
661
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Warrenton Va
Are people still being taught to do this? The ident is pointless if you see a 1200 code switch to a code you issued.
i have seen this taught. its stupid but people think that the only way to observe a beacon code change is to see a target on 1200 and watch it change to the new code so that is why they have them ident.
 

ATCtower

Epic Member
Oct 26, 2008
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Best thing I can say coming as a pilot and center controller who gets a lot of student pilots:

Call them and say exactly: "Center (approach), cessna 123SP looking for flight following"

A good controller will either respond: "Cessna 123SP, go ahead" to which you simply say, "Cessna 3SP, looking for flight following to XYZ airport". The controller will ask whatever else they need to do their job and provided you are in the area of radar coverage will issue you a squak code. Be VERY quick on their radio, because.... If they dont have time, your response will be 'Cessna calling center (approach) standby' and will almost certainly get back to you even if only to say 'cessna calling center (approach) go ahead' when they have time.

No matter what you do, be VERY brief on their frequency, especially if you know they are busy. No reason to be intimidated, a lot of controllers are a-holes, but still there FOR you (pilots). If you key up with something like "hey ah center Im uh, going to uh XYZ airport and uh at eight thousand feet, heading um, 350, and thinking about descending to uh 6000', but well, maybe I am gonna climb to 10,000', but I uh, can you, or um, can I have uh, flight following to XYZ airport, I departed ABC airport.... (you get the idea)", the response will NOT be a pleasant one. You dont have to be perfect (though most controllers are, haha), but the best thing you can be is brief and if we need the information and can provide the service, I know very few who wont, especially when they can tell you are new to it.

And dont worry, the radio talk will come in time.

Good luck and PM me if you have any questions.
 

SnowAviation

Senior Member
Jan 29, 2009
292
4
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Southern California TRACON
Are people still being taught to do this? The ident is pointless if you see a 1200 code switch to a code you issued.
Absolutely.

Unless you already know where the plane is and observe the beacon code
change from 1200 to discrete (7110.65 5-3-3 b.), then 7110.65 paragraph
5-3-3 a. "SQUAWK (code) AND IDENT" is more appropriate, and certain.

So, unless you work in a location that is virtually devoid of 1200 codes, not
the case in Southern California, "Squawk and Ident" is used most of the time
to pick up VFR traffic.
 

Stinger

Epic Member
May 24, 2009
1,563
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Absolutely.

Unless you already know where the plane is and observe the beacon code
change from 1200 to discrete (7110.65 5-3-3 b.), then 7110.65 paragraph
5-3-3 a. "SQUAWK (code) AND IDENT" is more appropriate, and certain.

So, unless you work in a location that is virtually devoid of 1200 codes, not
the case in Southern California, "Squawk and Ident" is used most of the time
to pick up VFR traffic.
I can see where it might help in southern California, but I still think it's just as easy to see a new datablock on your screen vs someone identing.
If Cessna 2PT calls up and just says they're inbound to land, I'll give him a squawk code. I'll do a few other things and then check to see where the code I issued is showing up at. If I see it, I'll say "Cessna 2PT radar contact, 15 miles SE of Omaha at 4,500." They usually come back with "position checks," or something like that, but I don't mind if they do or not.
 

SnowAviation

Senior Member
Jan 29, 2009
292
4
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Southern California TRACON
...If I see it, I'll say "Cessna 2PT radar contact, 15 miles SE of Omaha at 4,500." They usually come back with "position checks," or something like that, but I don't mind if they do or not.
The 7110.65 rules are generally written to provide a safe and
error free environment. In the example of radar identification
the obvious error is two aircraft squawking the same code and
one being mis-identified. The Ident reduces that possibility
significantly, in both an automated, and non-automated environment.

Depending on the type of radar and automation system you are using
in Omaha the odds of mis-identification without Ident are indeed slim,
but the rule is there to further reduce the odds of a mistake. Plus
every transponder has an Ident feature, the word is only two syllables,
and the while process only takes seconds.

No reason not to take advantage of it. Unless you are too busy to do so,
in that case you probably wouldn't be picking up another VFR aircraft.
 

phillyman2633

Epic Member
May 13, 2010
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Leaving a Class B airport you would need a "VFR clearance" but not Class C. But Class C does require VFR-IFR separation so a call up to CD would be appropriate. I would amend the call-up to "Santa Ana Clearance Delivery, Skyhawk 12345, student pilot, with (appropriate ATIS code), VFR to Long Beach airport at 2500, request flight following."
Hmmm so my 6 years of flying out of KDAB and calling up clearance delivery were a farce? WHAT IS THIS SORCERY?

Lol local procedures because it's so busy maybe?
 

BNADA

Newcomer
Jan 31, 2012
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0
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TN
I didn't say NOT to call CD, they need your info so as to issue a squawk and departure freq so controllers can provide the Class C service. But there should be NO VFR CLEARANCE involved in departing Class C. VFR clearance is needed for Class B airports.
 

phillyman2633

Epic Member
May 13, 2010
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Well since you're going to be a jackwagon about it...you use the term "clearance" like a lawyer. Do I need to call up and get a VFR "clearance" from Clearance Delivery at a Class C? Do I need a "Cleared to enter Class C airspace"? No, but I still need to get a squawk code for, like you said, separation purposes.

I was trying to give a student pilot some assistance in requesting flight following, not putting out a distress call to see if I could get a hail mary throw from the Dan Marino of the .65.
 

bob44zw

Junior Member
Apr 5, 2011
108
1
18
I have 52 years in the air and five jet type ratings, and still occasionally stumble on the radio. All the advice above is good - always mentally recite your callup before keying the mic. And try not to use extra words, like "this is" or "request".

I would add that - at SNA you have to call clearance delivery no matter what before taxi, unless they changed things recently. You could tell them you are a student.

There is one controller at SoCal who will issue you radar vectors, as if you are in class C or B, not for traffic avoidance, but because she wants you away from a final approach corridor. My answer to that is "cancel flight following". You do not have to accept positive control in class E airspace. On the other hand, if she sugests a heading to avoid an actual aircraft, accept it with a "thank you".

Remember, even the old hands screw it up now and then and get a snippy response. Just smile and press on.
 
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