Pilot's tip of the week

3 Things You Should Never Say to ATC


Subscriber question:

"As a newer pilot, one of my biggest fears is saying the wrong thing on the radio. I'd love to hear from Air Traffic Control, particularly the top things pilots say or do that annoys them, or mistakes they see pilots make?" - Jeff D.

John Krug and Bob Adelizzi are retired Air Traffic Controllers with over 50 years combined experience. They are also accomplished pilots, so they have empathy for those of us on the other side of the mic.


Probably one of the biggest ones is just not listening. This is all about communications, and it is all about two-way communications. And it’s making a transmission, and no answer. Then you are – okay, did he hear it and maybe did not respond? Did he nothear it? Is the radio turned down? Is he NORDO? Is he high-jacked? You just do not know. So, not listening is – I do not know if it is number one, but it is definitely way up there.

Another one that you hear a lot today, and is really kind of a useless response is:

Got him on the fish finder”

“Got him on Discovery Channel”


When you call traffic, you hear the response that they are on the TCAS or they are on the TIZ or whatever. Nice to know, but it really does not do anything for the controller. If you are responsible for getting two airplanes to see each other for a visual approach, or you are trying to apply visual separation, or you are trying to make a traffic call, you have to have the visual. So, save that for the hangar flying session or something like that.


I think something that gets to us, sometimes, is we have to obviously work in a very structured environment, with IFR and sometimes even VFR. And you get some pilots who say..

We can take a turn to the airport any time”

Like you are on this heading for my enjoyment, which I am really not doing. It’s because it has to be this way to make your sequence work. Or for us, now, it is a lot of noise abatement stuff.

“We see the airport and we have seen it since Albany; we’ve seen it since Kennedy.”

That’s great, but we can’t do anything right now.

But the controllers just say fly such and such a heading – and again, for a reason. This is your sequence. And then as you get close to the final, we will start turning you in and start pointing on traffic for the visual approach.

And the other one is, “If it helps you.” “If it helps, we have ____ …”

It usually would help but we can’t do anything right now. You have to understand, there are certain times that we can’t do anything.


And if we could, we would have done it.


Oh yes, we don’t need to delay anybody – we don’t need to load the scope up. We don’t need to load up the frequency with people that we don’t need to talk to.

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