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You Called ATC And Didn't Get An Answer? This Is Why...

Thanks to Bose for making this story possible. Check out the full series here. And if you want to know why we fly with Bose, learn more about their headsets here.

You called ATC, and then you waited. And waited. And you didn't get an answer back. It's not that ATC wasn't paying attention. They were busy doing other things, like this...

1) Your controller is running a second frequency

Ground controllers often run the clearance delivery frequency as well. If someone calls up before you on the other frequency, they'll get priory. And unless you're monitoring the other frequency, you won't hear anything until ground gets back to you (or you call again when they're done).


2) Your controller is entering a flight following request

If you call up clearance delivery and requestion flight following, the controller needs to key your flight information into their computer, including your tail number, destination, and altitude.

And to make matters much worse, they need to enter the information on a non-QWERTY keyboard.

If they're busy entering flight information, they might not respond to other aircraft as they're hunting-and-pecking their way through the flight following request.


3) Your controller was on the "land line"

So what exactly is the land line, and what is your controller doing on it?

Controllers have a phone to talk to other controllers. They'll make calls for a lot of reasons, like coordinating aircraft transitioning into each other's airspace.

And for IFR departures, tower controllers will often call approach controllers to get departure headings for the aircraft getting ready for take off.

Federal Aviation Administration

So the next time you call ATC and don't get an answer, give them a minute before you call back. They're probably busy on another frequency or phone.

What are pilots saying about their Bose headsets? Read the reviews and learn more here.

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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