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7 Radio Tips From a Tower Controller

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.
What do tower controllers really want you to know? We talked to one to find out...

1) Know what you want to say before you key up the mic.

When we're busy, we don't have time for a lot of uhhhhh's and ummmm's. It takes up valuable time to address higher priority tasks, and it increases frequency congestion, blocking out other pilots trying to reach us.


2) Let ground and tower know you are a student pilot.

Despite our sometimes-rough and tumble attitudes, we are truly there to help you out. If we know ahead of time that you are a student pilot, we know not to issue you any instructions that might make you feel uncomfortable, i.e. short approaches, etc. (NOTE: you should only need to tell each controller once that you are a student pilot.)


3) Read back instructions with your callsign in the same transmission.

If we don't get the readback AND callsign in the same transmission, we are forced to keep going back to you until we do. This takes up our time and yours.


4) Never be afraid to say "unable".

If you can't comply, speak up and we will work around it.


5) Unless otherwise informed, PLEASE acknowledge all instructions.

Certain things do not require a readback, but when issued, at least give us your callsign. NOTE: you are never wrong to read back the full instruction.


6) When tower tells you to "standby", don't read the instruction back.

We're asking you to maintain radio silence until we get an opportunity to get back to you. We may be waiting for a readback from another pilot, we may be talking to another controller, or we might be updating the weather. There are a lot of reasons we might ask you to stand by.


7) Departing VFR from a Class C or B airport?

Call Clearance Delivery with all of your information, and tell them if you want flight following all the way to your destination or just to get out of the airspace.

Be patient when requesting departure from a Class C or B airport. When you call up, the controller needs to type all of your information into the NAS. This might take some time. Don't worry if you don't get a response right away.


Curious about the new Bose A30 headsets? Learn more and read the reviews here.

Colin Cutler

Colin Cutler

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

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