How to Improve Pilot Communication Skills


Effective communication is critical for aviation safety. What can you do to improve your pilot communication skills? If this article peaks your interest and you’re ready to learn more, contact Hillsboro Heli Academy.

Radio communication is an important skill for pilots. It can often be one of the most worrisome aspects of flying, but it doesn’t have to be. Being confident and comfortable when communicating with ATC will come with practice and experience, so here we will provide a few tips for improving your communication skills.

Know the Players

Depending on the airspace you operate in, you may encounter a wide variety of people that you will be required to talk with. Know their roles. Whether it’s a control tower, approach controllers, or other pilots, as in a stage play, everyone has a role to play. Knowing what is expected of you when talking can make any flight seem effortless. Beyond that, try to learn and understand the roles of others as well. Knowing what to expect is essential for good communication.

Develop Solid Situational Awareness

Try to keep a mental picture of what is happening in the airspace around you as you fly. Don’t tune out radio chatter until you only hear your own tail number. Use the exchanges you hear between other people on your frequency to build a mental picture of where others are and where they are going. With practice, you should be able to determine where another aircraft are and what their intentions are, even if you can’t see them. This shouldn’t come at the expense of operating your own aircraft, but it will develop good situational awareness habits while giving you ample time to react should something happen outside of what you anticipate.

Listen While on the Ground

Technology has made it easier and easier to monitor frequencies to sharpen up your skills. Websites such as provide real-time exposure to radio traffic from all over. Airline pilots are obviously very experienced, but they fly frequently and often operate using predetermined procedures. Listening to the back and forth they have with controllers can teach you the rhythm and cadence they’ve developed with years of practice.

Slow Down

Talking faster doesn’t equate to getting things done faster. Resist the urge to repeat back that clearance at light speed and take a moment to think. The last thing you want is for your mouth to get ahead of your brain causing you to stumble or lose your train of thought. If you need to repeat your message three times, you just wasted more time doing so than if you had just slowed down and said it clearly the first time.

Don’t Get Complicated

People often view pilot communication as some secret coded language that’s difficult to learn. Sure, it’s important to learn proper etiquette and the standard words and phrases to keep your messages clear, but at the end of the day, it’s simply a conversation between two human beings. When in doubt, just speak plain English. If you’re confused about what you’re being told to do just ask for clarification. The situation will play out much better if you can put aside any potential feeling of embarrassment and just ask. You should always be striving to improve, but you can save yourself, and others, from a lot of headache by just talking.

Ready to learn the ropes of talking on the radio as you train to become a helicopter pilot? Contact Hillsboro Heli Academy for information on obtaining your commercial helicopter license. We provide instruction under an FAA-approved curriculum where safety is our top priority. Contact us today!