Clear Communications… A Key To Safe Flight

by Dan McDowell
Published in Midwest Flyer – Oct/Nov 2016

Flying solo is like dancing. It requires some specific movements, but also allows a certain amount of freedom of expression. We see this at any airshow where top aerobatic performers like Julie Clark or Gene Soucy fling their rugged craft through seemingly impossible gyrations, sometimes tumbling on the edge of the control envelope. Yet, each movement is planned and flows beautifully into the next, as if dancing in the air.

When a partner is added (in another aircraft for instance), one element of the dance becomes more important than almost all the others. That is the element of “clear communications.”

Think for a moment how vitally important it is for the flight leaders of the premier jet aerobatic teams to quickly, and clearly, communicate information, or instructions to their team. We all know the result when communication is unclear and things are happening very quickly. It can often end in disaster.

It is important to think before you speak so that when you do say something, you can say it clearly and concisely.

Imagine a conversation with a student pilot that is full of “um’s” and “ah’s.” The student is hesitant and uncertain. It is as if he/she doesn’t know what to say or has “mic-fright.” In fact all those things and more may be at work in that scenario. But you can imagine how long it seemed to take the individual to say something. You can also imagine how difficult it would be to know what he/she wanted or needed. It makes one wonder how controllers figure out radio transmissions so quickly, and they have to be right when they respond!

So when you fly, plan ahead.Think about where and when you will most likely have to communicate! Practice in your mind what you will likely say. Then ask yourself, is it clear? Can I clarify with better wording or fewer words, what I really mean? Can I improve my communications? The answers are probably ‘yes’ for most pilots. Clear communications is an important key to safe flight.

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