Tuesday, October 28, 2008

IFR Radio Communications, A Whole New Ballgame: Part 2

If you’ve read my last post about IFR radio procedures, you should have a bit of a better understanding of ground communications before departure. Now let’s take a look at right after takeoff, and the enroute phase of your flight.

After Departure

At some point after becoming airborne, ATC will instruct you to contact departure. The whole idea when being handed off from one controller to another is to inform them of the instructions you were assigned by the last controller. This gets you both on the same page as to what you are doing and what you are expecting as your flight progresses.

You will then switch to the departure control frequency assigned in your initial clearance, and tell the departure controller you are flying the instructed heading and altitude. When IFR your initial callup should sound like this.

Hulman Departure, Cessna 536HF if climbing through 1,500 for 4,000, heading 180.

When conducting practice approaches VFR, you were most likely not assigned an altitude, so you can say this.

Hulman Departure, Cessna 536HF climbing through 1,500, VFR, heading 180, looking for vectors for the ILS 5.

If you are on VFR flight following on a cross country to Champaign, you could say this.
Hulman Departure, Cessna 536HF is VFR to Champaign.

The idea is to just communicate and let them know you are complying with the instructions given to you by the ground and tower controller.


Enroute communications is pretty straight forward. Usually you will just be handed off from controller to controller as you pass through the different terminal areas or ARTCC sectors. The procedures are similar to the departure controller. If you are still in a climb or descent, while being handed off to another controller, be sure to state this in your first transmission. If you are at your assigned cruise altitude, perhaps 5,000, say you are “level at 5,000.”

Before you reach the ATC facility which serves your destination airport, you need to listen to the weather at your destination airport. This will either be ATIS or ASOS, and the frequency is listed on any approach plate for the destination airport. It is a good idea to copy this information down on your kneeboard, and if the airport has an ATIS, take special note of the current approach in use, so you can begin to set up your avionics and brief the approach. Commit as much of that approach to memory as possible in the enroute phase while the workload is still low. The more time you have to study the approach before you conduct it, the better approach you will fly.

The next post will pick up with the approach phase and finish up after the landing. So long.

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