Un-Common Sense For The Common Channel

Do you use Unicom to your best advantage? If you seldom announce your intentions or position, chances are that you need to increase your radio usage — even at low use airports. This includes when you overfly an airport, since your flight path may coincide with that of another plane.

Real World Scenario:
You are a pilot, practicing your takeoffs and landings at an airport in Tennessee. There is a fairly low overcast, but there is plenty of room for you to maintain your VFR minimums as you practice. What you don’t know is that ATC has cleared a Hawker Jet on the VOR approach to the runway you are practicing on.

The Hawker announces his intentions on the Unicom, but since you were flying and nobody else was in the pattern, your radio is turned down to eliminate all that distracting noise. As you turn final, you gasp as your window is filled with a large jet, which just popped out of the clouds some 500 feet away from you, on a collision course.

The Hawker pilot has spotted you, but in landing configuration the Hawker is not configured for agility, so the pilot quickly advances the throttles to full power — hoping that his engines will spool up fast enough to give him the thrust he needs to avoid a collision with you. All of this excitement could have been avoided if you were providing position information and listening to the position information provided by other pilots on the Unicom frequency.

Announce your intentions as you approach the airport. As a general rule, broadcast your position and intentions when you are about three minutes from the pattern. Provide position reports as you approach the pattern.

Keep your broadcasts brief – The standard drill is simple: The airport, your plane type and N number, your position and intentions. Example: Morris Traffic, Bonanza 3525QS, Left downwind, Runway 36, Morris, Full Stop. The second airport name helps those that may have missed the first to key in to your call and information.

Listen to what others have to say. Just because a signal sounds faint doesn’t mean it isn’t right next to you. IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION, ASK IT. Don’t be afraid to ask an aircraft for its position.

BOTTOM LINE: Unicom is there to help you advise other pilots of your intentions, as they advise you of their intentions. By communicating our intentions in traffic intensive areas, including the overflight of airports, we can all help to avoid problems.