When there’s more to the meaning than the words show, you had better know what you’re saying — here’s our final installment on talking the talk…
The Problem – Words and phrases can have one meaning to people in the world of aviation but a different meaning to everyone else. When a word with dual meanings is used in radio communications, misunderstandings can take place.
Solution – Understand the Aviation meaning
Go Ahead – When a controller tells a pilot to ‘go ahead,’ this does not mean to move the aircraft ahead. Instead, ‘go ahead’ means for the pilot to proceed with a radio communication.’ Example: If a pilot is ready for takeoff and radios the control tower: ‘Nashville Tower this is N1234A.’ The controller may respond with, ’34A go ahead.’ Translation: The controller is telling you to proceed with the communication that you called the tower for in the first place. The controller is not telling you to go ahead onto the runway and takeoff!
Stand By – The controller is telling you that she cannot take the time during that moment to respond. Translation: The controller is saturated with other duties and/or other traffic. What To Do: If you have been identified, do not talk on the frequency until you are contacted. If you have not been identified, wait your turn.
Stay Clear –When approaching a Class C or D airspace, controllers grant you access by using your aircraft tail number. If the controller does not use the aircraft number, then you are not cleared into the airspace. Example: ‘Aircraft calling Huntsville, stay clear of the Class C and stand by.’ Translation: A denial has been made. You cannot penetrate the airspace and you cannot even ask permission right then.
Radar Contact Lost – Until the FAA gets a few things sorted out, radar data that determines an aircraft’s position on a radar screen can disappear or be unreliable. Often, this occurs simply because the airplane is below the radar line-of-sight coverage. However, it could also mean that the aircraft’s target is merging with weather or ground clutter returns. Translation: The controllers can no longer give a traffic advisories or helpful vectors. Note: The news media often uses the phrase ‘radar contact was lost’ interchangeably with ‘aircraft accident’ — this is inaccurate.
Radar Services Terminated – This is the controller’s way of cutting you lose from his control and services. Translation: Your aircraft may still be in ‘radar contact,’ but the controller will no longer provide traffic, altitude, or vector information. Note: A pilot can request to extend radar services by asking for ‘flight following,’ but the controller does not have to comply. Also, radar services are automatically terminated when a pilot is handed off to a control tower or to the advisory frequency if at a non-towered airport.
BOTTOM LINE: Aviation uses phrases that are short in words, but large in meaning. Make sure you review the Pilot/Controllers Glossary in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) periodically to insure that you can talk the talk.