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Roger, Wilco, Oveur and Dunn – Part 1

In order to safely and smoothly fly through our system you must do more than just talk the talk, you must understand the hidden meaning behind the talk -- thinking you understand isn’t good enough.In order to safely and smoothly fly through our system you must do more than just talk the talk, you must understand the hidden meaning behind the talk -- thinking you understand isn’t good enough. Radio communications can be very fast paced and a code has developed to efficiently reduce congestion. The code consists of words and phrases that mean more than they say. We now have single words that deliver the message of an entire sentence.

PROBLEM: A lot of pilots know the word but not the message behind the word. Pilots must learn the code or dangerous miscommunications will follow.

DEFENSE: Study the code from an official source. The AIM is an excellent resource and suits this purpose well -- use it to study from and check yourself. Use it to check me. There’s a reason that aviation has chosen a common language. Do you know exactly what the following terms mean?

Roger – When a pilot or controller uses the word 'Roger' it means: I have received all of your last transmission. Therefore, 'Roger' should *never* be used in answer to a question requiring a yes or no response.

Example: If a controller asks 'can you exit the runway at the next taxiway' and you respond by saying, 'Roger,' the controller still has no idea what your intentions are and can’t issue a landing clearance to another airplane. Will you make the turn-off or not? This will lead to confusion at best and a runway incursion at worst, all because the pilot used a word without understanding the code. The pilot should have answered with either, 'negative,' or 'affirmative.'

Wilco – This is a contraction for the words 'will comply' -- but it means more. In total using the word 'wilco' means that you have received the last message, you understand the message, and you will comply with instructions contained in the message. So saying 'roger wilco' is at least partially redundant.

Example: The controller says, 'exit the runway at the next taxiway.' You respond with 'Wilco.' Now ... DO IT.

Blocked – One of the most frustrating and potentially dangerous situations that routinely takes place on an ATC frequency is when two people try to talk at the same time.

Example: A controller calls your aircraft number and all you hear is: 'N1234A you have traffic ---------.' You just missed the most important part of the message because someone 'stepped on' the transmission. When this happens don’t waste more time by asking the controller to 'repeat the traffic information for N1234A.' Instead, just say 'blocked.' The controller will know what you mean and repeat the information.

BOTTOM LINE: On the radio, time is of the essence. Learn to replace a paragraph with the correct phrase and a sentence with the correct word. This way everyone gets the vital information that keeps aircraft separated and flowing smoothly.

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About This Author:
Paul A. Craig is a Gold Seal Multiengine and Instrument Flight Instructor. He currently holds a total of 11 Flight Certificates including his ATP. Craig is a previous winner of the North Carolina and Tennessee Flight Instructor of the Year award, the NCVT Outstanding Teacher award and has served as the regional representative of the National Air and Space Museum. Craig is an FAA Aviation Safety Counselor and the author of eight books, including Pilot In Command, The Killing Zone: How and Why Pilots Die, and Controlling Pilot Error: Situational Awareness (all from McGraw Hill).
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