5 Things VFR Pilots should say (more)

Radio communication is always one of the hardest things to learn for many pilots. It actually seems to make flying harder sometimes. You’re already busy flying the plane when ATC gives you a call so fast all you catch is your tail number. Other pilots in CTAF areas can make it even worse. Let me give you the top five things I’ve learned to say over the years that have made flying easier and safer.

“Say Again or Confirm.” Please don’t assume or guess that you got the call correct. If you aren’t 100% sure ask ATC. “XXX approach 41F can you say heading again”. It is much safer to ask “Long beach Tower confirm 41F clear to land runway 30” then to risk a runway incursion. I often tell students the only difference between an airline captain and an amateur on the radio is that the airline captain asks more questions to make sure they got it right.

“Big Bear traffic: Blue & White Cessna 42X is on a 45 entry for left downwind 26:Big Bear.” Always add your color and type of aircraft to radio calls in non-towered areas and airports. Making radio calls with just a tail number is useless. If I’m close enough to read your tail number, I probably don’t need to hear your call! When you tell people what to look for, “red Piper” for example, you make it much easier to see you. It makes the whole are safer.

“Can I get progressive please?” I learned to fly at a very busy airport and taxing at busy airports is pretty easy. That’s not true for all. When you ask for progressive taxi instructions you make the whole airport safer. Ask any controllers and they will always tell you they like to give progressives. All controllers know that it takes less time to give progressive instructions than to fill out the paperwork on a runway incursion if you get lost.

“Negative contact.” is critical to your safety. I won’t fly without flight following because they can see traffic 5 miles away and behind me. They try to call out as much traffic as they can, workload permitting. It is very important that if they call out traffic and you don’t see it within 30-60 seconds that you tell them, “Negative Contact.” If you don’t tell them the may assume that you will see and avoid. IF you tell them you don’t see them they can help you with vectors, a change in altitude, or just a better idea of where to look.

“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday.” This is the phrase that needs to be said much more often. After reading hundreds of NTSB reports, I have found one universal truth. People who died in aircraft accidents either did not declare an emergency or did so way too late to get help. People who declare an emergency, before it becomes one, are much more likely to have a safe outcome. I know this will generate some controversy, but in my opinion when things start to go wrong I would like people to say Mayday immediately and much more often. I’ve declared an emergency with an alternator failure, VFR at night, and when the EGT temperature on one cylinder was so high it had to be wrong. I’ve declared an emergency so often on SoCal that they respond with, “Hi Gary, what’s up?” There will be a lot of people who say that you should wait, or troubleshoot, or not bother a busy ATC. The NTSB records are full of hundreds of dead pilots who overflew multiple airports with “minor” problems before becoming part of horrible crashes. ATC is never too busy to help a plane land safely before the fire starts or before the engine quits. They would much rather stop for 5 minutes to help you than try to find an ELT signal later.

What did I miss, what else should VFR pilots say more often?  Let me know in the comments.

About the author:

Gary D Reeves, ATP, Master CFI, CFII,MEI has been teaching for over ten years and has over 6000 hours. He is the 2016 FAA Instructor of the Year for the SW Region(CA, AZ, NV, HI).  As a national expert in IFR Training, Garmin Avionics, iPad use, Mountain Flying and aviation safety he is a lead rep for the FAA Safety team and founded the volunteer group PilotSafety.org


5 Reasons I upgraded my Garmin 430 to the Avidyne IFD440

I have and always will be a huge fan of Garmin GPS units. I teach Garmin training classes and do 1-2-1 training all over the U.S. The 430/530 series in many ways brought ease of use in an affordable unit to general aviation. I think that the 430/530 series will be in service for many years. There are also five big reasons I am upgrading to the Avidyne IFD440.

Hybrid touch allows the user to combine the familiar buttons/knobs with the new touchscreen technology if they want to. The best parts of using an iPad, like dragging flight plan lines and pinch/zoom are built in. Unlike other touchscreen units though, you can use the screen or the knobs for every function without going through multiple menus to quickly access what you need.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built in. The Avidyne IFD440 & 540 has both built in to every unit. This allows easy connectivity to popular iPad programs and at the same time lets you use a wireless keyboard! Yes, you read that right. Forget turning the knobs 100 times to enter a flight plan. Pull out the wireless keyboard and enter even complex flight plans much faster and easier.

IFD series wireless

Geo-Fill is one of the biggest step-ups to make flight plans easier and faster to enter. Every time I flied a flight plan from KLGB to SMO, the Santa Monica VOR, my trusty G430 always asks if I want the SMO VOR several hundred miles away in Mexico. It always adds just one more step to select the one, which is only 19 miles away. The Avidyne IFD440/540 has a logic chain built in that will always suggest the waypoint that is closest to your flight plan leg or present position. It seems like a small change, but it really makes flight planning much faster.

Radio communication is made easier. Decoding and display of radio names will reduce radio mistakes. It will be pretty hard to transmit on the wrong frequency when below the frequency it lists the name of the station displayed. For instance below 128.800 it will say Boston Twr. The system also allows easier standby tuning.

IFD540 Multiple Frequencies

All of the above are great reasons to upgrade my unit, but the biggest reason is the instant upgrade. Avidyne calls it Plug N Play. I call it immediate gratification. Slide the G430 out, slide the IFD440 in, set-up 2 configuration pages and you’re done. When I installed the G430 my airplane was at the avionics shop for two weeks. When I install the IFD440 my airplane will be done in 10 minutes. OK, maybe 20, I will need to get some logbook entries and print out some supplements for my AFH. The Avidyne IFD 440/540 series are designed to use the same tray, wiring, connections and cables as the Garmin 430/530 series you are replacing. This makes the installation of every other touchscreen “upgrade” navcomm units seem slow and expensive.

As I stated in the beginning, I will always remain a fan of Garmin and the innovations that they have brought to make aviation better and safer. On the other hand, you may find me camped outside next to my mailbox waiting for my new awesome Avidyne IFD 440.  Is it here yet?? What do you look for when you upgrade your avionics? Let me know in the comments, and as always, fly safe!

About the author:

Gary D Reeves, ATP, Master CFI, CFII,MEI has been teaching for over ten years and has over 6000 hours including turboprop experience. He is the 2016 FAA Instructor of the Year for the SW Region(CA, AZ, NV, HI).  As a national expert in IFR Training, Garmin Avionics, iPad use, Mountain Flying and aviation safety he is a lead rep for the FAA Safety team and founded the volunteer group PilotSafety.org  If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please visit www.PilotSafety.org, or contact him directly at GaryR@pilotsafety.org.