IFR Training is Missing Something

You know what disappoints me about IFR training? IFR training does not include radio training. Of course your flight instructor is going to help you make radio calls as a part of your IFR training, but it’s all non-structured training. That’s pretty disappointing. I’ll explain.

Alone, Unarmed, and Unafraid

Let’s say you had a job where you were going to be deployed to another country. In this new country, the locals do not speak your language. A few weeks before you are scheduled to deploy to this country, your boss puts you in touch with a guy who speaks the language you will need to know.

Here’s the rub. The guy who is going to help you with the language is just a guy off the street. He has no teaching degree in language studies. He has had no formal training in his own language. All he knows about his own language is what he’s picked up through experience. His command of his own language may be perfect, or he may speak street slang.

Now, it could be the case that street slang might fit your assignment perfectly. You might be assigned to work with people in-country who speak street slang. It would help to know the dialect. Or, you might be assigned to work a diplomatic position, where precise language is imperative. In that case, street slang might, at the least, discredit your character and, at worst, cause grave misunderstandings.

If you were that person, sent off into a strange new land with questionable language skills, informally taught, and untested in the real world, wouldn’t you be a little pissed off at your boss? You might be okay, but what if you aren’t? I mean, how dare he send you off with such poor preparation.

What Happened to Radio Training?

This is how it is with IFR training and radio work. The current state of training for radio work is: there is no state of training. It’s all hit-and-miss. It’s apprenticeship with pilots who learned what they know by apprenticeship. With no standardized training in radio work, bad habits and incorrect phraseology get passed along from pilot to pilot.

Don’t believe, me? Listen to your aircraft radio. Compare what you hear to what is written in the Aeronautical Information Manual’s pilot/controller glossary. You will be listening for a long time before you hear a phrase from a pilot’s mouth that matches the standard phrasing in the AIM.

In your apprenticeship, you might be learning standard phrasing for working with ATC, or you might be learning the pilot’s equivalent of street slang. It’s hard to tell because the FAA ignores the whole process. Right now, the habits you build for speaking on the radio, through apprenticeship, all depend on blind luck.

Don’t Take it Lying Down

You don’t have to take this lying down. You can decide to move away from the apprenticeship model and learn the language in a practiced, strategic manner. You could pick up the AIM and learn by rote. Or, you could use a resource that helps you learn by doing.

For a great resource on how to copy and understand the standard phrasing of ATC route clearances, check out Clearance Magic.