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Bush Pilot In Training Podcast – Episode #2 – Communications

Show notes:


In this episode I’m going to deal with communications

First, Radio Frequencies

There are three frequencies that need to be memorized : 121.5, 123.2, and 126.7

Use 121.5 for emergencies and military interception. If you’re calling out a Pan Pan or Mayday or if you need to contact ATSU when intercepted by the military use 121.5. 121.5 is for emergencies and military contact.

If you are using an aerodrome without a mandatory ATF frequency the default frequency is 123.2. One,two, three POINT two Simple, like 1,2,3. Some aerodromes have mandatory frequencies, but for those that don’t use 123.2

When not on a MF or communicating with someone, monitor 126.7 MHz. This is not a requirement, but a best practice.


Remember them like this: 3 frequencies, in order, from first to last:
121.5, comes before
123.2, comes before

Emergencies/military come first, so the first number is 121.5;

Default aerodrome frequency is not an emergency, but you often need it, so it’s second, and the second number is 123.2;

monitoring uncontrolled airspace is third – 126.7.

When on 126.7 and reporting the proper info to report is Ident, position, the time, altitude ,VFR or VFR OTT, and destination. Remember:
Who you are,
and where you are (like when you are talking to tower),
then when,
what your altitude is,
what you are doing (VFR or VFR OTT)
and where you’re going.

so, W6-who,where,when,where,what,and where;

Mandatory Frequencies

When approaching an aerodrome with a MF you must contact traffic PRIOR to entering and when possible 5 minutes ahead of entering the MF area. Think TIME, not distance. Different airspeed means time changes over the same distance. Think TIME and it’s constant. 5 minutes is a good amount of time for MF traffic to react;
In an MF zone you must also report when joining the circuit, when on the downwind leg if applicable, when on final, when clear of the surface on which airplanes land. Basically the calls are the same as the ones you’d make to the tower and the clearances they’d give you – downwind call(downwind), then they tell you you’re clear to land (you announce you’re on final), then you ask for taxi clearance (you announce you’re clear of the runway);
When leaving an MF zone you have to report when you’re clear of the zone;

If you are in the circuit at a Class C aerodrome and you experience a comms failure:
Set the transponder to 7600;
inform ATC ASAP of the actions taken.

The next part of communication is Light Signals

Light signals approximate the clearances you’d get from the tower. You use them if you have a radio failure
(in which case you set your transponder to 7600)

The light signals come in solid or flashing colors and have slightly different meanings depending on whether
you’re on the ground or in the air.

Solid green means cleared for take off or cleared for landing.

Flashing green means cleared for taxi or return for landing.

Solid red means stop when you’re on the ground. In the air a solid red means give way to other aircraft and keep circling.

Flashing red on the ground means taxi clear of the runway.

Flashing red in the air means airport unsafe- do not land.

Red pyrotechnics is similar, meaning “Do not land for the time being”

Flashing white lights mean return to your starting point on the airfield

Blinking runway lights mean clear the runway immediately. This applies to all vehicles, planes and pedestrians.

Remember, with light signals, the solid color means the obvious (stop/go); the flashing color means the next obvious thing (cleared for taxi/get out of here), and what it means in the air is roughly parallel to what it means on the ground.

Green means go, so on the ground solid green means cleared for take off. In the air it means cleared for landing.

Flashing green on the ground is cleared to taxi, and in the air it means return for landing. You’ll probably see it after you’ve been shown a red light and instructed to keep circling.

A solid red on the ground means stop. You can’t stop when you’re in the air, so solid red in the air means give way to other aircraft and keep circling.

Flashing red light on the ground means taxi clear of runway (if red always means
“Stop” then flashing red must mean something more, i.e. get out of here.)

Flashing red light while you’re in the air means airport unsafe for time being,
don’t land (i.e, airport unsafe – get out of here). Again, red pyrotechnics are roughly equivelant.

A flashing white light means return to your starting point on the airport.


I’ve mentioned some of this before, but we’ll start from the top.

There are 5 transponder numbers you need to remember. 7700, 7600, 7500, 1400 and 1200.

The first number 7700, is for emergencies and military interception. If something like 911 happens again, or you stray into military airspace when you’re not supposed to, set your transponder to 7700. If you have an emergency, set the transponder to 7700.

If you have a communications failure, set the transponder to 7600. If you’re in a control zone with a tower and the radio fails the tower will know you’ve got a comms failure if you set the transponder to 7600. They may not be able to hear you or talk to you, but they will know why and take appropriate action (like break out the light signals)

If you are hijacked set the transponder to 7500. Enough said. Just memorize that number.

If you are flying at 12,500′ ASL or above and haven’t been directed otherwise by ATC set the transponder to 1400.

If you are flying below 12,500 ASL and haven’t been directed otherwise by ATC set the transponder to 1200.

Radio clarity
You or the tower can initiate a radio check. The readabilty scale runs from 1 to 5, with 1 being unreadable and 5 being perfectly readable.
1 is unreadable
2 is readable now and then
3 is readable with diffculty
4 is good
5 is excellent.

The strength scale also reads from 1 to 5, with 1 being weak and 5 being strong.

Another part of communication is the ELT

ELTs should be switched on manually as soon as possible after an emergency landing and left on.
The ELT should turn on automatically, but it may fail to do so. Turn the ELT on and leave it on after an
emergency landing

You can test an ELT in the first 5 minutes of any hour UTC


Military interception

If you are intercepted by the military they will only tell you a few things – follow me, land, or proceed.
You need to be able to tell them that you understand and will comply, that you can’t comply, or that you’re in distress. BTW, you can’t just decide you don’t feel like complying. You need a good, and obvious reason.

So, if the military intercepts you they will fly up beside you and rock their wings and drop flares. This means “Follow me”. You respond by rocking your wings and following where they lead. They will turn slowly to the left and lead you somewhere.

As that occurs set your transponder to 7700 and set your radio to 121.5 mhz. Advise ATS what’s happening.

If the military decides you can proceed they will execute an abrupt climbing turn to the left of more than 90 degrees. You can rock your wings to acknowledge. An abrupt climbing turn to the left means “You can proceed”.

If they don’t do that, follow them. They will take you someplace they want you to land. They will signal this by doing a flyover the runway with gear deployed.

When this happens, follow them look at the runway, and then return and land if safe.

If its not safe to land you flyover at 1,000-2,000 without landing. If you have retractable gear, raise them. This is not the same as “Cannot comply”. It means that you, as PIC, feel that the aerodrome is unsafe.

The military will then either release you with the abrupt climbing turn to the left of more than 90 degrees, or instruct you to follow them to another aerodrome by raising their own gear and flying away to the left slowly en route to another runway.

If you are intercepted but cannot comply you must toggle all available lights in a regular manner that is distinct from merely flashing lights. You might want to be careful about doing this. The military may then break off with the abrupt climbing turn to the left, but they might decide to shoot you down.

If you are being intercepted and you are in distress flash all available lights in an irregular manner.

These actions are the same, day or night.

Flight plans

Flight plans and itineraries are a kind of communication, so I’m including them here.

When flying VFR you must file a flight plan or itinerary when flying more than 25 nm from the aerodrome.

You also need a flight plan if you’re flying from Canada to the US, even if the flight is less than 25 nm.

You need to file a defence flight plan or itinerary if you’re going into ADIZ.

Flight plans are filed with ATCs, Flight Service Stations or a community aerodrome radio station.

Flight itineraries can be filed with a responsible person, meaning ATCs, an FSS, a community aerodrome radio station, or your mother (as long as she’s responsible).

A defense flight itinerary is the obvious exception – you can’t file that with your mum. It needs to be filed with ATC, an FSS or a community aerodrome radio station.

Changes to your route, destination or flight duration a flight plan or itinerary have to be communicated to whoever you filed it with as soon as practicable.

If its a defense flight plan or itinerary you need to do it if you’re time of entry or exit to ADIZ varies by +/- 5 minutes, or if the entry/exit point is more than 20 miles off the planned course.

The big difference between flight plans and flight itineraries is that flight plans must be closed as soon as practicable after landing but no later than the SAR time indicated on the flight plan, and if there is no SAR time, no later than one hour after the last reported ETA.

A flight itinerary has to be closed no later than the SAR time indicated in it, or 24 hours after the last reported ETA.

You close either with the people you filed them with: ATC, FSS, a community aerodrome radio station, or, if its a flight itinerary, the responsible person.

If you don’t close the plan or itinerary SAR will be initiated. If you aren’t crashed you don’t want that to happen. Close the flight plan!

My name is Rob Chipman and I’m a realtor and pilot based in Vancouver, BC. I AM NOT A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR AND I AM NOT OFFERING FLIGHT INSTRUCTION! I am sharing my study notes and other things I’ve learned while getting my education as a pilot. You’re welcome to make use of this information, but do not treat it as expert advice.

I really enjoy flying, real estate and the Chilcotin.  My company is Coronet Realty Ltd., located at 3582 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC, V5K 2A7. I have a C-150L that I own with two other pilots, based out of Pitt Meadows. Do not hesitate to contact me by email if I can help you do anything, especially if its likely to be interesting or concerns selling remote property in British Columbia.

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