Archive for the Operation & Communication Category

FRTOL : Passed

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 | Permalink

The Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL), authorises you to operate an Aircraft Radio Station in a UK registered aircraft [CAA].

While a Private Pilots License (PPL) lets you fly the plane, it does not make you legal to operate the radio.   If you plan to fly exclusively out of grass strips and outside controlled airspace, this might be ok – but realistically, you’re going to need to use that radio and over the course of the PPL training will have already clocked up significant usage anyway.

The FRTOL Exam is a practical/oral exam involving (typically) the applicant in one room and the examiner in another and simulating a flight and the associated radio calls.

Personally, due to the flight being simulated, I found the timings to be very “disorientating” in the sense that it’s hard to judge a reasonable time between calls (the map is covering > 50 miles, you’d have tens of minutes to plan a call – but that feels like cheating, so I tried to make each call with only a handful of seconds gap).   If I could give others any advice, I’d say take your time more, remember that in real life you really would have time to plan initial contact calls – so take that time, you’re paying for the examiners time so leave them waiting if you’re getting your head clear on your next way point initial call or request etc.

The debrief was pretty intensive, but I passed and that was my only objective of the day.   If you’re learning and wondering about costs, the exam cost me £90.

If you want to know more about the FRTOL, privileges/requirements/exam – read Section 6 of CAA: CAP 804

That’s it, we’re done…….all that is left is to put a massive pack of paperwork together to the CAA.

Air Traffic Service Units: Call Signs

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 | Permalink

Think of air traffic services units and most people will think exclusively of “Air Traffic Control“.  However, not all airspace is “controlled”, but you can still have radio communications with an air traffic service and in many cases the communication will sound not dissimilar to what a typical person would assume to be ‘Air Traffic Control’ (e.g. Class F airspace)……..Call signs are what differentiates the type of service you’re talking to.

Air Traffic Control Unit (ATCU): “Control”, “Radar”, “Approach”, “Director”, “Tower”, “Ground”

Aerodrome Flight Information Service (AFIS): “Information”

Aerodrome Air/Ground Communication Service (AGCS): “Radio”

Without going into detail a Control Unit has the highest qualified employees and you’ll be dealing with professional controllers who’ve passed a set of CAA exams, an ATCU is the only service which can provide a Clearance (A Permission or Instruction to act).   ‘Information’ will have you talking to someone who’s passed a few less exams and likely have less equipment, as such they can only provide ‘information’.    Finally AGCS means you’re talking to someone who has a ‘certificate of competence’, AGCS can only give information with regard to the aerodrome itself and any traffic they know about.

If ATCU’s are the only people who can tell you to do something:

  • All other actions taken are the responsibility of the Pilot In Command (PIC)
  • It’s really important to know who you’re talking to!

Because Callsigns are the only means of telling who you’re talking to:

It is an offense to use an inappropriate Callsign.

As such, if an AGCS started declaring itself to be “Tower” or “Control” (instead of “Radio”).  They would be fast tracking themselves to having their licence removed and potentially other legal actions taken against them.

It’s worth a reminder here that there is a difference between the types of “Air Traffic Services” and the types of “Air Traffic Service Units” described above.