Magazine masthead.

(Don’t) Drop the Mic!

Take Our Quiz to Sound Like a Pro on the Radio

Photo of ATC in the tower.
Magazine cover.

Scenario 1: Rollin’ Off the Runway

  • 🛩️ “Cessna 1234 Oscar, Roger”
  • 🛩️ “Cessna 1234 Oscar, Unable”
  • 🛩️ “Cessna 1234 Oscar, Wilco”
  • 🛩️ “Cessna 1234 Oscar, Wasn’t Expecting That!”
Answer: The answer here is: Cessna 1234 Oscar, Unable. Remember, the final decision to act on ATC’s instructions rests with you.
Photo of airplane on taxiway.

Scenario 2: Roger That Affirmative

  • 🛩️ “Cessna 5432 India, Yes”
  • 🛩️ “Cessna 5432 India, Roger”
  • 🛩️ “Cessna 5432 India, Affirmative”
  • 🛩️ “Cessna 5432 India, Wilco”
Answer: Yes or No is not proper aviation phraseology. The correct terms are “Affirmative” for Yes, or “Negative” for No. “Wilco” is short for “I heard your message and I will comply.” “Roger” means “received and understood.” Never use Roger to answer a yes or no question. The correct answer to this question is: Cessna 5432 India, Affirmative.
Photo looking out of cockpit.

Bonus Question:

In this example, ATC’s transmission is not a yes or no question, it’s a traffic advisory. You should state whether you have the traffic in sight or “looking,” and include the aircraft’s position or identifier. Your reply should be: Cessna 5432 India, traffic one o’clock, in sight. Or Cessna 5432 India, looking for traffic. (See Scenario 3 for more on this topic.)

Scenario 3: Oh Say Can You See the Traffic?

Answer: The pilot should specify which traffic he has in sight by including either the aircraft identifier (Embraer or Marchetti) or the aircraft’s position (three o’clock or nine o’clock) in the transmission to ATC.
Photo inside ATC tower.

Scenario 4: Stand By Me

  • 🛩️ Clearance to Proceed
  • 🛩️ Line Up and Wait
  • 🛩️ Hold Short
  • 🛩️ Wait
Answer: “Stand By” means wait. Monitor the frequency, we will re-establish contact. It does not deliver clearance. It is simply a way of saying, “I will get back to you soon,” or “I’m too busy to answer you right now, but I will be right back.” If ATC seems to have forgotten you, never assume you have clearance to proceed. When there is a break in transmissions, call again.
Photo of pilot in right seat.

Scenario 5: I’m Listening

Answer: False. The pilot was not cleared to proceed. The phrase “Go Ahead” is only used as an instruction to proceed with your request or transmission. It is not used for any other purpose and does not deliver clearance to proceed.


Jennifer Caron is FAA Safety Briefing’s copy editor and quality assurance lead. She is a certified technical writer-editor in the FAA’s Flight Standards Service.
This article was originally published in the September/October 2021 issue of FAA Safety Briefing magazine.
FAASTeam banner.



Voices, stories and news from the Federal Aviation Administration

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
FAA Safety Briefing

Official FAA safety policy voice for general aviation. Part of the national FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam).