Online Ground School (Private Pilot)

Lesson 14.7:  Radio Communication

Radio Communication

     Reference: ACS PA.III.A.K1 - K9, PA.III.B.K1 - K4 PHAK Chapter 14 AIM Section 2

When flying in and out of towered airports and around the airspace, two way communication is required with ATC.  It is also good practice and highly recommended to use radio communication at non-towered airports, but not required.  We will discuss the following:

  • Radio Licences

  • Lost Communication Procedures

  • Transponders

Radio Licence 

  • A radio licence is not required to fly within the United States. 

  • If a pilot where to fly internationally into Canada or Mexico or any other country,  ​a pilot must hold a restricted radiotelephone permit issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Lost Communication Procedures

Losing a radio in flight can happen at anytime to anyone.  There are a few steps we must know, to enter a towered airport and land safely.

  • Remain outside or above of Class D airspace, until traffic flow has been determined.

  • Squawk code 7600 on the transponder (radio failure)

  • Enter the traffic pattern and watch for light gun signals from the tower.

  • Acknowledge any ATC transmission or light signal.
    • Day time​ - rocking the wings

    • Night time - flashing the landing light.

Light Gun Signals


These are apart of the airborne surveillance radar system.  Transponders are required to be able to fly in controlled airspace.  A transponder identifies the aircraft on the controllers radar screen by aircraft type, altitude, and direction.  When ATC request a transponder code, it is called a "squawk." A squawk code is a four digit code that can be assigned by ATC.  But, there are four squawk codes a pilot must memorize and may not be given by ATC.

  • 1200 - VFR no radar services by ATC

  • 7700 - Emergency

  • 7600 - Radio failure

  • 7500 - Hijacked 

More information on Transponders in AIM Chapter 4 Section 4-1-20


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