Efficient Communication with ATC

Efficient communication is a key element to safety in aviation: many misshaps and accidents result from poor communication. This post can help pilots, that are used to fly within the united states, that intend to fly in germany, but contains also general information related to communication with ATC.


  • Speak clearly. At small airports speak slowly, many “Flugleiters” are not English Proficient at your level.
  • Have ICAO Identifiers ready in case your counterpart does not understand your Departure or Destination Airport.
  • If a transmission is not understood, unclear, incomplete or makes no sense: Querry, ask to repeat.
  • Don´t forget: ATC controllers are also human beings. Mistakes may happen on both sides.
  • When you receive an instruction, think first: does it make sense?
  • Readback relevant information only.
  • Always readback runway assignements, hold short and crossing instructions,  landing and takeoff clearances.
  • Do use the word „Takeoff“ only when associated with a Takeoff Clearance
  • For your first flights in Germany, the attached Quick Reference sheet will help you to get into the flow…
  • An initial „wake-up“ call is always performed in germany, stating only the station you call and your call sign.
  • Speak your call sign clearly, make sure the counterpart has your correct call sign, otherwise clarify.
  • Practice the calls in the shower, in the car, play pilot and controller with your kidds.
  • Be friendly – your counterpart could be as nervous as you…


When approaching an airport, stay ahead. As an example: on a short Flight from Mainz to Mannheim, it is very easy to get behind the airplane. When leaving the pattern to the south in Mainz, when ever it is practicable, listen to the ATIS and make your plan, how to approach the airport. Remember: additional planning is involved, since you have to enter a control zone via specific VFR checkpoints. Some of those are easy to approach and identify (KILO at Mannheim) – others are not (ECHO at Kassel). As soon as you have a plan, how to approach your destination, DETERMINE where and when you intend to do your initial call. Use distance or time. In Germany you are required to call 10 minutes before you enter a control zone. Make it part of your flight planning, WHEN and WHERE you will do your initial call. Stay professional. Don´t call out “10 Minutes North of KILO” and report KILO after  20 other seconds. Use GPS, make plans ahead. Rules of thumb:

60Knots Ground speed: 1 NM per Minute 90Knots Ground speed: 1.5 NM per Minute
120Knots Ground speed: 2 NM per Minute

As an example: If you leave the pattern in Mainz, fly southbound to the large Alzey Autobahn Intersection and then straight to Kilo that last leg will take about 12 Minutes (assuming a ground speed of 110kts) – so by then you should not unwrap your cheese sandwich, but listen to ATIS. If you get behind: SLOW DOWN.

Also be aware, that many smaller german airports do not provide communication in english. On the Approach Plate or Airport Chart, make sure you find “En/Ge”, then English and German communication is provided. If the Plate states “Ge” only, German is the only communication language. If in doubt, call the airport by phone, before you go.

This here is a quick reference, that you can print out for your next flight. It also contains a scratch pad to copy an ATIS quickly.


[media-downloader media_id=“48″ texts=“ATIS SCRATCHPAD“]

Here, you will find detailed descriptions, of the differences between communication with ATC in the U.S. and in Germany:

Uncontrolled Airport

Controlled Airport

Flight Following / Traffic Advisories

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