ATC and Airfield Communications
DISCLAIMER: THIS GUIDE IS FOR USE IN SIMULATIONS ONLY. DO NOT USE THIS GUIDE FOR REAL LIFE APPLICATIONS. ALSO BEAR IN MIND THIS GUIDE IS MEANT FOR HOGGIT'S DCS SERVERS AND MAY NOT BE CONFORMING WITH REAL LIFE AND ICAO PROCEDURES.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Fundamentals
- 3 Airport patterns
- 4 Necessary radio callouts
- 5 Detailed examples
This document has been written in order to help newer DCS players better understand the airfield communications. Following these guidelines will hopefully reduce the amount of collisions, and make airfield traffic and communication much more efficient and enjoyable for everybody.
Below in the figure is an example of which radio messages might be used when departing from an uncontrolled airfield.
Use radios (SRS) to not drive or fly into one another around airfields. Before making a radio call, plan what you are going to say, and don't speak over someone else.
When making the call, try to follow the format of:
- Who are you talking to
- Who are you
- Your message
So for example: Anapa tower, Uzi 2-1, radio check.
Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) is available at all airports: check the briefing for the SRS ATIS frequency of your specific airport. ATIS should be tuned in and listened to prior to taxiing, and prior to announcing landing intentions at a given airport, since the current active runway for any given airport is clearly stated in the recording.
ATIS is a looped recording that gives the player the following information:
- Active runway
- Wind direction and speed
- Cloud type and density
In GAW, ATIS is renewed each hour and assigned a letter for each, starting with Alpha and ending with Delta.
Airport patterns are used in clear visibility conditions for visual approaches and they increase the number of planes that can be landed in a set timeframe if performed correctly. At uncontrolled airfields they reduce the number of collisions, so they should be basic knowledge for every pilot. Please bear in mind that these descriptions are very basic, for absolute beginners to get some idea of approach patterns, and are not meant to be totally accurate.
Overhead break pattern
The overhead pattern is the preferred method of landing in daytime and good visibility conditions, especially when there is traffic and the airport is uncontrolled. In controlled conditions you can be cleared for an overhead maneuver. The overhead pattern is performed as follows. For additional information and pictures look for resources online as this is a very brief explanation.
Establish on runway heading at pattern altitude (usually 1500 ft. AGL) and 300 knots. Once you are within 3-5 nm of the airport you are at the initial point.
When you are over the runway, perform a break into the pattern. This means you turn left (or right) at a 45 degree bank angle and hold altitude. Reduce your speed and put your gear and flaps down. You can check your kneeboard charts to determine if the runway has a left or right hand pattern. Left hand pattern is much more common.
You should arrive on downwind on pattern altitude, then descent to 800ft. AGL and get trimmed on speed and gear/flaps down.
When the airport is at a 45 degree angle behind you start your base turn. If performed correctly you should find yourself on a relatively short final.
During straight in approaches you simply establish on runway heading intercept the glide path and land. This is used during low traffic and for emergency landings. Try not to be too slow during a long final approach because there might be people behind you flying faster, which can mess up separation and someone might have to eventually go around.
Necessary radio callouts
For uncontrolled airfields the basic procedures contain simply calling out what you are up to and look out for others to avoid collisions. Always takeoff form the active runway or ask what runway is active at the time. Priorities are as follows: 1. Planes on the runway have absolute priority. 2. Planes on final have priority over planes awaiting departure. 3. Players awaiting departure need to wait until there is no incoming traffic.
- ...radio check on ATC/traffic frequency as soon as you have power to your radios.
- ...taxi out when you are ready to taxi. Look out for other planes taxiing. When in doubt, stop.
- ...line up once you enter the runway.
- ...takeoff as you start your takeoff roll.
- ...departing/switching frequency as soon as you leave the airspace.
- ...inbound approximately 10-15 nautical miles out from the airport.
- ...break when you are breaking for the overhead pattern.
- ...downwind as you reach a stable downwind leg.
- ...final when your final approach has begun.
- ...vacated runway as soon as you have left the runway.
For controlled airfield you basically request permission to do stuff and get information and instructions from the ATC (Air traffic control, or Tower). Readback important information for the ATC to confirm a correct transmission. Follow ATC instructions as closely.
- ...startup (optional) and do a radio check as soon as you have power to your radios.
- ...taxi when you are started up. You will receive clearance to taxi to a runway via specified taxiways. Stop before entering the runway.
- Ground charts and airport information are available in the ingame kneeboard.
- ...line up when you are ready to enter the runway.
- ...departure when you are on the runway. Once cleared for takeoff do not linger around. Be swift, but always be
- ...inbound. This is approximately 10-15 nautical miles out from the airport. You will receive vectors for your approach. Follow these
- instructions closely to avoid colliding with traffic.
- ...break when you are breaking for the overhead pattern.
- ...downwind as you reach a stable downwind leg.
- ...final when your final approach has begun. You will get cleared to land or get a go around at this point.
- ...vacated runway as soon as you left the active runway. ATC will contact you with taxi instructions for parking.
General rules for uncontrolled airfields:
Planes on the runway have absolute priority. After that arriving planes on downwind or final have priority over anyone waiting to roll onto the runway.
This is a detailed example of an F/A-18C Callsign Uzi 2-1 on the Ramp at Anapa. There is no ATC active at the time.
Radio transmissions by Uzi 2-1 are marked green.
Tune in to the ATC/Traffic frequency (249.5 AM for GAW) as soon as your radios have power and do a radio check to assure you are transmitting loud and clear.
249.5, Uzi 2-1, radio check.
Hawg 4-2, Uzi 2-1, got you 5 by 5.
So you got an answer from another plane. This means the airport is uncontrolled. If you got an answer from an ATC (Callsign Anapa tower or Anapa ground) the airport is controlled. Procedures for this are listed in chapter 2 (Controlled Airfield).
From here on out you basically call out everything you do to all planes in traffic. If not otherwise instructed by a human ATC, the active runway for Anapa is always the runway with headwinds. Do not takeoff or land from the wrong end. Another way to find out what runway is in use is to listen to traffic calls and follow what others are doing (as always think for yourself in that case, do not just turn your head off and follow).
Necessary calls are: taxiing, holding short of the runway, lining up on runway, taking off.
Anapa traffic, Uzi 2-1, taxiing to runway 22.
Anapa traffic, Uzi 2-1, holding short of runway 22.
Anapa traffic, Uzi 2-1, lining up on runway 22.
Anapa traffic, Uzi 2-1, taking off, runway 22.
Once you are airborne, you inform other planes what direction you are departing, and which frequency you are switching to.
Anapa traffic, Uzi 2-1, departing south east, last call, switching 253 AM, last call.
Now the Uzi 2-1 is returning from the mission and inbound to Anapa.
For arrivals your first call should always be the “inbound call”. It contains the Airfield name you are inbound to, your position, number of aircrafts in the flight, and further remarks like low fuel state.
Anapa, Uzi 2-1, Inbound from the north east, 15 nm out, single ship Hornet.
from this point on you call out where you are at certain points: breaking over the airfield, downwind, final, vacated runway. Look out for inbound or outbound traffic and listen on your radios where other people are.
Anapa traffic, Uzi 2-1, entering left-hand break, runway 22.
Anapa traffic, Uzi 2-1, on downwind for runway 22.
There will be other planes calling out their positions too so be aware you are not the only one in the airspace and check for other planes (e.g. look out the window or at the F10 map).
Anapa traffic, Chevy 4-2, holding short runway 22.
Anapa traffic, Uzi 2-1, on 3 mile final runway 22.
Anapa traffic, Uzi 2-1, runway vacated.
For Controlled Airfields general rules change quite a bit. If you have any special concerns or questions contact tower on radio and ask what you have got to ask. At worst you will get a standby call and you will get an answer after the ATC is done juggling traffic for a bit.
Here is a detailed example scenario for a flight of two A-10Cs Callsign Hawg 3-1 and Hawg 3-2 on the Ramp at Anapa. Anapa is controlled by a human ATC.
Radio transmissions by Hawg 3-1 are green.
Radio transmissions by ATC(Anapa tower) are blue.</pre>
As soon as there is power to the radios tune in to ATC frequency and do a radio check. For GAW this is 249.5 AM.
249.5, Hawg 3-1, radio check.
Hawg 3-1, Anapa tower, got you loud and clear.
Optional: Now that you know there is a ATC online for Anapa, ask for permission to start up your aircraft and give the tower a basic briefing of your flight.
Anapa tower, Hawg 3-1, roger that, flight of two A-10s at parking position 86 and 87, requesting startup and weather information.
Hawg 3-1, Anapa tower, cleared for startup, expect runway 22, QFE 29.87, CAVOK, wind 337 at 10 knots.
Anapa tower, cleared for startup, Hawg 3-1.
Notice the readback of vital information. This makes sure that you understood the ATC correctly and gives room for corrections. Don't be afraid to ask a "say again", if you did not copy something as radios can be full of static and people talking over each other.
When you are ready and started up call for the tower to get a taxi clearance.
Anapa tower, Hawg 3-1, flight of two, request taxi.
Hawg 3-1, Anapa tower, cleared for taxi runway 22 Mike Delta, hold short of runway 22.
Anapa tower, taxi to runway 22 via Mike Delta, holding short runway 22, Hawg 3-1.
Sometimes you will get remarks beyond your original request like traffic or weather information. Make sure you listen closely for those as they can be quite important. When you are holding short of the runway and ATC has not given clearance for takeoff to you call in and request it.
Anapa tower, Hawg 3 flight of two, holding short of runway 22, requesting departure.
Hawg 3 flight, Anapa tower, cleared for takeoff runway 22, wind 337 at 10 knots.
Anapa tower, cleared for takeoff runway 22, Hawg 3-1.
Once you are airborne call in for a last time to get handed off to GCI/TACCOM.
Anapa tower, Hawg 3 flight, airborne, request departure to the east.
Hawg 3 flight, Anapa tower, cleared to depart east, contact magic on 253 AM
Anapa tower, departing east, contacting magic 253 am, thank you, Hawg 3-1 out.
Now the same flight is RTB and inbound to Anapa for landing.
The procedures for landing at an controlled airfield differ a bit from what you do on an uncontrolled airfield. As always follow ATC instructions as close as possible and readback important information.
First check in on ATC frequency (249.5 for GAW) and call inbound. Do this at best 20-25 nm out from the airport so the atc has time to give you vectors and instructions. Inform ATC about any special remarks like how many planes are in your flight, low fuel or damage at this point.
Anapa, Hawg 3-1, Inbound, flight of two A10s, 25 nm north east from the airfield.
Hawg 3-1, Anapa tower, positive ID,active runway is 22, wind 337 at 10 knots, turn right heading 270, decent to 3000 feet.
Anapa Tower, active runway 22, turning right 270, descending to 3000 feet, Hawg 3-1.
From now on follow ATC instructions.
Hawg 3-1, Anapa tower, turn left heading 216 cleared for visual runway 22, report initial.
Anapa tower, turning left 216, cleared for visual runway 22, Hawg 3-1.
Upon reaching 10 nm from the airport call in for ATC. You will now get detailed approach information. This can be the instruction to do a overhead break or a straight in landing. For a straight in you just intercept the glidepath and come in for a landing on the active runway (mostly used when traffic is low and single planes are inbound). The overhead break consists out of a break, downwind and final circuit and is used for flights of two or more aircraft. ATC can specify a breakpoint in relation to the runway to assure aircraft separation. Since Hawg 3 flight consists out of two A-10s in our example, they will be instructed to do a overhead circuit.
Anapa Tower, Hawg 3-1, 10nm out, established.
Hawg 3-1, Anapa tower, cleared for overhead join, left hand break midfield.
Anapa tower, breaking lefthand midfield, Hawg 3-1.
For now call out your circuit as you would do for a uncontrolled approach (breaking, downwind, base, final). When on final you will get cleared to land or waved off. In case of a “go around” simply fly another circuit and come in to land again.
Anapa Tower, Hawg 3-1, in the break.
Anapa Tower, Hawg 3-1, on downwind runway 22.
Anapa Tower, Hawg 3-1, turning base.
Anapa Tower, Hawg 3-1, on final runway 22.
Hawg 3-1, Anapa tower, cleared to land runway 22.
Anapa Tower, cleared to land runway 22, Hawg 3-1.
At last you will receive taxi information from the tower.
Hawg 3-1, Anapa tower, welcome home, taxi to parking position via Alpha Mike.
Anapa tower, taxi to parking via Alpha Mike, Hawg 3-1 thank you.