Student trouble with Radios


Well-Known Member
I'm a fairly new CFI and have a student who I'm having a difficult time with on the radios. If it wasn't for his studdering on the radio he would have soloed by now, he's a really stand out student when it comes to flying and aircraft control, he is very good with the ground stuff too.

What are some techniques you guys/gals use when you have a student who constantly slips up the radio work?

I'm hoping by one of our next 2 flights it just clicks for him and he nails it, I really want to see him succeed with this soon! Thanks.
I would take him to a non-towered, non busy airport to do the solo.

As for the radio, the only thing I can suggest is practice on the ground. maybe write up a little "script" that he can use in the airplane. Try and make him memorize all the common radion calls and make him practice it with you on the ground

Just take him to valkaria(x59) to do the solo, usually when im there theres maybe a few more planes in the pattern, but usually its dead... especially in the morning.

to add to what SIUav8er said, we have a pretty good work sheet on radio communications on our training drive , i gave that to my guys and it worked pretty well.
Go to and role play with them. I’ve done this with numerous students that have had issues. You can probably find the airport you fly out of. What I do is sit down with the student and listen for a transmission from tower or ground. I then turn it down and ask the student what they would have said. After a few minutes of this (depending on the student), I let them immediately say what they would have. We turn it into a kind of game to see if they can get it before the pilot on the other end does.

I think the reason it has worked is because the student can focus on the radio transmission, phraseology and meaning without flying the aircraft at the same time. They also do not need to worry about being embarrassed by messing up.

Good luck and hope this helps
Just take him to valkaria(x59) to do the solo, usually when im there theres maybe a few more planes in the pattern, but usually its dead... especially in the morning.

Might want to check that out before you do it... never needed to ask but I heard we can't. Gotta keep it in MLB. But hey, just ask
What ever you do, don't point and laugh, it doesn't help as much as it should.

But really, cue cards for some students works okay but then you have to be careful a crutch does not form.

Have you tried and hour or two on the ground with you pretending to be ATC?
If he can visualize it from a chair, he can see it in the air.

I vote more ground.
-Not a hostile environment.
-You make more money billing more hours.
-He pays less he doesn't need an airplane to practice.

That is just me two cents,
it is typically worth two cents.
Does he stutter at times other than when he is using the radio?

If he doesn't, it may mean his brain is working too hard to get things right. Encourage him to make mistakes and sound like a goof ball on the radio - basically saying you don't care what he says as long as he says something.

Once that's out of the way look at refining what is being said to be concise and clear.

I recommend ground role playing as well. (Even in the a.c without the engine running so he can press the PTT or simulate doing other cockpit related activities simultaneously)
Cue cards work ok but it can become a crutch. Also the controller just may do something a little more out of the ordinary that wont be on the card and the student may not know what to do then.

Perhaps turn radio work into a little game in the plane? I did a Simon says type thing with a student once and it worked pretty well. Possibly get an interaction going where the student grades you and vice-versa like "that was a 7 out of a 10". That sometimes gets a student out of their shell and gets them talking on the radio more confidently. Obviously dont create any negative feelings out of that though. More of the student does/ tells and instructor does/tells interaction.

Also take them for a tour of a tower. Include them in on a chit chat with a controller on break (may or may not work in your situation, our tower is located next to the FBO so we see the guys up there daily). Usually once the student sees that the controllers are human, are not the radio police, and they are not going to report you to the FAA for botching up the cleared for takeoff readback they seem to ease up a bit.
Why not just do an hour or two on the ground and do a whole "flight", including the traffic pattern and other scenarios? You be ATC/Tower/CTAF, and he is solo. Make him say everything correctly and practice it until he gets it right.

I train a lot of foreign students who have trouble already understanding different people's tone/enunciation/slang, etc... What I do is give them a sheet of paper at the very beginning that is a script for just about every scenario that they will encounter. I make them practice it at home with their roommates and go over it with them when they are getting close to solo. Usually by lesson 3-4 I make them at least call ground for taxi or request the takeoff from the tower and slowly integrate everything else.

Good luck!
Have them invest in a transceiver.

They can tune in tower, gnd etc and just listen. Worked well with ALOT of my guys/girls.
Usually just hearing the lingo would help. That they really have to practice on their own as well. But with time it will come around. Just make the student do all the radio calls and only interject if it is absolutly necessary or if the situation at MLB or etc warrents.
i agree with crockrocket.
if he's got the tranceiver he can tune in and listen
to tower,ground and practice area.
usually helps
he's got to practice too.
i agree with crockrocket.
if he's got the tranceiver he can tune in and listen
to tower,ground and practice area.
usually helps
he's got to practice too.

If money is tight for them, have them go to, find an airport that does traffic patterns, and have them follow a tail number around the pattern. Often times just listening dosen't help the cause too much. Assign them something like following an airplane will help immensly. I have used liveatc for many students. It allows them to do homework/e-mail and follow atc, much like multi tasking in an airplane.
I had a couple German pilots come through. All I did was tell them about the little nuances of the Tampa Bravo and the radio phraseology and let them slug it out themselves. After one or two goes they started catching on. They were really p!$$ed that we don't comply with ICAO, oh well welcome to the U.S. of A.!!