RT Licence – What’s it all about?
So! your training is complete, you have passed your GST, achieved your solo cross country flights and passed all your ground exams, you now have your shiny new Pilot’s Licence. What are you going to do with it? Initially you may be happy to fly around the local area, maybe take you friends flying but soon you will want to do what you have dreamed about since you first started your training – to fly to different parts of the country or even across The Channel to France and beyond. Your licence permits you to fly in uncontrolled airspace freely but to fly in controlled airspace you must have permission to do so.
How do you get this permission?
Well, if it’s an ATZ around an airfield you wish to land at, you could get it by phoning the airfield before you take off (you may have to do this anyway if the airfield is PPR) or by calling them on the radio. If it’s a zone you want to cross you will have to use the radio to get zone crossing clearance.
There is no requirement for an NPPL holder to have a radio licence because there is no requirement for you to use a radio. Many pilots have flown for years without using a radio, in fact there are some purists who regard the use of a radio as a distraction to the pleasures of flying and its freedom. However, the use of a radio can give you the freedom to fly in areas that would otherwise be prohibited. As well as the facility to obtain crossing clearances with a radio you can take advantage of air traffic services to make you flight easier and more enjoyable. You can obtain weather for your route or destination, information about the status of Danger Areas, pass or receive messages relevant to your flight, receive information regarding the avoidance of other traffic or Temporary Restricted Areas as well the obvious ability to make emergency calls.
Do you need a licence, if so why?
You used the radio when you were training, even when you flew solo. Well, yes you must be in possession of a Flight Radio Telephony Operators Licence (FRTOL) to legally use a radio or transponder in an aircraft. There is a dispensation for students whilst under supervision that allows them to use a radio when training for their licence. The reason for the need to have a licence is to ensure pilots use the correct phraseologies and standard procedures to avoid any ambiguities or misunderstandings, also that messages will be clear and concise.
But you may say “I’ve managed so far without an RT licence and nobody checks anyway”. This may well be true, we have an excellent system of Air Traffic Control in this country where the controllers are both helpful and tolerant, they are used to less than perfect RT calls. However, a poorly worded and delivered request could result in a curt “G-xxxx, remain clear of controlled airspace” meaning that if your flying is as bad as your RT I do not want you in my airspace! It may not seem fair but it’s all the controller has to go on.