Basic Radio Operations for Arlington - KGKY (updated 10-15-07)

     The frequencies for airports are found in various places.  The most common would be the airport/facility directory, also known as the AFD.  Also you could look up frequencies on  Go ahead and get familiar with the airport layout, taxiways, and frequencies of all airports that are close by, such as Arlington (GKY), Midway (JWY), Dallas Exucutive (RBD), Grand Prairie (GPM), etc.
     We will begin with ground control.  We normally call up GKY ground after we obtain the weather information (ASOS).  We would then say "Arlington ground, Skyhawk XXX, ready to taxi, with the weather."  If we were at a bigger airport that had an ATIS instead of ASOS we would say "with information alpha" (or bravo, or whatever letter is current) instead of simply saying "with the weather". Ground would then say "Skyhawk XXX, taxi to runway XX,"  or they might say "Skyhawk XXX, give way to the Bellanca, taxi to runway XX."  This means don't cut in front of the Bellanca that is already taxiing.  IMPORTANT:  ground will NEVER clear you to taxi anywhere, they will only give permission to taxi. We only use the word "clear" for takeoff, landing, instrument approaches, and other very important flight procedures.  Never say "cleared to taxi to runway XX" as a read back.
     We always readback anything important.  Go ahead and break yourself of the habit of saying "Roger" for takeoff and landing clearances.  For example, if they clear you to takeoff on runway 16, don't just say "OK cleared for takeoff" as a readback.  The flaw is that you didn't include your call sign or the runway number.  What if you taxiied to runway 34 by mistake?  Repeating "Cleared for takeoff" doesn't let tower know about your mistake, creating a runway incursion situation. 

Radio Ops is basically just four items in each transmission.  In order they are:
     1. Who you are calling
     2. Who you are
     3. Where you are
     4. What your intentions are
Example: "Grand Prairie tower, Cessna XXX, over the Joe Pool dam, inbound for landing."

     When we get to the runway hold short line, which is depicted in Ch.2 Sect.3 of the AIM for those who are unfamiliar, we go through our BEFORE TAKEOFF checklist, or at least the "Lights, Camera, Action" check.  Lights being all outside aircraft lights as appropriate, Camera being the transponder to altitude, and action being the radio call to tower or CTAF (common traffic advisory frequency) and the recording of time off.  We then contact tower and say something like "Arlington tower, Skyhawk XXX, holding short of runway XX, ready for departure to the South (or whatever direction)".  To which they might reply "Skyhawk XXX, hold short for landing traffic".  This means do NOT cross the hold short line.  "Taxi into position" means cross the hold short line and position for takeoff but do NOT takeoff until cleared to do so. You must repeat the words "position and hold" and the runway number otherwise they will have to halt all airport operations that intersect with your runway.
     Remember that GKY tower opens at 7am and closes at 9pm (check AFD for current information).  Other airport control towers may close at different times.  When this happens, the frequency usually stays the same, but the Tower will turn into a CTAF frequency, meaning you have to do self-anounce procedures or "transmit in the blind".

When operating at an airport that doesn't have a control tower, we avoid mid-air collisions by announcing where we are on the radio and looking out the window for traffic.  If someone is transmitting, do not "step on them" by transmitting at the same time.  This will create interference.  If someone is in the middle of a conversation between two airplanes or an airplane and the tower, do not make your call before they finish talking. For example, when the control tower clears someone to land, make sure you wait for the cleared aircraft to confirm their landing clearance before you make your call.
    Normal reports at an uncontrolled field include downwind, base, final, go-around, taking the active runway, clear of the active runway, "on the 45", and simulated engine-out on downwind.  Make sure you include the direction of the traffic pattern and the runway number in your radio call .  Example: "Midway traffic, Skyhawk XXX, turning left base for one eight".  You don't have to say the direction of the traffic pattern for final, because you are at the same point regardless.
      Since there is commonly more than one airport on the same frequency within radio range there is sometimes confusion.  In order to not get the airports and traffic mixed up you will have to listen to the airport and runway number to make sure your airport matches so you can look for the traffic.  On very common frequencies, such as 122.7, 122.8, & 122.9, it is a good idea to start and end each transmission with the airport name.

We normally call GKY tower when we are 10 miles out.  This gives them time to sequence us into the traffic flow. We must give them a cardinal direction, such as southeast or north-northeast, and a distance. They will then tell you what to do and you must acknowledge their instruction with your call sign.
     When Arlington is landing to the south (runway 16), we arrive from the southeast or southwest. Southeast GKY traffic converges over the Joe Pool Lake Marina, which is located on the north side of the north bridge of Joe Pool Lake and has a blue roof. If coming from the southwest, tower will likely give you a request to report the water tower for right downwind. They are talking about the smooth, round Arlington water tower located two miles southwest of the field.
     When GKY is landing to the North, things are different.  GKY traffic may converge over the Wal-Mart (big red building on Cooper street northwest of the airfield) or Parks Mall (located at I-20 and Cooper Street) and then head towards the downwind leg "on the 45".  You might want to rock your wings to make yourself more visible near these high density converging areas.  Stay alert and keep your head outside the airplane when in visual conditions.  You wouldn't stare at the gauges and drive your car blindly down the road, so don't do the same in the airplane.
     Another approach they may have you do when landing north is the overhead approach. This involves flying northbound over the top of the airfield at an altitude of 2000' or 2100' (or whatever assigned) and then making your radio call when over the top. You will then pass the north end of the runway on the upwind leg and start descending (while looking out for traffic) on the crosswind leg. You should arrive at pattern altitude on the downwind leg prior to reaching mid-field.
     Altitudes: you can technically fly any altitude between the minimum safe altitude and the lower limit of Class B airspace when you are out over the lake area.  The safest altitudes, in my humble opinion, are 2200' MSL for high wing aircraft, 1800' for low wing aircraft.  This allows for the best visibility.  Instrument approaches are conducted at 2000' and they are not always looking out like they should be. High wing aircraft are better able to see below them and low wind aircraft have better visibility above them.
     In the practice area it is common practice to monitor and announce on 123.45. Note, though, that this is not an approved air to air frequency. I don't know who started this but it is the most commonly used frequency for the practice area. The FAA blessed/approved air to air frequencies are 122.75 and 122.85.
     Flying can be very safe or it can be made dangerous.  Follow these simple guidelines and you'll soon gain an eye for spotting other planes.

You can tune in regional approach to get clearance into class B airspace, get VFR flight following (AKA VFR advisories), or other various services for VFR aircraft.  The frequencies are listed in the A/FD as well as the sectional and terminal VFR charts.  For GKY, the regional approach frequency is 135.97. 
     The local flight service station can provide assistance to VFR aircraft as well.  You can give pilot reports, get weather updates, and even file flight plans with FSS while in the air.  They can help assist lost aircraft or aircraft in distress as well.  All FSS frequencies can be found in the AFD.  One of the standard frequencies for FSS is 122.2.  The standard frequency for "Flightwatch" is 122.0.  Flightwatch is for weather-related communication. Think of it as a party line for pilots to give and receive current enroute weather.

In order to fly in Class B airspace you must have a clearance.  They must say the words "Cleared into class Bravo" or something similar.  Just because they give you a vector (heading) and altitude does not mean you are cleared to enter Class B.  Make sure you are talking with regional approach to get a clearance.  You must be familiar with the location of DFW, DAL, the football stadium, and some of the major highways, like I35.  Also, you may want to test your transponder and see if ATC picks up your mode C (altitude encoding) before you enter Class B.  Always get training with an instructor before entering class B airspace. I recommend using GPS when in Class B for easy navigation. If you want to enter class B airspace tune the frequencies into the radio in this order:

  1. Destination airport ATIS (if inside class B, if just transitioning use the primary airport ATIS/Altimeter)
  2. Regional Approach
  3. Destination airport control tower
  4. Destination airport ground
And make sure you have an airport diagram handy. You will get confused very quickly without one at a big airport. If you want to leave an airport that is inside class bravo, you will have to tune in frequencies in this order:
  1. ATIS
  2. Clearance Delivery
  3. Ground
  4. Tower
  5. Departure Control (same freq. as Regional Approach)
When you contact clearance delivery you will have to tell them:
  1. who you're calling - "Love clearance delivery"
  2. who you are - "Cessna 5219V", then wait for response, start next transmission with your call sign again
  3. where you are - "southeast general aviation ramp"
  4. what information you have - "with information whiskey"
  5. what type of aircraft and equipment you have - "type is a Cessna one seven two slash golf"
  6. what your intentions are - "request VFR departure southwest to Arlington at two thousand, five hundred"