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The FRTOL

The Flight Radiotelephony Operator's Licence (FRTOL) is required for all pilots who wish to use a radio in their aircraft. The FRTOL is included with some licences such as the LAPL and PPL, but not with others (such as the NPPL Microlights). In those situations, it can be gained as a stand-alone licence.

The Flight Radiotelephony Operator's Licence (FRTOL):  What's involved?

Whilst student pilots should get a lot of practical experience using the radio during their training, the communications tests are a source of anxiety for many student pilots.


The FRTOL theoretical exam (known as the Communications exam) is a series of multiple choice questions which are taken on a computer.


The practical test is arguably more stressful because it requires the student to act as a pilot under simulated conditions and verbally transmit the correct radio calls to the examiner who is in another room. The test is most often done by two connected computers with an aircraft moving across a set route on the screen. The examiner plays the role of the Air Traffic Controller and will respond to the student's calls throughout.


The student must also set transponder codes and respond to any "emergencies" that unfold during the course of the simulated flight. Although the candidate receives a briefing of the overall route before the test, the emergency will be unplanned. The candidate will have a number of options available and in most cases they will be required to select an appropriate Air Traffic Facility with whom to communicate. This part of the test is critical - the candidate must use the correct phraseology. The examiner is obliged to fail the candidate if incorrect phraseology is used.


The examiner must test you on numerous areas. A typical test route for the FRTOL practical exam is as follows:

  1. Aerodrome departure from stand to leaving controlled airspace

  2. Penetrating a MATZ en-route

  3. Turning at a waypoint

  4. Requesting en-route weather

  5. Becoming lost - requesting QDM

  6. Mayday or PAN

  7. Turning at a waypoint

  8. Mayday or PAN relay

  9. Flying overhead an aerodrome and entering an ATZ

  10. Unplanned diversion to a given airport within controlled airspace.

Whether it’s the practical test or using the radio for real, many students ask questions such as:


“What if I don’t know what to say or freeze up?”

“What if I can’t think fast enough?”

“What if I don’t understand what is being asked?”


These concerns are understandable. It may seem silly because using the radio is basically talking to another person - a skill which we have all mastered. But the reality is that we must use the correct phraseology and be very clear about what is being communicated.


Under stress our ability to think coherently and listen carefully may be the first thing to go, especially if we are dealing with the pressure of an exam or flying an aircraft.


The best solution is to be thoroughly prepared. Practice makes perfect after all. Our Radiotelephony Audio Video course includes video animations, real ATC audio tracks, interactive scenarios, transcripts and clear explanations of the various principles. After a short while, you will know how to request a zone transit, land at large aerodromes and have full confidence in your ability to pass the test and deal with real Air Traffic Control. Click here to view the course.

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