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Home > Blog > Flight Radiotelephony Exam Preparation

Flight Radiotelephony exam preparation

Posted 29 Aug 2022

Flight Radiotelephony

Read on to find out how you can prepare for your Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) exam, with a deep dive into what is tested and how you can pass.

If there is one thing you must understand before embarking on your aviation journey, it is that flying an aeroplane is a team effort. Every day, hundreds of aeroplanes take to the sky. It is of paramount importance that there is communication between these aeroplanes as well as between them and ground control.

Radio communication helps maintain a safe and secure environment in the sky, and it is how pilots signal those on the ground that they are preparing to land or take off. When it comes to flying, radio communication is almost as important as knowing how to steer the aeroplane in the right direction.

It is absolutely imperative that the pilot maintain clear communication with the ground team as well as any other pilots flying aircraft along their route in order to avoid any unfortunate incidents.

For the uninitiated, radio communication can seem scary and the language used by pilots and the rest of the team may seem like gibberish. However, it is important to understand that mastering this unique language is necessary in order to have a successful career as a pilot, both commercial and recreational.

While the method of communication may seem outlandish and odd and you may feel as though it is far too difficult to understand, it really just is a matter of practice.

With a little bit of dedication and hard work, you can qualify for your flight radiotelephony licence, which certifies that you know how to effectively communicate over the radio, and is indispensable when it comes to your safety in the sky.

Read on to find out how you can prepare for your Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) exam, with a deep dive into what is tested and how you can pass with flying colours!




Flight radiotelephony is the name given to the radio communication between the pilot of an aircraft with other pilots in the vicinity as well as ground control. To fly long distances, it is necessary for you to have your Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL).

It is necessary for the pilot to communicate with ground control when they are preparing to land and requesting taxi, as well as to request medical reinforcements in case of an emergency. Clear, concise, and confident communication is of the utmost importance, and it plays a huge role in how safe and successful your flight will be.

In case of rerouting or emergency landings, it is very important to communicate the exact situation with the control tower in order to request reinforcements and backup. Since there are no cellular signals in the sky, radio is the only mode of communication that a pilot has with those on the ground as well as in flights nearby. If the connection is lost, the consequences can be very serious.

 If a pilot unexpectedly flies into bad weather, establishing communication with the control tower is necessary so that the pilot can be guided in the right direction and the needed reinforcements can be made. 




The Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) needs to be applied for by the pilot in addition to their pilot licence. This can be received in addition to any other pilot licence, including the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) and the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL).

The licence ensures that the pilot knows how to clearly communicate over the radio and is familiar with the necessary safety protocols and emergency signals.

The radio equipment is complex in nature, and chances are a member of the general population may not know how to operate it. Pilots are trained in the art of communication and are equipped with the needed skills to operate the machinery, as well as send out the necessary warning signals and emergency messages. 



The most important requirement for a pilot looking to get their Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) is proficiency in the English language. English is the language of choice for instruction by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) and so pilots must know how to speak and understand the language in order to operate the in-flight radio.

Apart from this, the applicant must be at least 16 years old and should have passed the communication theoretical exam needed to qualify for the Private Pilot Licence (PPL).

These are nine subjects tested for the PPL in total, including Meteorology, Air Law, Communication and Navigation, as well as Human Performance. To qualify for the FRTOL, the applicant must also pass a practical skills exam which tests their ability to communicate efficiently over the radio.



During the test, the examiner will test your ability to respond to emergency situations and request assistance. You will be presented with some scenarios which will require you to communicate with either other aircraft or the control tower over the radio.

Examples of what you can be expected to know are how to request taxi and take off, how to report your position in the sky, how to enter the circuit and request permission to land, as well as how to communicate an effective mayday call, which signals distress.

You will be assessed on your ability to clearly communicate the issue and the correct usage of the equipment, as well as your usage of the correct phraseology. In case of emergency scenarios, you will be tested on how you perform under pressure.



Due to the obvious safety hazards involved, such an exam cannot take place mid-flight, which is why it happens with the help of machines. You can expect to see two machines placed in separate rooms with accompanying headsets.

You will be stationed at one of these machines and your examiner will be stationed at the other. Before the test starts, you will be given instructions and you will also be given some time with the assigned route to plan ahead. The test is around 45 minutes long.




Study the CAP413 multiple times

The radiotelephony manual published by the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom is required reading for the exam, and if you have studied the manual thoroughly, you can rest assured that you can deal with pretty much every situation, at least theoretically.

This is a hefty manual, totalling over 300 pages. Studying the manual will take time, and it is recommended that you do so at least three times. Make sure you space out your revision by at least six months. The manual contains everything you may need to ace the exam, from distress calls and requests for transit to the proper phraseology and what it means in context.


Practice the interactions

 Take every chance you get to practice the interactions. You don’t need to be flying or in a simulator to practice the interaction, you just need to use your imagination! You can practice radio communication while driving to work in the morning, or you can have a friend pretend to be the operator at the end of the line.

Practice makes perfect, and while it is all well and good to memorise the theory, you won’t know where you stand with regards to clear and confident communication without actually talking out loud. You can practice these interactions out loud and see where you need to slow down, pick up the pace, or enunciate clearly. This is a fool-proof way to weed out your weaknesses.


Learn the phraseology

Words don’t always mean what you think when you are communicating over the radio. There is a specific type of language that is used, and each word has a very specific meaning. It is important to understand these phrases and their meanings. Examples of such terms and phrases include “How do you read” which means the person on the other end is asking how well the message is being communicated.

Another example is “maintain” which means you are being requested to continue doing whatever you were in accordance with the most recent instruction or command. Similarly, the word “roger” means the message was received and understood, with “standby” translating to a request for a hold on action.

Don’t be afraid to say ‘standby’

Speaking of “standby”, don’t be afraid to pause to gather your thoughts during the exams! If you feel like you need a minute to understand what is going on and gather your bearings, you can simply request “standby” during your exam.

There is no pressure to respond straight away, and you can even request the examiner to repeat what they said using the phrase “say again”. There is nothing wrong with taking your time, especially when immediate action is not required.

If, for example, you are being asked your location and you are gathering your thoughts, it is okay to request standby while you figure things out.  Even when you’re flying in an actual aeroplane, it is alright to request a pause if you are in the middle of important navigation. It is your primary responsibility to fly the aircraft safely, with communication coming after.

Perfect your mayday call

Your exam will definitely contain a mayday call, which is a distress signal sent out by pilots in case of emergencies. Since this is the case, it is best to perfect your mayday call beforehand. Even in the real world, it is of incredible importance to be able to communicate that you are in trouble. This makes perfecting the mayday call a vital part of your training.


Speak confidently

Confidence is key. When speaking over the radio, be clear and have confidence in the message you are relaying. Pilots need to learn how to take charge of difficult situations, for which confidence is an absolute must.



The more you fret about the exam, the higher the chances of your freezing up, stammering, or forgetting the correct terminology. Take a deep breath and take the test with a relaxed mind. If you have read the material thoroughly and have practised, you already have everything you need to pass the exam. Just know that it isn’t a race and you can take your time in case you get stuck!



 Due to the heavy course material and the long list of terms and phrases, many FRTOL applicants enrol in preparatory courses for the exam. Since the exam requires verbal communication, it is always best to have an experienced professional judge whether your pronunciations and usage are correct or not.

Many flight academies and aero clubs offer preparatory courses for the FRTOL, with Sherburn Aero Club offering a dedicated course aimed at passing the skills test available as well.


Sherburn Aero Club’s FRTOL course

 At Sherburn Aero Club, members can enrol in a Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course. The course is one day long and does not require too big of a commitment.

The class happens every first Sunday of the month and covers everything from correct phraseology to handling the radio setup. To book your spot in the day-long course, you will have to contact the flight desk at Sherburn.  The course covers both the theoretical and practical aspects of radio communication and is focused on helping you build your confidence in your communication skills.

Sherburn is also home to a simulator which you can use to practise emergency landings and other possible unexpected situations.


Licence cost

If you apply for the Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) at the same time as the Private Pilot Licence (PPL), the application is processed free of cost, with the only charge being the PPL processing fee. If applied at a later date, there is a standard charge as set by the Civil Aviation Authority of the UK of £73.



Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

 With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we cater to brand new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn’s flight training school offers private and commercial licenses, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

Sherburn also offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month.

For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran.

The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation in the long run.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us on 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on the private pilot training services as well as Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s licence requirements, exam, and training available in the United Kingdom.


Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash 



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