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Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence (FRTOL)

Posted 15 Mar 2023

Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence

In this guide, we will take a look at all the aspects of a radiotelephony licence and understand why pilots need to be proficient in communication while in the air.

Radio communication is not just a requirement but a necessity in aviation. From Air Traffic Control (ATC) to pilots, and flight dispatchers, anyone who is seeking to fly aircraft must master the art of communication through radio equipment.

This is where the Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence (FRTOL) comes in! This licence enables pilots to learn the phraseology and communication procedures that can help them immensely regardless of whether they fly commercially or privately.

In this guide, we will take a look at all the aspects of a radiotelephony licence and understand why pilots need to be proficient in communication while in the air.

The Importance of FRTOL

The advent of radio technology not only enabled humans to communicate with each other but also enabled businesses and services to improve in profound ways.

Previously, pilots relied on dead reckoning techniques where they had to use inertial sensors and other instrument data to estimate their position during flights.

They also had to follow strict VFR rules that allowed them to fly during high-visibility conditions to avoid accidents and aircraft-related mishaps. Most pilots relied heavily on the onboard compass, a physical map, and intuition to fly aircraft!

This meant that there was a lot of chance for human error as a miscalibration of the sensors or other instrument failure could severely impact a pilot’s ability to navigate their aircraft to safety.

Fortunately, as technology progressed, aviation agencies were one of the first to implement radio technology and navigational systems to help improve flights for both pilots and passengers.

The introduction of ATCs was seen as a big turning point in aviation because, for the first time, it allowed pilots to remain connected to the ground crew which immensely helped them navigate the skies safely.

Due to this progress, it became clear that all flight-related personnel and pilots had to quickly become well-versed with radio technology so that they could communicate better while in the air. This is why the FRTOL was designed.

The Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence (FRTOL) is not just a mandatory licence for ATC personnel, but it is also just as important for the pilot as both parties need to communicate a slew of information to ensure a smooth and safe flight.

Today, pilots use a range of technologies like GPS, onboard sensors, and radio to stay clear of other aircraft and take off/land with a virtually non-existent chance of error.

Obtaining a FRTOL

The FRTOL is a mandatory licence that is legally required by all pilots operating in the UK. Regardless of whether you get a Private Pilot Licence or a Commercial Pilot Licence, you will have to obtain a FRTOL certification in order to fly an aircraft.

Please note that a FRTOL may not be required in practice for LAPL or PPL holders because private aircraft that are flown for recreational use in uncontrolled airspaces usually don’t have the same level of communication equipment on board.

Regardless, all pilots are expected to obtain a Radiotelephony Restricted Licence (RTR) that ensures that the pilot is well-versed in navigation and communication procedures that can help them navigate and operate aircraft.

To obtain a FRTOL, a pilot must go through practical and written examinations. Here are some of the topics that are covered for the theoretical part of obtaining a FRTOL in the UK:

Communication Procedures

From radio etiquette to phraseology, a pilot who wants to obtain a FRTOL must learn not just how to operate on-board radio equipment but also how to respond to radio calls. They must also learn the various jargon to effectively communicate with ground personnel or other aircraft.

As you can imagine, unlike a regular phone call where people can talk for up to several minutes to an hour, radio communication is concise, clear, and very direct. This is important because ATC and other pilots will usually communicate using abbreviations and jargon that can quickly alert pilots.

Pilots are also expected to quickly and clearly communicate various issues during emergencies and they must also be excellent listeners so that they can effectively take the necessary measures as per the ATC to solve in-flight issues.

Emergency Communication

One of the biggest advantages of having radio technology is that pilots can quickly and effectively share information during a crisis while in the air.

Emergencies like engine failure or medical emergencies can be conveyed directly to the ground crew who can help pilots solve the problem much more efficiently.

Furthermore, in case of medical emergencies, a pilot can quickly convey to the ground crew to get ready and gather the necessary resources so that passengers or pilots with medical conditions can be treated as soon as they touch the ground.

Pilots can also use these communication channels to make requests during emergency landing situations. For example, in the case of a bird strike and engine failure, the pilot can quickly convey their current situation and ask ATC for an emergency landing strip that they can free up just for the affected aircraft.

FRTOL also trains pilots on how to remain calm during such emergencies so that they can efficiently communicate with the ground crew and work to solve the problem with the ATC personnel.

Radio-Based Navigation

As stated above, radio technology has helped pave the way for a range of navigational aids that include VOR, DME, and GPS technologies. VOR stands for VHF Omnidirectional Range which is a ground-based navigation aid that sends out Very High Frequencies in all directions that are picked up by aircraft to help position it relative to the VOR station on the ground.

The Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) is a similar navigational method that calculates the time that it takes for the VOR signal to travel back which helps reveal the distance of the aircraft from the VOR station.

GPS is the same technology that many people use on a daily basis using their phones. Except aircraft GPS systems are more advanced and can accurately provide real-time location data.

All of these navigational technologies help the pilot position themselves in the air while a FRTOL enables the pilot to interpret this data and make calculated decisions using the systems on board.

Classification and Meteorology

Radio functions are extremely important for pilots that fly between various airspaces. Each airspace has its own class and requirements that need to be followed, especially when flying cross-country or abroad.

These requirements are usually relevant for CPL holders who fly commercial aircraft from one airspace to another but can also be pertinent for PPL holders in some cases.

Meteorology is another overlapping topic that is focused on while training for a pilot licence and FRTOL training. Pilots must learn how weather can affect flight operations and how they can communicate issues if they are presented with a weather-related incident during flights.

Aviation Regulations and Equipment Training

A standard FRTOL course also includes learning about various aviation regulations and the numerous laws that apply while taking a flight both domestically and internationally.

Pilots are expected to operate aircraft within the boundaries of law and they must constantly adhere to aviation regulations to ensure the safety of their passengers, and themselves.

Understanding the onboard equipment is also necessary as it can enable pilots to communicate with the ground crew without any hindrance. Pilots must train on and master various FRTOL equipment like radios, transponders, and more so that they can fly with ease and always remain in constant communication.

Applying for a FRTOL

Here are all of the things that you need to keep in mind when applying for a FRTOL in the UK:


FRTOL has a few eligibility requirements and can be obtained straightforwardly. For example, the minimum age for obtaining a FRTOL is 16 years, and pilots who apply for a PPL or CPL will be required to complete the certification before they can fly aircraft. Pilots are also expected to be proficient in the English language.

Most radiotelephony communication is conducted in English and pilots who aren’t well-versed in English will have to practice their language skills and may also be required to take a language test like the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).


Although the exact list of documents can vary from one applicant to another depending on their individual case, there is a basic set of documents that need to be provided in order to enrol for a FRTOL programme.

Some of these important documents include the pilot’s passport or ID, FRTOL application form and supported forms, payment slip(s) for the application fee, and language scores like IELTS (if applicable).

Please be advised that you might not have to pay an additional fee for your FRTOL certification if you have also applied for a PPL or CPL at the same time. Otherwise, there is a fee of £73 as required per the CAA for the issuance of a standalone FRTOL.

Application Timeline

As soon as you submit all the necessary documents, the CAA will begin to process your application which may take some time depending on your individual case.

In some cases, you might be offered expedited processing for a nominal fee but you must also keep in mind that there might be some delays in processing due to holidays and you might even be asked to resubmit your application if it is not filled accurately or completely.

FRTOL Validity

Unlike medical certificates that require constant renewals after a given time period, a FRTOL certification is valid for life. This means that you only need to go through the process once and then just focus on building your skill set and flying aircraft!

An important point to keep in mind though is that in some cases, pilots may be individually assessed to make sure that they maintain their skills to the highest level.

Furthermore, in case of regulatory changes, pilots may be required to revalidate their certification so that they are up to date on the most recent laws and regulations.

The revalidation process can depend on the new regulations, but in most cases, you will not have to spend a lot of time revalidating your FRTOL certificate.

Finding the Right Flight School for FRTOL

If you want to train for a FRTOL certification, it is important that you pick the right flight school. While most flight schools offer standalone FRTOL training, it is important that you seek training from only the best flight schools in your area.

Flight training schools like Sherburn Aero Club not only have a dedicated fleet of aircraft for PPL training but also have a fantastic faculty of brilliant flight instructors that are well-versed with radiotelephony regulations and practices.

The benefit of going with highly experienced instructors is that they can train you for not just regular scenarios but also for emergency or rare situations where you will need to be in constant communication with ground personnel. This type of wide training coverage for FRTOL may seem redundant but it is the best way to develop the skill set that you can then use for both recreational flying and commercial purposes.

Sherburn can help prepare for both written and practical exams and train pilots on how to operate radio equipment in a highly professional manner with all the required etiquette for responding to radio calls.

The FRTOL Course runs the first Sunday of every month, and bookings are to be made through the flight desk. Sherburn conducts small classes so that the instructors can pay attention to the individual needs of every candidate.

This level of attention and training can enable candidates to operate light aircraft, microlights, and even helicopters using all the best practices of radiotelephony.

The practical examination for FRTOL usually takes about 45 minutes and also includes some time for pre-exam preparation. By the end of the course, you can expect to learn everything about radiotelephony and you can immediately use your newly acquired FRTOL skills to further your training for both recreational and professional use!


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.

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. You can make a booking for FTROL training using our intuitive flight desk.

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 licences, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

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.

Sherburn also offers pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward. You are required to take medical exams to prove you are fit enough to take to the skies when applying for a licence, and the facility at Sherburn allows you to start your aviation journey on the right foot.

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 Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence (FRTOL).


Photo by Franz Harvin Aceituna on Unsplash 



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