R/T Practical

The last ground school hurdle was the R/T practical. This is required for the issue of a Flight Radio Telephony Operators License (FRTOL). While not a requirement for a PPL, it is a requirement if you want to use a radio in an aircraft, and it’s a little hard operating out of controlled airspace (like the Class D that Brize Norton is in the middle of!) without one.

So I headed over to Enstone to spend some time with Owen. We’d agreed he’d give me a bit of a ‘brush up’ on some of the elements that I hadn’t actually covered in practice during my training (Special VFR, MATZ Penetrations and the like) before going into the test proper. We chatted for an hour or so, going over the bits I wanted to cover before embarking on the test itself.

The R/T practical is a slightly odd test. I ended up sitting in one room by myself, wearing a headset and with a box in front of me with a selector knob to select between 8 channels, and a push-to-talk button. Also on the box was an ominous red light marked ’emergency’. At some point during my ‘flight’ this would light up, and I would have to make the appropriate Mayday call.

I was given a sheet of paper containing my route for the flight. As others have said, this appears to have been planned so as to make the flight as difficult as possible! However, the idea is to check that I know how to make pretty much all of the radio calls that I might need during my own flying, so everything needs to be covered.

Another sheet of paper contained a list of all the frequencies I would need (including some I wouldn’t!) and their mapping to the 8 selector positions on the control box. Finally there was a list of instructions as to what I needed to do on the flight, including pretending to be lost at one point, having a rough running engine and the like.

We launched into the test, and almost immediately the ‘simulated’ nature threw me slightly. Normally, the first call in any flight is a radio check, of the form

‘Brize Ground, G-BPAF radio check, 121.275’

However, on this flight I didn’t have a radio in front of me, and hadn’t dialled in a frequency. All I’d done was move the selector knob to position ‘B’. So, my first call was something along the lines of

‘Someairfield tower, G-ABCD radio check, errr…ummm…rustle rustle….126.0’

Good start!

The bad start continued however, as not long after I had to provide my aircraft type and route. Again, usually this isn’t too difficult, as you’ve just climbed in to the aircraft (so hopefully know what type it is!) and planned the route yourself, so have a rough idea of where you’re going. Again, after some umming and errring and rustling of paper, I finally dug out the correct details and passed them. Owen later said that if I’m ever in this situation for real in the air, then the phrase ‘Standby’ sounds a lot better and more professional that a lot of umming and erring!

The rest of the ‘flight’ continued pretty well, transiting a MATZ, having an engine failure, getting ‘lost’ and requesting a true bearing and finally gaining a Class A zone transit to my destination field.

This was when I made my biggest cock up, but didn’t realise it until afterwards. Throught the flight, Owen had been ‘simulating’ other traffic, and as I was transitting the Class A zone, another aircraft came on frequency for a ‘weather diversion’. Obviously this was supposed to be a hint for me, but I completely missed it. The instructions I’d been given required me to get the weather for my destination as I was crossing the Class A airspace, and to divert to the airfield in the Class A if the weather wasn’t suitable at my destination. Whoops!

Owen went over the few fluffs I’d made when we were done, and reminded me about the weather call I should have made. He seemed happy that it was just an oversight and that I did know how to ask for the weather, so signed off my R/T practical test. He also signed the ‘new’ bit on the form, certifying that I can speak English to Level 6 (this is a new ICAO requirement, and Level 6 is the top one). The CAA application form helpfully already has the number 6 printed in it, so I guess they’re assuming that anyone living in the UK should be able to reach this standard!

So, just one more hurdle, the skills test!

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4 Responses to “R/T Practical”

  1. michaelthewannabe Says:

    hey Andy – your description of the RT practical is really interesting! It doesn’t sound as scary as I’d expected. I’d somehow got the impression that it’s a lot more complex and demanding than you describe. Or maybe that was just my impression back in the days when I couldn’t speak the language… anyway, well done for passing! And good luck with the skills test – I hope you can have a go at it soon.

  2. Andy Hawkins Says:

    I think it’s about as complex a ‘flight’ as you’re ever likely to make! Taking off from a full ATC field, passing through a MATZ, a MayDay call, requesting a QDM, a Pan call, relayed Mayday, then transit SVFR through Class A airspace before landing at an AFIS field.

    Plenty of excitement for one ‘flight’ I’d have thought!

    Andy

  3. michaelthewannabe Says:

    Ah, well maybe you just make it sound easy then 🙂

  4. Andy Hawkins Says:

    🙂

    At the end of the day it’s just like all the stuff you’ll have almost certainly have been doing for real already. There’s just every possible combination in one short flight!

    Andy

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