Terminology in VFR Communications


By Michel Pomerleau

In this last article on the subject of communications, I will play a little semantics in the discussion of a few aeronautical terms.

An inappropriate and wrongly used term. In some parts of the country, the non-standard terms installations and facilities have been introduced to replace airport, airfield and runway. For a start, Air Navigation Facility is defined as ‘Any facility used, available for use, or designated for use as a NAVAID including landing areas, lights any apparatus or equipment for disseminating weather information for signaling, for radio-directional finding, or for radio or other electrical communication, and any structure or mechanism having a similar purpose for guiding or controlling flight in the air or the landing and takeoff of aircraft’ The use of this improper term is often heard from pilots approaching airfields, as in the following example: ‘ xxxx Traffic, Piper FXYZ, 15 miles East of your installations, …….’. Further, there is no need to use such non standard terms in our radio work as has been documented in my previous articles, the phraseology guide and SmartPilot videos. Once initiated with a radio station located inevitably at an airport, there is no need to refer back to it in any way further along the transmission. Position reports, whether broadcasted approaching, transiting or overflying, can be kept short by stating for example: ‘Brandon Traffic, Overhead for downwind runway xx, or just: …….. Six miles West, will join ……,  or …….. Crossing runway XX to join left downwind’.

 The terms Land and Landing rarely used. These are two words extensively used in briefing rooms but rarely employed to describe intentions approaching an aerodrome and on final in the circuit. In fact, more often than not, it is replaced by two words: Full Stop. However, Full Stop is not defined in our guides but can be added to the aeronautically correct term: landing. Actually, a tower controller will always give a clearance to land, and in our reports, we approach an airdrome for landing. On the other hand, the words: full stop can be added by the controller if there is a need to stop short of an intersecting runway for instance. The official definition of landing is: ‘in respect of an aircraft, the act of coming in contact with a supporting surface and the immediately preceding and following acts’. The acts that follow the touchdown are the roll-out and the exit from the runway. In fact, when pilots intend to full stop, their aircraft only come to a stop at their parking spot.

This series of articles had the objective of improving the conformity of VFR aeronautical communications in and around non-controlled zones and areas. Hopefully, this contribution will help reverse some of the tendencies and discrepancies which characterize radio work in some regions. Keeping radio transmissions clear, concise and standardized should be important, not only for all licensed pilots, but specially for Flight School instructors. 

Hadfield On Ninety-Nines Board

Longtime general aviation advocate and Ontario Ninety-Nines member Robin Hadfield has been elected as a director on the international board of directors of the Ninety-Nines. It’s the first time in 30 years that someone from outside the U.S. has been elected to the international board and only the second time in the group’s 90-year history.

Hadfield was also elected governor of the group’s East Canada Section.

The Ninety-Nines has about 6,000 members in 44 countries that “promotes advancement of aviation through education, scholarships and mutual support while honouring our unique history and sharing our passion for flight.” It’s active across Canada organizing flying events and providing scholarships.

Nav Canada Seeks Input

Nav Canada is looking for direct input on reviews of service levels at Mirabel International Airport and at Pickle Lake Airport in northern Ontario.

The Mirabel study is to identify air traffic service requirements at the facility to determine if current levels of service are adequate.

At Pickle Lake, the coporation is reviewing the method for conducting aviation weather observations at the Pickle Lake Airport (CYPL). Aviation Weather Observations at CYPL are currently conducted by a Contract Weather Office (CWO).  NavCanada is conducting a study to determine if an Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) would be an acceptable alternative. The study will also confirm if the current 12-hour TAF is sufficient to meet the needs of Nav Canada customers flying in and out of CYPL.

PDFs of the Notices of Consultation are below with appropriate links to the terms of reference. COPA asks that you forward your comments directly to COPA at operations@copanational.org .


Changes to Language Proficiency Requirements

COPA obtained an advanced copy of a new Transport Canada advisory circular concerning language proficiency requirements. The AC, effective April 20, requires that persons responsible for flight training operations require students to achieve an “Operational” level of language proficiency prior to conducting radio communications – a critical component of a pilot’s ability to solo.

Additionally, at the Flight Test, candidates who are deemed to be below “Operational” will be assessed a “Failure” on the ground portion and not be allowed to continue the Flight Test and the issue will be reported back to the regulator.

Candidates who demonstrate an “Operational” level of proficiency but not an “Expert” level, will be allowed to conduct the Flight Test but will be required to undergo a “Formal Aviation Language Proficiency Demonstration” and have the issue reported back to Transport Canada.

Read the complete AC here:


ADS-B : what does it do for you?

Several years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recognized that the US air transportation system and the tools it uses needed a significant review and upgrade in order to keep pace with the growing air traffic density and the demands of the industry and the public in general. This realization lead to what we know now as NextGen. I recall my attendance at an FAA meeting more than 20 years ago reviewing the early progress of NextGen and my amazement at the magnitude of the project and its ambitious objectives. According to the FAA website, NextGen is the modernization of the US air transportation system. Its overall goal is to increase the safety, capacity, predictability, and resiliency of American aviation. This overhaul brings together dozens of innovative technologies, capabilities, and procedures that will improve how the US public flies from departure to arrival. While the deployment of NextGen is still in its early years relatively speaking, the program has already achieved tremendous improvements across the US. This link presents a short video on the initiative and some of its achievements to date: https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/what_is_nextgen/  The FAA recognized very early on that ADS-B is one of these innovative technologies and it constitutes a critical cornerstone of NextGen.  The FAA also recognized that as much as Automatic Dependant SurveillanceBroadcast (ADS-B) is necessary to the success of NextGen, ADS-B would not, on its own, greatly increase or decrease the overall safety of their air transportation system. The U.S. have ground-based ADS-B systems across the country. No such thing is planned in Canada.


ADS-B Out offers some very significant benefits to the users it was originally intended for and it is rapidly expanding around the world. The USA have mandated ADS-B to be effective in 2020 in its airspace. Canada does not yet have an ADS-B mandate and Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) does not consider mandating the deployment of this technology, as far as COPA understands at the time of this writing. Conversely, Nav Canada has made significant progress in planning the deployment of this technology in Canadian airspace. It serves Nav Canada both from a financial aspect on radar reduction and elimination in some parts of the country, to being able to provide better service to those with the (still expensive) equipment.

ADS-B is a space-based (satellite) Surveillance system that will track all suitably equipped aircraft anywhere, in real time, globally, without the need for radar stations. ADS-B is a surveillance system that offers very high accuracy and real-time knowledge of these aircraft in flight, thus enabling highly precise monitoring of the skies and optimal aircraft separation and routing for improved efficiency while maintaining flight safety for high altitude, high speed, long-range flights, more precisely heavy transport aircraft operators and major carriers. This level of accuracy is Dependant on the on-board certified WAAS-GNSS sensor. ADS-B is a Broadcast system. The fundamental ADS-B mandates around the world, current or future, are for ADS-B Out. In other words, a compliant aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out will broadcast its flight parameters; it will not receive any information of any kind. The flight crew will be in exactly the same situation as one operating in today’s transponder environment: the aircraft broadcasts its position and the crew does not receive anything back. The significant difference is that today’s transponder (typically Mode C) replies to radar interrogations while the ADS-B Out transponder broadcasts twice every second Automatically, without interrogation or input of any kind. ADS-B Out operates on frequency 1090 MHz Extended Squitter (1090ES) via the Aireon Iridium Next satellite constellation. There is no ground station except those required to collect return signals from the satellites and route these to the relevant Air Traffic Control Units. Figure 1 illustrates the concept of Aireon Iridium Next satellite constellation and the ASD-B data link communication channels.

Figure 1 – ADS-B within the Aireon Iridium Next Satellite Constellation

In similar fashion to a Mode C transponder today, the ADS-B Out transponder must be aircraft mounted and certified. This remains an expensive proposition for GA at this time. The industry has been working seriously to bring out newer and better models and prices are gradually coming down. As of this writing, the costs for a GA aircraft installation still hovers around $5000US to $6000US installed. The debate about Diversity antenna (top and/or bottom antenna) is still going strong and these costs will increase if the installation requires both top and bottom antennae.


From the pilot’s perspective, ADS-B Out is a transmit only system, the aircraft, hence the pilot, does not receive anything. ADS-B In is the counterpart to ADS-B Out in this technology deployment. ADS-B In receives the transmissions from ADS-B Out equipped aircraft within radio range. ADS-B In is not part of any mandate but it is certainly a good idea if your aircraft is equipped ADS-B Out as this feature completes the circle of traffic information for all suitably equipped aircraft airborne in one’s given sector of airspace. ADS-B In is Line-Of-Sight to ADS-B Out sources and requires that a screen be available in the cockpit to display the traffic information received by ADS-B In. Since ADS-B In equipment is not mandated, it does not require certification and can be portable. This can be as simple as having a Stratus 2 and an iPad with ForeFlight for example. The FlightBox by Open Flight Solutions and the tiny, very low cost Scout (www.flywithscout.com) are other great examples. Garmin also offers similar products. The industry offers several variations on that theme and mostly at very attractive prices. Figure 1 also illustrates this aircraft-to-aircraft data link.

Benefits to GA of equipping for ADS-B

The ADS-B technology as described above represents what Nav Canada plans to deploy in Canadian Airspace. The deployment of this technology, as currently proposed, offers very limited benefits to GA and that at a relatively steep cost for installation, maintenance, and regular recertification. But one cannot really dispute the safety value of better awareness of aircraft traffic around us. In that perspective, one must also recognize the difference in airborne traffic density around Pearson International for instance, and similar locations, where Mode C is currently (and will remain) mandatory, and flying just about anywhere further than 200 km north of the US/Canada border or 49th parallel. Nav Canada states that an ADS-B mandate will not negate the need for a Mode C transponder in airspace where it is currently required. Nav Canada also states the current Mode C areas will remain effective after ADS-B deployment. For now, COPA cannot identify any further benefits to the Canadian GA owner and/or pilot from the Nav Canada planned ADS-B deployment than the one described in this article: awareness of air traffic in your area, if you are equipped ADS-B Out and ADS-B In.

ADS-B in the US

COPA does recognize that the ADS-B concept is valuable and could offer numerous other benefits to GA if the proposed deployment was reconsidered in that light. The FAA approach to deploying ADS-B recognizes the necessity of the technology in their NextGen program and the limited contribution of ADS-B to the important element of safety in GA. In-cockpit information such as traffic awareness, weather, and other flight information features all constitute the vital information any pilot should have in flight. Consequently, ADS-B in the US supports two different datalinks: the 1090ES system as described here is mandated above 18,000ft, and using ground-based 978UAT below 18,000ft. 978 UAT stands for 978 Mhz Universal Access Transceiver, and it must be certified and installed. The FAA is deploying 978UAT to provide GA with the in-cockpit information identified here. The US system provides both Traffic Information Services – Broadcast (TIS-B) and Flight Information Services – Broadcast (FIS-B).


TIS-B provides a custom traffic report from ground stations to aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out (on 1090ES). This custom traffic report covers a volume 30NM in diameter and 3000ft high, centered on the intended recipient aircraft. Aircraft with ADS-B In can also see this custom report if they are in that area, as well as other aircraft if these other aircraft are equipped with ADS-B Out. TIS-B broadcasts from ground stations only in response to ADS-B Out aircraft. As most GA aircraft will not have ADS-B Out, the full extent of this particular benefit will be limited. Single-band ADS-B In receives only 1090ES air-to-air, dual band ADS-B In receives both 978 and 1090. Figure 2 shows your scenario if you are equipped with ADS-B In only such as a Stratus 2 (which is dual band) for instance and no ground station. You receive only air-to-air traffic from aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out (1090ES).

Figure 2 – Basic configuration: your aircraft with a Stratus 2 only

Figure 3 illustrates your same scenario, but you are now close to an aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out (1090ES). Through your Stratus 2, you will receive the traffic report sent out to that ADS-B Out aircraft, but take note that this report is centered on that aircraft, so it does not provide you full accuracy of the traffic around you.

Figure 3 – Basic configuration, your aircraft with Stratus 2 only, but close to an ADS-B Out aircraft

Figure 4 illustrates your same aircraft again but now also equipped with ADS-B Out (1090ES). You now receive a custom traffic report tailored to you and centered on your aircraft. This report is highly accurate and complete, in real time.

Figure  4 – Same basic configuration with Stratus 2 plus ADS-B Out

In the US system, ground stations broadcast TIS-B. This allows the Air Traffic Control Units to blend in the traffic information from Mode C transponder equipped aircraft and to provide the pilot with a complete picture of all the air traffic in that pilot’s immediate environment. The quality of traffic information provided within the US system configuration is far more complete and accurate than will ever be provided in Canada with the current ADS-B proposal. The US system provides its GA owners, pilots, and operators a real safety benefit, measurable and quantifiable.


FIS-B operates in constant broadcast mode and provides text weather (METARs, TAFs, PIREPs), graphical weather (radar), airspace status (TFRs, NOTAMs). The ADS-B deployment planned by Nav Canada does not include any provision for FIS-B as ADS-B 1090ES cannot accommodate this level of information. The FAA has clearly recognized the value of accurate and complete air traffic information in their national airspace and the impact this technology deployment imposes on their GA community. The FAA has consequently taken steps to address these issues in a positive and constructive manner. The FAA does not mandate ADS-B 1090ES below 18,000ft but rather relies on 978UAT and encourages GA owners and operators to equip with a suitable solution that achieves the objective. Canadian GA pilots equipped ADS-B In dual-band can take advantage of the US FIS-B datalink when flying within range of US stations but the information received is limited to US airspace data.

COPA Viewpoint

For GA in Canada, the Aireon Iridium Next constellation ADS-B solution does offer a relative safety perspective but nothing more for now. This solution primarily focuses on airlines and heavy carriers who will unquestionably gain from it. GA owners and pilots who feel more secure and comfortable with ADS-B in their aircraft can equip at their discretion as some have done so far. Nonetheless, we feel that an indiscriminate mandatory ADS-B mandate for all aircraft in all of Canadian Airspace is not an appropriate nor a necessary technological deployment, nor an obvious solution to a problem yet to be completely defined and agreed. See and avoid is an important consideration, but so is weather and other elements of the Flight Information Servive (FIS-B) and these are totally ignored in this technology deployment. We do believe Nav Canada needs to introduce more valuable features into this equation to make ADS-B more palatable to GA and thus enhance its acceptance in that milieu.

Improving VFR Communications Inbound

by Michel Pomerleau

 In this article, I will digress a little and deal not only with communications but enroute and approach planning. 

Proper VFR flight planning is taught during training. However, this aspect tends to suffer with the widespread use of GPS and tablets. Planning cross-country flights on these devices makes the preparation of flight logs very easy, accurate and comprehensive. But, route study is more difficult as the entire stretch can be displayed on a 10 or 7 inch screen. Therefore, the use of paper charts is highly recommended when planning long flights over unfamiliar territory to better scrutinize the planned route, destination and alternate airdromes, hazardous and restricted areas.

Planning the arrival is also important, and much more so approaching destination. As a general rule, airline and commercial pilots start planning their arrival thirty minutes or more before their ETA on account of their long descent and approach procedure from high altitude. They obtain ATIS, contact their Flight Ops or FBO, study STAR and approach charts, brief passengers, etc. Over unfamiliar country, VFR pilots should perform this function as early as possible and certainly before commencing descent. At 120 knots, a descent from 9500 feet at 500 fpm to an airport at 500’MSL will take 18 minutes and cover 36 miles. Well prepared, the pilot can fully concentrate on flying the aircraft, radio work, watching for traffic and joining the circuit. 

As for communications x-country and approaching, the AIM with reference to CAR  602.101 and 103, directs for flights through an MF, to: ‘Report before entering the MF or ATF area and, where circumstances permit, shall do so at least five minutes before entering the area, giving the aircraft’s position and altitude and the pilot-in-command’s intentions; and, when clear of the MF or ATF area’. When approaching destination, the pilot-in-command must: ‘Report before entering the MF or ATF area and, shall do so at least five minutes before entering the area, giving aircraft’s position, altitude, the estimated time of landing, and the pilot’s arrival procedure intentions. Another report is required ‘when joining the aerodrome traffic pattern, giving the aircraft’s position’, and so on. Good airmanship suggests complying with this requirement at all aerodromes.

As stated before, radio transmissions should be clear and concise. Typical examples:

‘Charlo Radio, Piper Foxtrot X-Ray Yankee Zulu, 16 miles Southwest 3500 feet VFR, inbound for landing in 9 minutes, with the numbers, will join downwind runway 30’

‘Charlo Radio, FXYZ , joining mid-downwind runway 30’

‘Charlo Radio, FXYZ, on final runway 30 for landing’. 

Note the use of the single word ‘landing’ used to describe the intentions on final, an aeronautical term which will be discussed in the next article.

Places to Fly: Uranium City

Like many resource towns, Uranium City’s airport was built to support a bustling industry and after the Eldorado Mining Corp. left town it left behind a first class facility. Although it’s original 5,000X200-foot runway has been shortened to 3930X100 but it’s still a great local GA facility