I was going through some old emails and found this Training Tip in an AOPA Newsletter. AOPA, as I have mentioned before, is the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. I have been a member since 1999.
The tip is timely because I was just telling me some people yesterday that a controller gave me a hard time on the radio for not responding back when he told me I had read back the clearance correctly. In other words, I had called up for my clearance, he read it to me, and I am required to read it back to make sure I had gotten it right, which I did. So he responded with my call sign and "readback correct." Should be end of story, right? Instead, he got on the radio and angrily said my call sign and "readback correct, OVER." (Over means the person on the radio is expecting a response.) So I said my call sign and "thanks?," not knowing what else he was looking for. After I told this story, a pilot took me to the side (in respect to any hurt feelings I might have, I guess) to let me know that sometimes the controllers like you to respond with your callsign so that they are reassured that you heard them.
I guess in smaller airports this would be ok. But in many larger airports, radio traffic is so crowded, they expect you to ONLY respond back with your callsign and your transponder code, unless you have questions with your clearance. Ultimately, though, pilots are supposed to be brief and to the point on the radio and avoid "unnecessary chatter." As a friend mentioned, there is nothing worse than flying toward a kind of airspace where you need specific clearance to enter, where another pilot gets on the frequency and starts telling their life story. Pilots do and have to turn around and circle til they get clearance into the airspace. Grr, huh?
So, in the end, would I have been wrong to respond to the controllers "readback correct" with yet another transmission? No. But he was wrong to growl at me on the radio demanding a unnecessary acknowledgement. All pilots and controllers need to be familiar with the publication described below so there are no (or fewer) misunderstandings!
'ACKNOWLEDGE!'Sometimes in busy airspace or on the ground at a bustling airport, you'll hear a controller fire off instructions followed by a command such as, "Hold short, 'acknowledge' hold." Why was "acknowledge" added to the transmission? What should the acknowledging pilot say?
The specific meaning of "acknowledge," given in the "Pilot/Controller Glossary" in the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), is "Let me know that you have received my message." That's always key to clear communications. So if a controller specifically requests that you "acknowledge," give an immediate, positive response.
"When talking to a controller, the general rule is that you must fully acknowledge all commands. Climbs, descents, turns, and clearances must be repeated so that the controller knows that you received the proper information. Acknowledging a descent clearance with just your call sign is not acceptable and can incur the wrath of the controllers, especially if they are busy and have to waste time getting you to do your job. Likewise, acknowledging a command without using your call sign is also a no-no, because the controller doesn't know which aircraft took the command," Chip Wright said in the May 2005 AOPA Flight Training feature "Talking the Talk." "On the ground, the most critical—but by no means the only—items to read back are hold-short commands, and it doesn't matter if the hold-short command is for a runway or a taxiway. If you don't properly read back the hold-short command, the controller is required to bug you until you do."
Acknowledging instructions is not the same as a "readback," in which you repeat the entire message to the controller, such as when receiving taxi instructions. The AIM explains:
"When taxi instructions are received from the controller, pilots should always read back:
(a) The runway assignment.(b) Any clearance to enter a specific runway.(c) Any instruction to hold short of a specific runway, or taxi into position and hold.
Controllers are required to request a readback of runway hold short assignment when it is not received from the pilot/vehicle."
These and other terms used by ATC are discussed in the "New Pilot's Guide to ATC Communications" article on AOPA Flight Training Online. Make it your mission to know how to respond.