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Taxi Clearance
Excerpt from Winging It! With Dr. Paul: Forty Tales Your Flight Instructor Never Told You (copyright © 1989 by H. Paul Shuch)

Radio communications procedures. To the uninitiated, they're little more than mystical incantations. To the cogniscenti, a language all their own, with a texture as varied and expressive as the Central California coast. They've been responsible for more sweaty palms among student pilots than spin training and forced landings combined.

One painless way to master the jargon is by listening in on ATIS, the Automatic Terminal Information Service available at many tower controlled airports. This prerecorded weather transmission offers as its chief virtue redundancy: it repeats, over and over, for about an hour, until updated by the local controller. After half a hundred hearings, the pattern begins to make sense. But there are pitfalls.

ATIS transmissions end in an identifier code, a letter of the international phonetic alphabet, as in "Advise the controller on initial contact that you have information Tango." After repeatedly copying just such a transmission until she could recite it backwards in her sleep, Suk, my favorite student, was ready to call for taxi clearance, departing on her first solo cross-country.

The tentative cadence on the radio announced to all the world Student Pilot: "Ground control, Skipper four eight foxtrot at the Flying Club, tango for takeoff with taxi."

"Roger, Ma'am", replied the ground controller patiently. "Tango to runway three one right. Advise the tower when ready to dance."

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