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What would you do if you are given an instruction by a controller that you are not able to comply with?  Watch the video and listen to the advice.

Listening comprehension

Notice how the speaker doesn't pause between her sentences.  Listen again and identify the words missing from the transcript below.

In any situation the pilot _________ in control of the aircraft. If ever a pilot _________ given an instruction by ATC that they cannot comply with _________ try and _________ it.  Say something and (you know) either explain what you _________ need from us or just say (hey) I have something else going on, this _________ what I'm doing.  And if a pilot _________ declare an emergency the controller can also declare an emergency for a pilot and treat that aircraft with priority handling. The communication piece, obviously the more information that you can give _________ the more we're able to _________ for you but number one - fly the airplane. That _________ something that a controller can't _________ for a pilot.

Language focus

Stating inability (reluctance, unwillingness, refusal) to perform a requested action is an important communicative function in the AEROSTA Framework / ICAO 9835 descriptors.

For pilots:

  • Tell us an example of an instruction a controller asked you to perform which you were unable to comply with.
  • How did you say it? What extra information did you include? How did the controller help you?

For ATCOs:

  • Tell us an example of an instruction you gave to a pilot which they were unable to comply with.
  • How did they say it? What extra information was included? What additional help did you offer?

For more radiotelephony listening comprehension activities

For more radiotelephony listening activities visit
To improve your listening comprehension and to practice radiotelephony using standard phraseology under the guidance of aviation and linguistic experts email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call +852 81799295.

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matf Radiotelephony - stating inability


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