What the FROTL are you talking about?

Blog Learning To Fly

See what I did there? Of course you did…

I have officially passed another two tests on the road to gaining my PPL, both the communication theory and practical. It was a bit of a surprise actually when it came to doing the practical part, having done a bit of practice I thought I would book in for the test.

What is a FROTL when it’s at home? Well as with all areas of aviation, it’s another acronym. Flight Radio Telephony Operator License. This, when you have your PPL, basically allows you to use and talk on the radio. While you’re training and flying solo, you don’t actually need it as you’re covered under your flight instructors license… so don’t worry. Most people wait until they have passed their practical skills test before they do the radio test, but I never seem to take the normal path with things.

You can find out more about it here: CAA FROTL

This is the only part of the learning to fly process at this time which can’t be done at GoFly in Old Sarum, they don’t have an examiner or the facilities currently but it’s OK many flying schools are the same. Its a good job that GoFly (and the aviation fraternity as a whole) all get on well and work together. For the FROTL, students at GoFly pop up the road to Western Air in Thruxton. For the princely sum of just £60 you can take the practical test with Kevin, who is very encouraging and helpful when it comes topassing your exam.

I said I don’t take the normal path, I initially called Western Air to ask what their availability was to do the test in what I thought would be a few weeks, but after talking with Kevin for a few minutes, he suggested that I just went up there, there and then as they had an afternoon schedule which had been cleared up due to some high winds. So with 45min to prepare, revise and take advantage of a little coaching from Kevin, I took the test.

The test its self is a simulated flight on a computer where you will make and act upon various radio calls… with a couple of curve balls thrown in for good measure. You’ll get airfield information, request a zone transit, MATZ penetration (fnar fnar) and be faced with an emergency or two which you must deal with. Remember, the “RT” exam (as its commonly known within the community) is all about communication, so even if you don’t get things absolutely correct, you’re not going to fail, so long as you understand the principles and the theory behind it, you’ll be fine.

I thought and it does seem at first that when talking on the radio that there is a lot of information to remember and read back, but during my training I have learned a few tricks…. “Stand by [callsign]” is a really useful phrase, it gives you a bit of thinking time. When communicating with an ATZ, such as Solent Radar, all of the radio ‘chat’ is recorded so, even if you forget to read something back correctly, the controller will give you the information again to ensure that it’s received and the verbal contract you enter with the ATZ is correct. If for example if you forget to report back their instruction, or get it wrong, they’re going to tell you what it was again so you can read it back… Remember, they are there for YOUR service. for YOUR safety, not the other way round. They, effectively work for you. They’re your eyes on the ground, so if you’re not sure, ask. If you miss something, ask them to repeat it… and, honestly there is nothing wrong with “common language”… especially in an emergency situation (the books actually say this too).

The test it’s self is just role-play… and quite fun. Its like being in the air, but without the stress of flying the aircraft. As Kevin suggested, it’s really quite chilled out and nothing huge to panic about… so officially this is Golf Romeo Alpha November Tango requesting a basic service… and now I actually can!