Radiotelephony FRTOL Course

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Radiotelephony FRTOL Course with Simon Hatch and Richard Francis

This report describes the Radiotelephony R/T course which Simon Hatch (R/T Examiner) and Richard Francis (CFI for Powered Flying at Bourn) are offering regularly in cooperation with CGC to its members. For CGC members the course costs (as of March 2019) about £190 (for Cadet members or CUGC members, CGC might be happy to contribute £100 - from year to year). This includes:

  • five training sessions as well as
  • the written exam and
  • the practical test.

The author personally recommends to familiarize oneself with the relevant subjects of the Navigation section at first, before taking up the Radio Course. Navigation is not necessary and essential to start this course, since the instructors are very happy to explain all the necessary aspects; nonetheless, it appears the more natural order to go through Air Law and Navigation beforehand - since besides Communication all these bits need to be put in practice in the simulated radio transmission calls. In fact, in the practical test, an aircraft needs to be flown in a simulator while directing it through airspace and communicating with the air traffic controllers - at the same time.

Course sequence

The course starts with two theoretical sessions (lectures) on the relevant subjects of the PPL Communications exam. In fact, the written FRTOL exam is exactly the same paper. The content covered in the lectures and in the paper includes (non exhaustive listing):

Week 1
  • Airspace
  • Air Traffic Services
  • Air/Ground, AFIS, ATC, SafetyCom
  • Phraseology, Frequencies
  • Practical Usage of the Radio
Week 2
  • Taxiing, Clearance, Take-off
  • Radar, Transponder, Squawks
  • VDF (VHF Direction Finding)
  • Zone Transits, MATZ Penetration
  • Danger Areas
  • Readback Items
  • Emergencies (Distress, Urgency)
  • Flight Plans
  • Miscellaneous

The lectures were accompanied by useful handouts. Beyond that, the recommended references include:

  • CAP413[1]
  • A Reference Guide to UK Phraseology (AIRSPACE & SAFETY INITIATIVE)

The written exam (UK PPL(A)/PPL(H) Communications paper) is then sat at the beginning of the third week.

There are 12 questions in total of which 75% (i.e. 9 right answers) are needed to pass - which, with some preparation (e.g. cramp study a couple hours beforehand), should not be a big hurdle.

Following the written exam, the first (of three) practical session starts. In the remaining time (week 3 to week 5), radio phraseology is slowly put into practice bits by bits through simulating flights on different routes each week. If the theory sessions are well revised, then the practical sessions should not be a big problem - but otherwise, the necessary items of the relevant radio calls will be revised anyway. Constantly recurring calls are:

Week 3 & 4
  • Departure Calls (depends on type of aeronautical station)
  • Transits Requests / Position Reports
  • Landing Calls (depends on type of aeronautical station)

as well as:

Week 4 & 5
  • Emergency Calls
  • Weather Report Requests
  • Direction Finding Request

In fact, all these aspects are also graded in the practical test after week 5. For the practical test, the candidate sits in front of a computer through which they can steer an aircraft from its departure to its arrival aerodrome. It might not be unlikely, though, that a weather report requires the aircraft to divert to another aerodrome for landing - whose direction, though, might also need to inquired through another radio call. Furthermore, emergency calls or emergency relays might necessitate during the flight, too. It appears clear that in the practical test all practiced calls will be demanded.

FRTOL License

After attending the course and achieving passes in both the written exam and the practical test, the issuance of the FRTOL license can be applied for with the UK CAA. That is, next to the £190 (or £90 with the CGC contribution), a fee of £75 (as of March 2019) to the CAA also needs to be taken into consideration for the total costs. Exceptions/Reductions might apply for the holders of a Flight Crew License - e.g. the FRTOL license is mandatory for the PPL(A) or PPL(H) licenses anyway. On the other hand, nowadays, the UK FRTOL license is issued and valid for life (in case of a "No Deal"-Brexit: only within the scope of the UK ANO).

It is also important to note that a FRTOL License can only be issued if a language endorsement (of at least ICAO Level 4) is held. The UK CAA can only endorse with ICAO English after formal or informal assessment, though. Specifically people whose English proficiency falls below ICAO Level 4 cannot be issued with the FRTOL license. ICAO English Level 4[2] needs to be renewed every 4 years; ICAO English Level 5[3] needs to be renewed every 6 years.

ICAO English Level 6[4], on the other hand, is granted to pilots for life (and to Air Traffic Controllers for 7 years) - but it requires native or near-native proficiency.[5]

Indeed, recognition of a UK CAA English language endorsement for the use in other EASA Member States can be applied for (and it can be granted) up until the EU Exit of the UK - at least in Germany - based on LuftPersV § 125[6].

Applicability of UK FRTOL after EU Exit (specifically in Germany) - haha xD

The UK CAA issued FRTOL license can generally always be used in a UK-registered aircraft (i.e. with G-registration). For the time being, as long as the UK is part of EASA, the UK FRTOL will also be recognized in all other EASA Member States without any formal recognition process - so, the UK FRTOL license can also be used to make radio transmissions in an aircraft which is registered in Germany, for example. However, once the UK leaves the EU without further arrangements, it also automatically ceases to be an EASA Member State (unless it applies to re-join EASA and it commits to recognize ECJ rulings in the relevant areas, principally) - the application for FRTOL Authorization ("Berechtigungsausweis", 47 EUR in Germany) might be required. Nonetheless, all the UK FRTOL exams as well as tests will (probably) principally still be recognized after the EU exit due to ICAO-compliance, so that (apart from paying 47 EUR) they have not to be re-taken even in the case of a "No Deal"-Brexit.

More details in FlugfunkV § 14[7].


  1. CAP413
  2. ICAO English Level 4 (OPERATIONAL)
  3. ICAO English Level 5 (EXTENDED)
  4. ICAO English Level 6 (EXPERT)
  5. CAA: language proficiency
  6. "§ 125 Nachweis von Sprachkenntnissen" (paragraph 3) of "Verordnung über Luftfahrtpersonal (LuftPersV)"
  7. "§ 14 Anerkennung von Flugfunkzeugnissen" (Article 14 Recognition of operators' certificates) of "Verordnung über Flugfunkzeugnisse (FlugfunkV)" (German Ordinance on Flight Radiotelephony Operator Licenses)