National Wildfire Coordinating Group

Aviation Communications


Discuss the following information in terms of effective communication with aircraft. Involve the pilot in this discussion.

  • Establish an air-to-ground frequency on the fire, and make sure everyone knows what it is.
  • Avoid switching frequencies in the middle of an operational period.
  • Discuss Guard frequencies:
    • How they work.
    • When to use them.
    • What frequencies are established for aircraft in your area?
  • Aviation communication should be clear, concise, and to the point.
  • Use standard terminology that can be understood by everyone you are talking to. Do not use local slang.
  • Know what you want to say before you key the microphone. Don’t think and talk at the same time.
  • Before you key your microphone to talk, ensure you are not cutting into another transmission.
  • Identify who you want to talk to by the call sign and identify yourself in every transmission.
  • If the frequency gets congested, request another frequency. Upon receipt, ensure that all people who need to be on the new frequency transfer to that frequency.
  • When giving ground descriptions, describe the location as if you are viewing it from the direction an aircraft would be traveling. Use a common frame of reference for the sender and receiver.
  • Use easily understandable directions, such as north, south, east, west, 2 o’clock, 9 o’clock, left 20 degrees, right 45 degrees, etc.
  • When giving directions, always give them in relation to the pilot’s perspective.


Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
May 2021

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