The standard way to ask ATC to repeat something

A pilot under the pseudonym Voocfi has posted an interesting question on the Ask a Flight Instructor website that is well worth repeating:

What’s the standard way to ask an ATC to repeat what they said over the radio? And if I still don’t understand, how to ask to say in different words?

CFI and commercial pilot Jay responded by writing that “say again” is the standard phraseology to get ATC to repeat their last transmission. Likewise and if ATC is speaking too fast, saying “speak slower” will get them to slow down. However, Jay also added that if you are completely at a loss for what ATC might want from you, just ask them in plain language plus telling them that you are a student pilot will also help. After all and as Jay pointed out, its better to ensure that you understand what ATC wants than to stick to any published script and then end up having a problem. 

On the other hand, Andy Hawkins responded by writing that he remembers the standard phrase being “words twice” which will ask ATC to say every word twice.

Meanwhile, withanh pointed out that there is a reason you don’t ask ATC to “repeat” something because under military radio protocol, the word “repeat” can have multiple meanings e.g. drop more ordinance on the same place you just did. Hence and to avoid having ATC  dropping more bombs or confusing terms on you again, telling them “say again” will work better.

Finally, Paul Tocknell sarcastically posted that the next time he misses a radio call, he wonders how ATC would respond if he said:

“Sorry, I was on a land line” (which is ATC’s standard response when they miss your call).

A good question indeed!

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