Boundary Bay Radio Calls

Boundary Bay (CZBB)

Boundary Bay airport is one of the busiest airports in Canada. The controllers speak quickly and expect the pilots to already know the published procedures. In preparation for flying here, buy a VTA and a CFS and study the reporting points. Visit the Boundary Bay Airport SOPs page to read more about local procedures. My page here is intended for student pilots, foreign pilots or pilots coming to CZBB from quieter airspace who find themselves tongue-tied trying to talk to Boundary Bay ATC.

Talking on the Radio

Talking on the radio is one of the top three scariest things for student pilots, but it shouldn't be. No one ever got hurt by the microphone button, although it does seem to induce temporary stupidity while you are holding it down. The controllers are people, and all they want is for you to be safe. Trainee controllers and student pilots both say stupid things on the radio sometimes.

My general philosophy of radio calls is to pretend you have to pay by the second, and by the word, for everything you say, and everything they say to you. So give them all the information they expect in the first call, so they don't have to ask for more, but don't say anything you don't need to.

Listen to be sure that no one else is talking, and that you are not interrupting a conversation. Always start a transmission with your call sign and then as needed, give your position, your altitude, your request and your destination. You can remember this with I PAID : Ident, Position, Altitude, Intentions, Destination.

There are standard phrasings, but there are many things you need to say on the radio that you might not know a phrasing for. Just say what you have to say clearly, and using as few words as possible, without long pauses or umming.

In general, to acknowledge a transmission directed to you, all you need to do is say your call sign. That signifies "I understand everything you said, and I will comply." An exception to this is if you are told to "wait" or "hold short <runway number>." If you receive one of those instructions you must read back your call sign and those words. If you are asked a question, answer it with just the answer, not a complete sentence, and your call sign.

If you are told to "contact" an agency on a frequency, switch to it and tell them your call sign and altitude.
If you are told to "monitor" a frequency, switch to it, and don't say anything.
If it isn't clear from the instruction whether you were asked to monitor or contact, give the new agency a call.
Do not switch frequency without permission unless you have been "cleared en route" or are well clear of the control zone.


After you start the airplane, listen to the ATIS on 125.5 to hear something like:

"This is Boundary Bay Airport Information Charlie, weather at zero one zero zero  zulu. Wind zero five zero at five to ten, visibility ten miles. Sky condition two thousand broken, overcast above. Altimeter two nine nine five. IFR approach VOR approach runway zero seven. Landing and departure runway zero seven. Note: outer tower frequency is not in use. Contact Boundary Bay tower on one one eight decimal one. Inform ATC on initial contact you have information Charlie."

It's a lot of information and you should understand what it all means, but to begin with, make sure you note:
- the runway in use
- if the outer tower frequency is in use
- the information letter (Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, etcetera)

Set your altimeter to match the broadcast setting, then tune 124.3 and call:
"Boundary Bay Ground, this is Cessna one fifty-two Golf Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, at Pacific, request taxi for <where you are going> with <ATIS letter>."

Where you are going might be "Glen Valley" or "Pitt Meadows" or "Chilliwack."

If you are on a flight plan, include the words "on a flight plan" in your call to ground. If you are going over the mountains, or going west, towards Victoria or Nanaimo, include your requested altitude in the call. So your call might be:

"Boundary Bay Ground, Cessna 172 Golf Oscar Sierra Bravo, request taxi on a flight plan to Campbell River four thousand five hundred with Charlie."

They will call you back, it might take a moment, so be patient:

"Cessna one fifty-two Golf Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, Boundary Bay Ground. Altimeter setting two nine nine six. Taxi via Alfa for runway zero seven, Nikel departure, squawk three four two seven. Contact Boundary Bay Tower on one one eight decimal one holding short."

That's a lot of stuff, so you'd better be anticipating it, and writing it down. That list included:
- the altimeter setting (29.96)
- a transponder code (the "squawk" - 3427)
- the runway you will use (07)
- the taxiway to take to get there (A)
- the departure procedures to follow after take-off "Nikel" (that means at 400' turn direct Blackie Spit, then continue to a particular bridge on the Nicomekl River: you have to either know that, or look it up)
- the next controller you need to contact (tower, on 118.1)

If you understood it all, you say: "Golf Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot."

If you missed something you can say, "Say again altimeter setting for Golf Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot."

You set your transponder code and adjust your altimeter.

This is pretty much the same information you will receive from any tower anywhere. The taxi instructions may be more complex. You have to look up departure instructions (like that "Nikel" departure) in the CFS. But you now know the basic recipe.


After your run-up, switch to tower frequency 118.1, and taxi up to the hold short line. Stop COMPLETELY behind the line (including your propeller and wingtips) and look to see if any airplanes are coming on final or established on base. If there is someone coming, just wait.

When there is no one coming, wait a moment, because the tower may call you. If they don't, call them and say:

"Bay tower, Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot ready."

Some people will say, "ready for takeoff" but duh, what else are you going to do on the runway? I often say "ready on <taxiway>" because at some airports you have multiple airplanes waiting on different taxiways, so it's just a habit for me to tell the controller where I am.

If the tower says

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, ready immediate?"

You say:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, affirmative" (if you are ready to take off right away)
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, negative" (if you are not quite ready yet, or if you need some extra time on the runway)

The controller might say:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, wait."

Then you say:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, waiting."

You might hear:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, taxi to position runway zero seven"

That means you are allowed to cross the hold short line and go onto the runway. You say:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot"

And then you position your airplane on the runway. You may not take off until you hear YOUR call sign followed by the words "cleared take-off." If you don't hear those words, don't take off. The take-off clearance might sound like:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot cleared take-off runway zero seven."

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot cleared immediate take-off runway zero seven"
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, traffic ahead is in the circuit. Contact outer tower on one two seven decimal six through eight hundred, cleared take-off runway zero seven"

You say:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot"

If the outer tower controller is working, you will be asked to switch to them, usually through instructions in your takeoff clearance, as in the example above.  If  your takeoff instructions do not tell you to switch, stay on 118.1 until you are told to:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot contact outer tower now on one two seven decimal six"

Acknowledge that call, then when you have switched, say:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot eight hundred" (or whatever your real altitude is, don't lie: they don't care if you're a couple hundred feet late)

If the controller says,

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, traffic two o' clock one thousand seven hundred"

You look to your right for an airplane and say either:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, Contact" (if you see the airplane)
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, Looking" (if you don't see it)

The controller will tell you:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, radar identified"

That means that he can see your radar blip on his screen and knows that it's you. Just acknowledge. Whatever they tell you or command you, obey if safe, and acknowledge with your call sign.

Eventually they will tell you something like

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, no observed traffic for four miles, keep the code, cleared on route"

Now you can change frequencies if you want. If they are busy they may not clear you en route. Don't call them unless they asked you to, just keep going and you may switch frequencies when you are well clear.

Returning to Boundary Bay

Coming back to the airport you again have to listen the the ATIS, and then make a request. Say:

"Boundary Bay tower, Cessna one fifty two Golf Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot <where you are> <your altitude> for landing with <ATIS>."

For example,
"Boundary Bay Tower, Cessna one fifty two Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, NIKEL, one thousand eight hundred for landing with Echo" (or "One east of King George two thousand for circuits with Charlie")

The tower will give you an altimeter setting, a runway and instructions for joining the circuit. They may tell you to "report the gas stations" or "report Delta Air Park". That means that when you are over that landmark, you say:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, Gas Stations"
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, Airpark"

If the controller asks you a question like "Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, what was your point of departure?"

Give the answer, JUST the answer. "Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot Chilliwack"

If the controller has not given you a sequence (number for landing) by the time you have joined the circuit, then say the part of the circuit that you were cleared to, and have joined:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot downwind"

The controller will say something like
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, number four, follow the second Cessna on base."

You should be able to look ahead and count three airplanes in front of you. Reply:

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, contact"
(People also say things like "with traffic" "has the traffic" or "in sight." Nothing wrong with that. I just like contact because it is the shortest).

You should get a landing clearance like
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot cleared to land runway zero seven"

Now you have permission to land. You say:
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, contact"

If the landing clearance is something like:
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot cleared to land runway two five, hold short runway three zero for landing traffic."

You are still cleared to land, but you must stop before reaching the end of the runway, where it meets runway 30. You must assure the controller you will obey by saying:
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, hold short three zero."

If you forget to say the "hold short" part the controller has to waste time making you say the magic words. If you don't say them, the controller can't let the other airplane land on runway 30.

if you are close to landing, and there is no airplane in front of you, but you haven't got a clearance you can say:
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, short final" as a hint

After you land, you might hear,

"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, no delay to Delta, contact ground one twenty four three when off."
"Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot, taxi Delta, Charlie to the apron, monitor ground only, no need to call."

Never change to ground frequency until you are safely over the hold short line. Then do your after landing checks and call ground to request:

"Boundary Bay Ground, Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot on Delta for the ramp"

These aren't all the possible calls you would hear or have to make, but they should give you the patterns, and get you ready for ATC at Boundary Bay.

Things You May Notice

Sometimes when you are on tower frequency, you can hear the ground controller or vice versa. That means that the same controller is working both frequencies. When you hear him or her make a call on the other frequency, wait long enough for the aircraft calling to respond, so the controller isn't heariing two aircraft at once. Boundary Bay controllers have the equipment to do "frequency coupling" allowing you to hear the aircraft on the other frequency that the controller is working. Some controllers use it and some don't.

Normal radio procedures ask you to make an initial call like "Boundary Bay Tower, Cessna Golf Papa Foxtrot Foxtrot with Echo," and to call clear. Boundary Bay does NOT want you to make these calls. Just start in with the whole story. It's a local procedure.

Robyn's Flying Start Home

This page written 15 February 2004 by Robyn Stewart. Last updated 3 September 2004.
Copyright 2004 Flying Start Initiatives