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Radiotelephony Exam - Do we need one?

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  • Radiotelephony Exam - Do we need one?

    Just a question, do you think we need a radiotelephony exam which is completely seperate to the GMDSS technical course.

    When I completed my private pilots license I was required to take an RT exam, both a written which included a lot of the technical kind of questions that you'd expect on a GMDSS exam, but also a practical exam. The exam is also testing your level of English, to ensure you meet a minimum required standard.
    To the layman, when you listen to aircraft communications it can sound fast, complex and difficult. In fact, the situation with aircraft communication is that they use standard phraseology, so that whenever you here a call, you are expecting it to occur in a particular pattern with the information you require in the order that you require it. Regardless of how good your spoken English is, if you can understand all of the aviation terms and phraseology, you can effectively interact with Air Traffic Control without fear of misunderstanding. It's not completely foolproof, but it goes a long way to resolving communication issues. So often on the radio I hear situations which are clearly occuring because of a misunderstanding, whether its a pilot advising a ship where to meet him, or a ship going to anchor.

    Take for instance this recording of the m.v. Estonia which sank; ; the mayday has been incorrectly made, and delays the process of organising a rescue. In the aviation industry, when a situation occurs, you are encouraged to call mayday first, and then cancel the mayday or downgrade it when you have recovered the situation. It was apparent in the Costa Concordia accident that the mayday decision was delayed for too long, now much of that was down to other failures in command decision, but I also feel that if their was a practiced and examined procedure for reporting an emergency over VHF then in some circumstances the response time would be reduced.

    I would love to see a situation where standard phrasology (not terminology, we already have so many books about that) is examined practically, in a simulator for instance. The next step would be the examination of emergency response in accordance with company specific procedures.

    Just some food for thought, would love to see what people think.

  • #2
    I think something along the lines you suggest would be a sensible replacement/update for the signals exam, which is very outdated.


    • #3
      I think that radiotelephony is taken for granted by native English speakers. When I did both my Restricted R/T and General R/T certificate we were tested on phonetics. I am surprised to see that the phonetics for numbers is little known today. I appreciate that it was little used, but it did clarify poor comms when used. However, all comms can be easy when not in a stressful situation, it is how we all react when in a situation that is life critical. I was even surprised to see in another thread that people were not aware of the silence periods on 2182 khz.

      I think people should be tested on it.

      The one phrase from the unofficial navy code I remember is "Listen rubber lips, take the marbles out of your mouth, and speak clearly and concisely in English!"

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      • #4
        Nope, I had no idea there were silence periods on the 2182kHz, I wonder if it's the same for many where you go to sea with officers who don't know/ care and even though you spend a lot of time looking up stuff/ using manuals you can't fill every little gap. Colleges assume you learn it at sea, at sea many 'foreign officers' believe you learn it at school... yup.

        Scary when as a cadet you have a better idea of how to work the GMDSS equipment than the mates... 'Just push the red button... pess the cancel button if it beeps... distress... too far away'. I think I'm the only person I've worked with who has taken an active interest in the radio and tests it properly, the third mate often just turns it off when it makes too much noise. Sigh.

        Yup an R/T exam sounds more relevant than flag etiquette. I think GMDSS onboard is of a very poor standard, I wish there was a 'training mode' to let you actually practise using it for emergencies. Does this exist in any models?

        Gone a bit off track here but anyway. Does anyone manage to get a HF DSC response on their weekly safety test? I miss working in Europe where MF DSC test calls are nearly always answered, West Africa is shocking with few radio stations and even Cape Town don't always respond... anyone else got any tips for the South Atlantic?


        • #5
          It's not often I can post anything useful, only a hobby sailor, however this time I can, I hope.
          I have an aviation RT licence and as YM says its very scripted and anything said by air traffic you normally repeat back to them, if its repeated back incorrectly then they know you haven't heard or misunderstood, and its repeated again etc. Except the French they seem to have their own rules - bless them!
          I also did my marine VHF RT and on our RYA course we had I think ICOM radios to practice on that had been changed so they did not transmit, so they must exist it was a few years ago when the RYA was changing to the GMDSS syllabus.
          The booklets do have a script in the back which cover most of the calls you are most likely to need. It was not at the same level that the aviation one is at all. It struck me at the time how easy it was, and how easy it would be to forget too.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Midge View Post
            I also did my marine VHF RT and on our RYA course we had I think ICOM radios to practice on that had been changed so they did not transmit, so they must exist it was a few years ago when the RYA was changing to the GMDSS syllabus.
            The booklets do have a script in the back which cover most of the calls you are most likely to need. It was not at the same level that the aviation one is at all. It struck me at the time how easy it was, and how easy it would be to forget too.

            When I did my Marine VHF licence we had two radios with the aerials removed and plugged straight into each other. I don't think there was any modification necessary. The mayday procedure wasn't that strictly drilled into us. We just had to be able to write out a fairly accurate mayday script on the day when given a scenario. I'd have to look it up again if to guarantee an accurate script. If and when I get a yacht I'll certainly be doing what a lot of people do which is stick a mayday pro forma next to the radio so that anyone can do it properly in anger, trained or untrained


            • #7
              Did my GOC two months ago and we had an RT test, don't know if that's always been part of the exam?
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              • #8
                We did an R/T test for GOC, everyone on the course taking the role of both making and responding to a Mayday with logkeeping of equal importance, one guy on the course actually failed this part of it, ironically he spoke very 'Queen's English' but unfortunately it didn't make any sense!

                Had to take the CAA radio operator's course before I took the Heli Landing Officer Course... a very strict exam with a lot of emphasise on using the correct terms and so on but you got an exemption on the R/T part if you held a GOC, in reality though when I've been speaking to heli pilots in real life they adopt the same laziness as us at sea, the terminology I learned is still used but I found it to be far more relaxed. The course was really aimed at those bound for offshore installations though with the emphasise that 'you'll get plenty of practise before you have to do it alone' hahaha what were my Captain's words when we took our first helicopter in two years: 'You've taken the course, you speak to them on the radio'. The terminology is also slightly different to marine use which confuses things slightly but it's not worlds apart.


                • #9
                  Radio etiquette goes out the window when the heli-pilots are asking for cigarettes and hot meals. Although I have noticed laziness with Pilots, they are always Particular when it comes to use of terms when it comes to deck availability, Affirm, Negative etc

                  In my own opinion I feel the RT exam is good for the Practice side of it, and as a general method an effective means of applying what you have learned. In any case Unless you yourself are Pro-Active in maintaining skills and correctly observing Procedure for effective communication, Not to mention keeping up-to date with new developments in technology and rules.

                  Anything essential which you will need to know should an emergency arise, will be generally forgotten. From this perspective, I think it should be considered that in order to renew your GOC a R/T Refresher course and exam should be considered ensure that crews are maintaining skills, as opposed to sending them your medical certificate a long with evidence of one years sea service in the last 5 years, that does not generally mean that an officer is a competent operator in my opinion.

                  Although not a long course I must stress 2 day maximum, doing a course when you only have 4 and a half, 5 weeks leave is a pain as it is.