ATC Incorrect Phraseology

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Hello. I’m an airline pilot, just bought the game, and did a quick VFR flight:

Correct ATC interaction for flight following:

You: “[who you’re talking to] [your call sign] [location and altitude] request flight following”
ATC: “[call sign] radar contact [location] squawk [ code] ident, [altimeter setting]”
You: “[your call sign] squawk [code], ident, [altimeter setting]”

This format is important because it gives ATC everything they need while minimally jamming up the radio.

“Boston Approach, Cessna 55555, 10 miles NW of Mansfield Airport 1,500, request flight following”
Momentary delay while they figure out which blip is you and attach all the tracking info on their computers
“Cessna 555, radar contact, 12 miles NW of Mansfield Airport 1,800, squawk 4146, altimeter 30.18, ident”
“Cessna 555, squawk 4146, 30.18, ident”
Typically once you have a controller’s attention you don’t keep using their call sign, but technically, you should. You always use your call sign because the ATCer is talking to a lot of other pilots and they need to verify the correct person took the instruction. They also usually have you ident to make sure they locked on to the right transponder.

FS2020 had a lot of extra unnecessary verbiage and still didn’t read back the altimeter, which a real world controller would require.

I know these issues sound nit-noidy, but this is what will separate FS2020 between a game and an actual training platform that future pilots will use to get their wings.

I’m a real-life ATC, and I am quite disapointed by FS ATC. I didn’t expect a professional result, but MSFS ATC is not better (and sometimes worse) than FSX. I just delegate it to the automatic co-pilot, for the atmosphere and to pick some information on the way (runway in use, QNH…). And after a couple of bad experience, now I often disregard the instructions.
It’s not just the phraseology. Most of the instructions are incoherent and just kill the simulation. The ATC is not even able to provide correct vectors for an ILS, but can ask you to descend into a mountain.


Agree wholeheartedly. ATC so far has been a bust.


Please send this to Zendesk.


I’ve completely ignored ATC functionality so far.

Remember that other countries have their own national regulations, airspace classification, phaseology (at least from ATC side), etc. MSFS will never be able to incorporate all of these.

Yet I agree that considering US terms as a standard, there’s lots of inconsistencies. I’m currently flying (testing) offline and prefer resuming VATSIM when technically able.


We can change this actually! It’s not hard coded into the sim and would require editing a file (best way is to set it up to be placed in the community folder) and while yes totally should be done correctly by Asobo and I agree 100% with that, at least until it’s “officially” done we have the chance to do it.

EDIT: I’ve changed the Flight following phrasing and testing it out. I’d be glad to edit the file and make changes and upload them for download and install if anyone wants to give me examples of the bad phrasing and the correct phrasing.


Here is what I have for flight following. Some of the flow can’t be changed BUT we can at least change the phrasing it is using so it feels more natural and realistic. Sadly I tried to implement this into the community folder but it wouldn’t read it so the only option is to edit the core localization file which shouldn’t hurt anything one bit.


@DonQuilmi29 @Murderface32EX if ya’ll can provide some more areas of the ATC you’ve noticed the phrasing is off or incorrect please do and I’ll update it the best we can. I’ll take a look through the file and use online resources to see if I can find some that are off, I’m just an armchair pilot for now but I do know a lot of the phrasing is off.


@SchereKarte1192 Thanks for listening. How do we send this to Zen Desk?


@Murderface32EX is the link to submit a zendesk ticket to the support / devs. On that page at the top right click on Submit a Request.

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That’s awesome if we can edit it and keep it in the community folder so it doesn’t break anything. Can you point me to what directory it lives in? I might take a crack at editing it later.

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Sure, it’s in fs-base and inside the localization file for your language, which for English is en-US.locPak which you can open with a text editor and have at it. All the ATC stuff starts with ATCCOM.


Thanks for helping out. :grinning:

No problem! Glad to be able to give back to the community. The only thing I’m finding so far that is missing is departure SID info for clearance delivery / read back which is a shame but not 100% a deal breaker, hoping they could add that in at least.

I’m willing to put a decent amount of time into this because the program is brand new and the developers are still willing to work on it. I truly think with a few tweaks this could revolutionize flight training (I have a CFI, ATP, and I fly 121). If the ATC alone were correct it’d make the software required training material for every pilot, so I’d really like to see this program reach its full potential so future generations can have the stuff I wish I had.

Standard 121 (airline) flight from Class B to Class B:
Clearance Delivery (usually sent over ACARS at large airports with Digital ATIS, but can still call the frequency):
You: “Philly clearance delivery, Airline 4231 (said as “forty two, thirty one”, airline flight numbers ignore the single digit rule), with [ATIS], ready for clearance to [destination]”
ATC:"Airline 4231 cleared to [destination] via [SID and transition or initial takeoff vector and vectors to next waypoint] then [waypoints and airways to the first point that matches the plan you filed] then as filed. On take off climb and maintain [initial altitude, usually top of first approach controller’s airspace], expect [final altitude] within 10 minutes after departure. Contact departure on [freq], Squawk [code], [special airport specific instructions, like contact ground prior to push, contact ramp prior to push, call clearance back 10 minutes prior to push for flow times, etc]
You: Read back everything verbatim
–sidenote, clearances are one of the toughest things for new students, so getting this right would be a huge selling point for FS—

After running engine start checklists (but not starting the engine)
You: “Philly ramp, Airline 4231 ready for push, gate F 12”
Ramp: “Airline 4231, hold your push” or “cleared to push F 12”
You: “Airline 4231 cleared to push F12”

Ground Crew: “Set brakes”
You: “Parking brakes set”
Ground Crew: “All secure below, FOD check complete, steering disengaged, standing by for brake release. Ready for push”
You: “Parking brake released, cleared to push” or “stand by”
Ground crew when clear of obstacles: “cleared to start engines”
You: “cleared to start engines”
start engines
Ground crew pushes you back
Ground crew: “Set brakes”
You: “parking brake engaged, cleared to disconnect, good push”
Ground crew disconnects towbar, headset, the last ground crew member makes sure everyone is clear and salutes, you verify everyone is clear and the towbar is attached to the tug, they didn’t leave panels open, and salute back.

After start checklist

You: “Philadelphia Ramp, Airline 4231 ready to taxi”
Ramp (ramp is not ATC, so they don’t care if you have ATIS, but ground does): “Airline 4231 follow the B737 in the alley to spot 12, then ground 121.9”
You: “follow the B737 spot 12, ground 121.9”

Only the biggest airports have ‘ramp controls.’ In the US, ramp is usually run by whichever airline ‘owns’ the airport (AA own CLT, DAL owns ATL, etc). They usually direct traffic out of the ‘alleys’ to designated ‘spots’ where ground takes over. The ‘spots’ they send you to change based on which runways are being used. At some airports, the ‘ramp’ is often uncontrolled and doesn’t require clearance from ground until you get to the solid and hashed bars, and at other airports, ground controls everything up to the gate, including push clearance. The rules are very local.

You: “Philadelphia Ground, Airline 4231 spot 12 with [ATIS]”
ATC: “Airline 4231, runway 27L, taxi E B, hold short of runway 27R”
You: “27L, E B hold short 27R, Airline 4231”
ATC: “Airline 4231, cross 27R on B, S, S1, contact tower” They won’t always tell you to switch to tower, you’re often expected to do that on your own, especially at smaller airports
You: “Cross 27R on B, S, S1, tower on XXX.XX, good day”

Automatically switch to tower freq when you’re at the takeoff runway; it’s the only time ATC ever expects you to change frequencies without telling the freq you’re leaving. Otherwise you always tell ATC when you’re switching frequencies with “]Call sign] going to [new freq], good day”

Tower: “Airline 4231, line up and wait, runway 27L”
You: “line up and wait 27L, Airline 4231”
Tower: “Winds 120 at 6 gusting 12, caution wake turbulence A330 on departure, caution bird activity, wind shear advisory in effect, cleared for take off runway 27L, on departure fly heading 265”
You: “cleared for takeoff 27L, heading 265”

Tower: “Airline 4231, heading 265, contact departure, good day”
You: “heading 265 departure, good day”

You: "Philadelphia Departure, Airline 4231 [altitude] climbing [altitude assigned or “via” SID], [assigned heading if applicable]
Departure: "Airline 4231, radar contact, climb and maintain [altitude] turn left direct [fix]
You: “climb and maintain [altitude] left direct [fix]”

ATC: “Airline 4231 contact NY Center on xxx.xx”
You:“xxx.xx, good day, Airline 4231”

You: "NY Center, Airline 4231, good afternoon, [altitude] climbing [altitude]
ATC: “Airline 4231, good afternoon, climb and maintain [altitude], altimeter XX.XX”
You: “climb and maintain [altitude], XX.XX”
Once you’re cleared into the flight levels (above 18,000) they omit altimeter settings because the definition of “flight level” is that you’re using altimeter setting 29.92
Also, “good afternoon, good evening, etc” is optional, but very common. “Good day” is typically only used as a good bye.

When leveled off

ATC: “Airline 4231, contact Cleveland Center on XXX.XX”
You: “Going to XXX.XX, good day, Airline 4231”

You: “Cleveland Center, Airline 3241, good afternoon, FL [altitude]”
ATC: “Airline 3241, good afternoon”

If there’s traffic:
ATC: “Airline 3241, traffic 11 o’clock, FL210, B737”
You: “negative contact”
ATC will ensure traffic separation.
You: “traffic in sight”
You ensure traffic separation.
“Looking for traffic” is popular, even with airline pilots, but it’s technically not a proper response

When descending:

ATC: “Airline 3241, descend and maintain FL210”
You: “[current altitude] descending FL210”
ATC: Contact Cleveland Center XXX.XX
You: “XXX.XX, good day”

You: “Cleveland Center, Airline 3241, good afternoon, [current altitude] descending [assigned altitude]”
ATC: “Airline 3241, good afternoon”

Even airline pilots are bad about this, but technically you should always say altitude leaving and assigned altitude.

Descent pilot’s discretion:
ATC: “Airline 3241, pilot’s discretion to FL210”
You: “Pilot discretion FL210, Airline 3241”
wait a while because you fly faster with better fuel burn up high, so you want to hold off descending as long as possible
You: “Cleveland Center, Airline 3241, [current altitude] descending [assigned altitude]”
ATC: “Airline 3241, roger”

When arriving via a STAR:
ATC: “Airline 3241 descend via [STAR] land [direction, if applicable, because the same STAR can often be used for 36 (North) as 18 (south) and if the winds shift, they’ll change the direction”
You: “Descend via [STAR]”
In the US, unless they tell you to descend via the STAR, you go to whatever altitude they clear you to without regard to the STAR. With ICAO (Canada, EU, etc), you are expected to follow the STAR AND comply with their restrictions. So if they say “Descend 12,000” and there’s a restriction to be at 14,000 at a fix ahead of you, you must be at 14,000 at that fix before you can descend to 12,000. Then you must stay at 12,000 until they give you further instructions. So, with ICAO, ATC instructions with a STAR are more like a bottom altitude whereas with FAA (in US), STAR altitudes just save the controller time if they say “descend via” otherwise, you’re expected to follow ATC instructions without referencing the STAR for altitude. You ARE expected to adhere to speed restrictions and routing unless told otherwise in both FAA and ICAO though. On the STAR the chart might say “expect XXX” which means the restriction is not required, but ATC will probably give it to you.

ATC will always try to vector you for a 30 degree intercept with final. Any more than that and most autopilots can’t intercept final without overshooting final unless they’re going really slow, and even then, it’s iffy. If it’s mountainous terrain ATC will clear you an approach via an Initial Fix or they’ll ask you if you can see the airport. If you say “yes” (they can’t see where the clouds are, just the dopplar) they’ll clear you for “the visual” which means you’re still under IFR, but you can fly the pattern, you can manuever between mountains, you can do whatever it takes to land the aircraft as if you were flying a visual pattern. This is important because airlines are never allowed to fly VFR.

Approach: “Airline 3241, turn [heading], descend and maintain [3,000] until established, cleared [approach] [runway]”
You: “[heading], descend and maintain [altitude] until established, cleared [approach] [runway]”
This is important because it means you cannot descend below the altitude until your localizer or GPS is ‘alive’ (I won’t explain half-scale full-scale GPS etc) because the altitude is usually based on the highest obstacle in the area.
This means ATC must align you with a 30 degree intercept, usually at the FAF altitude, outside the FAF, but inside 18 miles (ILS isn’t effective beyond this limit). This is what all approaches with vectors to final look like.

If you’re going to a smaller airport when you’re 20-30 miles out they usually say:
“Airline 3241, airport is [XX] miles at your 11 o’clock, report field in sight.”
You: “Field not in sight, Airline 3241” in which case they continue vectoring you to an Initial Fix, which is often pretty far from the airport or “Field in sight, Airline 3241”
“Airline 3241, descend and maintain [min vectoring altitude], cleared the visual runway 36, contact tower XXX.XX”
You: “cleared visual runway 36, XXX.XX, good day”

You: “Podunk Tower, Airline 3241, [altitude], cleared visual 36”
If you’re cleared the visual, t
ATC: “Airline 3241, number 2 runway 36, following Cessna”
You: “Traffic in sight, Airline 3241”
As soon as traffic lands
ATC: “Airline 3241, winds 360 at 15 gusting 20, cleared to land runway 36”
You: “cleared to land runway 36, Airline 3241”

While still on runway:
Tower: “Exit right next taxiway, contact ground XXX.XX when clear”
You: “Exit right, ground XXX.XX when clear, Airline 3241”

You: “Ground, Airline 3241, [location], gate [XX]”
ATC: “Airline 3241, taxi to gate [XX] via A B, cross runway 27”
Every airport has their own procedures between ground, ramps (which are operated by American or Delta), and clearance delivery. At ICAO airports the ramp controllers are government, not private.

ICAO has some different vernacular. The phraseology is the same, but the vocabulary is different. Some rules are different, but I think that exceeds the scope here unless FS2020 wants to let people know when they’re ‘violated’

Off the top of my head:
taxiway = apron
PIREP = Air Report
cruising altitude =cruising level
flight level = level
controlled movement area = maneuvering area (area controlled by ground, not ramp)
high speed taxiway = rapid exit taxiway
Class B = terminal control area
RVR is in feet, not meters
ICAO ground controllers don’t tell you your assigned take off runway first, they just give you the chronological instructions (IE “taxi A B hold short 9L, B to 9R”)


Thank you so much for all of that! I agree it’s great and will only get better. The fact that we can even modify the ATC phrasing is great in itself. I’ve been working on the file a bit today just for testing out changes and so far it’s going good and with your above info will truly help, thanks again so much for putting that info together.


Thanks again for the help on this. I tried to basically ‘recapture’ the flow of a 121 flight, but I’ll keep adding info to my above post so everything can be in the same place.

I don’t know the exact limitations you’re dealing with, so I included everything from a normal flight. I realize FS2020 isn’t going to be able to do everything that a CLT controller can do during a bank with thunderstorms building, but getting the basics right (hand offs, clearance delivery, etc) would go a really long way.


Here is what I have for clearance delivery. Unfortunately it doesn’t let us do SID data for the departure and adding the parking location causes the messages to not even read out, but we’ve got pretty much everything else.

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Here is what I did for push back, sounds better and more in line with what you would kinda expect considering during push you usually have direct comms with the tug operator anyways and not “relayed”. I did change that one “push” to “steer” after I saw it. Also got rid of the “(callsign), you request has been transmitted to the operator.” text. That really bugged me when pushing back.

Thoughts on where it’s at so far? To me just these few changes already have it feeling a lot better and more natural to what is expected.


Looks good, but it’s usually “tail north” or “tail south” since everything is backwards for the tug operator. You can say “tail left” in which case they’ll turn your tail to your left (as the pilot), but I’ve never had to give those instructions. Plus they usually have a better idea of where to put your aircraft than you do, because every gate has its own procedure that the tug operators do over and over again. I’d imagine that’s impossible to simulate though. When you say “steering disengaged” that means you’ve disengaged your nose wheel steering (taken hydraulic pressure off the nose wheel steering), otherwise if you bump the NWS tiller or rudders you could really hurt someone, since the tug is attached to your nosewheel, which is controlled by a hydro system with 3000 psi, so the nosewheel would turn and throw the tug or rip off the tow bar. “FOD check” means they checked the area for foreign object debris, wheel chocks, cables, etc. “Secure below” means they’ve attached the tug to the the nosewheel. They want you to set the parking brake while they attach the towbar, then they want you to disconnect the brakes so they can push the aircraft, then once you’re stopped, they want you to set the brake again so the aircraft doesn’t roll away when they unhook from your nosewheel.

Also, you’re right you don’t call the guideman (tug operator) anything, since they plug right into the interphone system. You talk to them just like you’re talking to the flight attendant or co pilot, so you wouldn’t say “ground.” Truthfully we’re usually talking about sports or something with the tug operator.

Correct vernacular would probably be:
Charlotte: “set brakes, notify when ready to push”
You: “parking brake set”
Charlotte: “secure below, FOD check complete, release parking brake, ready to push”
You: “Parking brake released” and if you have clearance from ground or ramp to push “cleared to push”
You: “tail left”
You: “tail right”
You: “straight back”
You: “stop the push”
Charlotte: “Pushback complete, set parking brake”
You: “parking brake set, clear to disconnect, good push”
Then they disconnect the tug and you see 2 or 3 rampers walking away, the last one salutes.

Thanks for doing this.