The One Thing Pilots Can’t Say

There is only one place in the Aeronautical Information Manual where the FAA has forbidden a phrase from use on the radio. Can you guess what it is?

“Traffic in the area, please advise”

Sounds innocent enough, so why does the FAA say that it “should not be used under any condition?”

Simply put, it doesn’t give the pilot any information. If this phrase is used and nobody answers, that doesn’t mean there is nobody in the pattern. Even if somebody does answer there still may be other planes in the pattern.

In addition, if there are several aircraft answering, they may all answer at the same time.

This phrase is often used in an attempt to circumvent the pilot’s responsibility to listen to the frequency at a non-towered field and self-announce starting 10 miles out.

Here is the excerpt from the Aeronautical Information Manual

AIM 4-1-9 (g)1. General
Self-announce is a procedure
whereby pilots broadcast their position or intended
flight activity or ground operation on the designated
CTAF. This procedure is used primarily at airports
which do not have an FSS on the airport. The 
self-announce procedure should also be used if a pilot
is unable to communicate with the FSS on the
designated CTAF. Pilots stating, “Traffic in the area,
please advise” is not a recognized Self−Announce
Position and/or Intention phrase and should not be
used under any condition.

Another phrase like this, though not forbidden is “Say active”. This one is used to ask which runway is “active”. Again it is the pilot’s job to listen to other traffic reports and not just skate in at the last second expecting someone to tell him what to do.

Most unicom operators will answer this with “traffic has been using runway….”. But most pilots I know will hear “say active,” key the mic, and just say “active”.