Pilot Radio Licence

This page is designed to help pilots who are interested in learning about, obtaining or maintaining a Flight Radio Telephony Operators Licence, also known as an ‘FRTOL’ or ‘RT Licence’.

Background to the Flight Radio Telephony Operators Licence

The Air Navigation Order (ANO) identifies that it is an offence to use radio transmission equipment without a licence.

The ANO also notes that a person may act as a flight radiotelephony operator within the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man without being the holder of an appropriate licence granted or rendered valid under this Order, if the following conditions apply:

(a) the pilot of a glider on a private flight and does not communicate by radiotelephony with any air traffic control unit, flight information unit or air/ground communications service unit; or
(b) being trained in an aircraft registered in the United Kingdom to perform duties as a member of the flight crew of an aircraft and is authorised to operate the radiotelephony station by the holder of the licence granted for that station.

The CAA issues the Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence (FRTOL) either as a stand-alone licence or in conjunction with a flight crew licence. The FRTOL entitles the holder to operate the radio equipment in any aircraft. An FRTOL may include the word ‘Restricted’, but this does not affect operations in most GA aircraft.

Why would I want to qualify for an FRTOL?

You do not need an FRTOL to operate the allocated gliding channels. However, FRTOL training will give you confidence and ability in using the radio, and the right to communicate more widely. As such this opens up: access to announcing your presence to a controller eg to improve awareness; to radio mandatory zones; to certain controlled airspace; and to ATZs. And, importantly, provides you with the training needed to effectively access help should you need it either through getting lost or if involved with an in-flight emergency.

The scope of the FRTOL is a bit OTT for a glider pilot, but it is useful to understand how things work in an ATC environment. It is very easy to become distracted from handling and lookout when using the radio (mobile phones are banned in cars for good reason) – knowledge, skill, practice and of course the right equipment help enormously.


Using thought-through, plain, clearly spoken language works for controllers in most circumstances in gliding flight. However, the FRTOL examination does require prescribed phrases.

FRTOL Training

The BGA radio telephony course for glider pilots is intended for those who want to gain an FRTOL (Flight Radio Telephony Operator’s License) and also for those who already have one but want a refresher.

The course is a set of slides and video presentations which use the example of a flight in a glider to teach the content of a full FRTOL.  You can find the course at


The course teaches radio usage from a gliding point of view, rather than from a powered GA point of view – so it will be directly useful for glider pilots who fly cross country.

Whilst it would be entirely possible to learn the material purely by self-study, we generally run a six week online course to provide some structured learning and coaching in the autumn / winter months.  Anyone who would like to make use of this facility is asked to sign up at https://www.ruskin.me.uk/bga-frtol-course/sign-up – registrations generally open around Q3/Q4 of the year.

Other Training opportunities

There are a number of trainers/examiners available, some of whom give their time voluntarily, and others who charge for their time and resources. Some of these trainers are listed below.

Martin Hands martinandmaggie@handslakemead.fsnet.co.uk – based Buckminster.

Chris Marren chris8marren@gmail.com (M) 07774674067 – based Lasham.

Andy Moon ajmoon@me.com – based Brize Norton.

Chula Rupasinha chularupasinha@hotmail.com – based Dunstable.

A List of Authorised Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence Examiners is published on the CAA website. Examiners should be contacted direct by the test candidate.

How do I obtain an FRTOL?

The short answer is by application to the CAA! However, before you can do that, there are two examinations – one written, one practical.

  • The written examination is one of the standard PPL multiple choice style exams. The only required reading is CAP 413 and then only the sections applicable to practical light aviation. A dry run using one of the PPL confuser type books will confirm your readiness.
  • The practical examination is an aural exam simulating a VFR flight from one type of airfield (say with very limited ATC) to another (e.g. an international airport). You can expect various emergencies en route and for the flight not to go to plan

Can I make an FRTOL application at the same time as an SPL conversion application?

Yes. Please see the detailed information on our SPL conversion webpage.

How do I find an FRTOL examiner?

A List of Authorised Flight Radiotelephony Operators Licence Examiners is published on the CAA website. Examiners should be contacted direct by the test candidate.

How do I renew my FRTOL where required?

A stand-alone UK FRTOL issued before 17 September 2012, had a ten year licence validity. This CAA webpage explains how to renew the licence.


CAA FRTOL guidance for candidates – applicable to the new tests being rolled out over time (Mar 22)

CAA FRTOL examiners manual

This CAA Safety Sense leaflet is helpful.