Aviate, navigate, communicate is a very common phrase used in aviation to describe three important tasks a pilot should prioritize in any flight situation. Each of these tasks is crucial for the safe and successful completion of a flight, and pilots are trained to prioritize them in this specific order. Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Aviate:

The first and most important task for any pilot is to aviate, which simply means to fly the aircraft safely.  This can not be overstated enough.  Fly the airplane at all times.  Do not let the airplane get ahead of you.  Especially in stressful emergency situations. 

Aviate involves maintaining control of the airplane and ensuring that it is operating correctly at all times. This includes keeping the aircraft at the proper altitude, heading, and airspeed, and monitoring instruments and gauges for any signs of trouble. Pilots must be able to react quickly and confidently to any changes in flight conditions and keep the aircraft stable and under control.  Do not get behind the airplane.

  1. Navigate:

The second task is to navigate, which means always know the aircraft’s location and course and ensure that the flight is progressing as planned. This involves using instruments such as GPS and maps to establish the aircraft’s position and to plan the route.   With VFR (Visual Flight rules) flying, always use your ground references.  Even when everything is ok, I am always looking outside for a safe place to land in the event of a situation.  Continually monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that you stay on course and arrive at your destination safely.

  1. Communicate:

The final task is to communicate, which means communicating with air traffic control and other aircraft to ensure that everyone is aware of the aircraft’s location and intentions. This includes using the radio to talk to Air Traffic Control, other aircraft, and ground crews. Pilots must follow established protocols and procedures for communication to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there are no misunderstandings.  In a controlled area, Air Traffic Control is your friend.  They are there for you.  If in an uncontrolled area always be listing to Enroute or unicom frequencies.  As well, always make good position reports of your location, direction, altitude, and intentions.

Another important note about Air Traffic Control and communicate.  As the pilot incessna navigating command, you have the authority to say no to ATC when specific instructions are given to you that you feel are not safe.  The perfect example of this happened to me recently.  I was in the circuit doing touch-and-go landings.  I am still a young pilot (only about 35 hours).  I was just finishing my downwind checks and I radioed tower telling them : “Tower, G-XXXX, Downwind runway 25, touch-and-go”.  The tower radioed me back as I was abeam the end of the runway.  He said “G-XXXX, tower, start your base now, no delay”.  I paused for long enough that the tower controller gave me the same instruction again.  I was aviating at this point.  I know my own experience.  I likely could have done it, but I chose not to.  I radioed back, “Tower, G-XXXX unable base at this time”.   The controller radioed back with, ” No problem, extend your base I will call”.  He was just trying to get me in before another aircraft.    No harm, no foul.  He happly obliged (I still bounced the landing.  lol, Go figure).  

Why is aviate, navigate, communicate important?

Aviate, navigate, communicate is essential because it ensures that you prioritize the most critical tasks in any flight situation. By following this specific order, you can focus on keeping the aircraft safe and stable before moving on to navigation and communication. This is especially important in emergency situations where every second counts, and you must react quickly and confidently to ensure the safety of everyone on board.