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4 Answers

Does an ATC record all the conversations?

Asked by: 1054 views FAA Regulations, Flight Instructor, General Aviation, Private Pilot, Student Pilot

I would like to ask for some of my conversations that I did when I flew and if they can give it for me.

4 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Aug 23, 2013

    They do record but they don’t necessarily keep them for very long without an administrative, investigatory or enforcement reason. I forget the timing offhand but I think it varies with the facility a bit.

    Getting them would require a FOIA request on your part, identifying which facility, when and where and what N-Number.

    OTOH, if the ATC facility is one with a feed, you might try the archives at LiveATC.net http://www.liveatc.net/archive.php

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  2. Bobby Roe on Aug 23, 2013

    I attended a pilot-controller briefing about 3 weeks ago where the controllers mentioned that their recordings are deleted after 45 days. I don’t know if that’s the standard for all ATC facilities, but for that particular Class C airport (clearance, ground, tower, approach, and departure), that was the retention rule.

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  3. Jim F. on Aug 23, 2013

    I’m also not 100% certain either, but that ’45 days’ Bobby mentioned is what was also in my head for some reason. Also, LiveATC is a great place, but will vary based on how the person set up the feed. For example, my airport (KSUS) feed includes ground, tower, and St. Louis approach. So, if someone is transmitting on approach and it’s recording, a transmission on tower may not be recorded, and vice-versa. The best way, in my opinion, is what I do and use a personal CVR. That way I get all intra-cockpit/cabin conversation as well as external transmissions.

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  4. Andrew on Aug 24, 2013

    I’m a technician for the FAA and work on recording systems.

    We keep a copy of EVERYTHING the air traffic controller sees (radar) and hears/says (radio and telephone) for 45 days.

    After that, at least as far as FAA keeps locally, the data is recorded over. Some airports have the older tape recording equipment but that has been steadily replaced by the DALR voice recording systems which records on two mirrored hard drives and automatically records over after 45 days.

    I haven’t asked before but you might be able to sweet talk the head controller at the airport into cutting you a tape. But its a bit of a pain to download the data and convert it to be used on a regular PC. So you might have to buy lunch first.

    If you’re planning to use the recordings for grading your flying skill. I would suggest you get one of those action cameras with and audio input connected to the planes intercom or headset. Then you can see and hear how bad or good your doing.

    Happy Flying.

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