Staying ahead of the airplane is the name of the game, especially when it comes to IFR flying. One of the easiest ways to do that is to keep your radios set one step ahead of the game. Here’s how I like to set up my radios for departure and arrival.
The airline school of thought says that the number two radio should be reserved for non essential communications. That means ATIS, UNICOM, Flight Watch; basically anything that doesn’t relate to movement of the airplane. I keep local ATIS muted on the active on the number two radio.
Once I pick up clearance, I dial in the departure frequency on COM2’s standby. This is just to remind me who I need to talk to after departure. The number one radio is tuned to whoever I need to talk to first – usually ground control with the tower frequency in the preselect.
When it’s time to switch to tower, I simply hit the switcheroo button on COM1 and dial up the departure frequency to the preselect (which is already staring me in the face from COM2’s preselect).
During cruise, I maintain a listening watch to Guard on 121.5 on COM2 with the landing airport ATIS in the preselect.
This same forward thinking from departure applies on arrival. After contacting approach, the control tower frequency goes into COM1’s preselect. Upon contact with the tower, I will set ground control into the COM1 preselect.
By keeping your radio preselect ahead of the airplane, you will have one less thing to worry about during the high workload and high stress terminal environment.