Approach Types


In this article I try to outline the different approach types, and how to communicate with Approach and Tower ATC’s. Other posts have written on this; this tries to bring them together.

ILS/GPS approach

The most common and widely used for airliners. When in doubt, use this.
Latest update allows us to request ILS/GPS for any runway; unless you are desperately in love with a specific runway, I suggest you use this.
It may happen, during busy times, the Approach ATC will only allow ILS/GPS approach.

Key tips for Pilot:

  • Make the 30 degree turn towards the ILS yourself
  • Stay with Approach ATC, until you are handed over to Tower
  • Report ‘inbound on the ILS’ with Tower.


Visual Approach

This type of Approach became available with the new update. The Visual Approach is conducted under instrument flight rules (IFR), where the pilot uses visual reference to approach and land.

For detailed info, I’m just going to refer to the info from Josh and the tutorial

Key tips for Pilot:

  • Avoid using this when it’s busy
  • Report when you have the airport in-sight, and only when you have it in sight.
  • Observe your sequence for landing


Radar Vectors

As a Pilot you can request radar vectors when you desire headings and altitudes to their destination. The Approach ATC will vector you to the Tower Traffic Pattern. In most cases, this means the downwind to the base leg. After that, Approach hands you over to Tower.

Key tips for Pilot:

  • Avoid using this when it’s busy
  • Report ‘inbound for landing’ and observe your sequence
  • Stay with Approach ATC, until you are handed over to Tower

The tutorial below is actually an ATC tutorial, but I believe it gives good info for Pilots as well

More good info

So, how to report inbound with Tower

NEVER report '…is in final runway …'

When to request visual approach
Approach Etiquette (ATC)
ATC Education Group: Tutorial of the Week - Approach Type Clearances - 070600JAN19
ATC Switch
Approach to tower Closed
ILS Approach vs Radar Vectors
What Do I Do After Receiving Intercept Vector?
ATC Question
BoeingA320's ATC Tracking Thread [CLOSED]
Question about "clear for approach"

Nicely done! This is a great resource for anyone needing to fill in any gaps in their understanding of approaches.


I bookmarked this, thanks so much! I really like staying organized.


If i could like this post 100x over i would, and then do it again. Great info.

pilots really do not understand how to check in with each ATC service :/


Just added a summary table at the bottom ‘how to report inbound with Tower’.


What does it mean when the ATC replies to my check in with “Radar Contact” ?


This is mostly used in situations where you are departing an airport, and you check in with the Radar controller. Radar ATC reports ‘Radar contact’ to inform you that he sees you on the radar. For you it means: proceed on course and stay on the Radar frequency. Radar ATC will keep an eye on you, and if needed he will instruct you a heading and/or altitude, to avoid you’re coming to close to other aircrafts.
When you leave the controller’s airspace, he will instruct you a 'frequency change approved, after which you will disconnect from Radar’s frequency.

See also:

Hope this helps.


Great stuff Anton. 👍🏼


Thank you so much @azeemuwnl


Hi @azeeuwnl,

In the post “question of the day “ bluepanda states that (I quote) “when on approach (flying IFR) you should request ILS/GPS/Visual Vectors where applicable”. He says that radar vectors must NOT used in IFR mode. If you agree with that I think you should indicate in your guide that Radar Vectors should only be used in VFR mode. This would be helpful in order to have coherent information in the different posts and tutorials.

Thanks a lot,



if that’s what was said then it’s complete rubbish. radar vectors can be used for an IFR flight. Vectors from a controller can be used to guide on to the approach, and that can be on to an ILS/GPS/Visual approach.

Flight following is only for VFR flights.

Also just to clarify, if you are doing an IFR flight it doesn’t magically turn in to a VFR flight even if you end up doing a visual approach at the end of it.



I’m not talking about visual approach nor flight following. I’m just saying that bluepanda clearly says that when flying IFR you cannot use “request radar vectors” on approach.
So, if you tell it’s not true how can we poor pilots know who’s giving us the right information??
Can you maybe chat with him and ask ?

Thanks a lot,



I see, thanks for the clarification. Now you are talking about pilots “requesting” vectors which is different from what you previously noted he said earlier which was “radar vectors must NOT used in IFR mode.”

In any case Tyler’s video and Aeronaut’s tutorial both linked to above don’t seem to suggest you can’t ask for vectors when on an IFR flight - if you are under an approach controller you are very likely to get vectors anyway whether you ask for them or not :)


Very helpful! Love the help!!


@daniele_milizia spotted this correctly and @BluePanda900 is right that Radar Vectors should not be used when flying under IFR rules. In IF, we do see this requested anyway, and I didn’t want to forbid the use of Radar Vector requests for airlines, flying under IFR. So I kept it ‘light’ and suggest to not use this when it’s busy.

During a busy controlling session, the IF Approach ATC will decline Radar Vectors from airliners, and only accept ILS approach types. During a more quiet times we do accept Radar Vector requests.

Hope this clarifies. Sorry for the late reply!


I understand that the center line indicator shows your aircraft right or left and the indicator on the right shows the aircraft is too far left but the glide slope indicator in top of center? Does that mean you are too high or too low on slope?


If it’s below then you are too high and if it’s above you are too low. If you need anymore help feel free to PM me.


Thank you that nailed it for me


I’m still getting good questions from pilots related to working with Approach.
Answers can be found in this great tutorial:


What a wonderful topic. Good review for any pilot or ATC.

(subtle bump)