Approaching towered airports


When approaching a towered airport, you will first make contact by telling the controller where you are, and what you want do to. The controller will then issue entry instructions to sequence your airplane for landing. All those instructions have to be complied with.

Do not enter an active tower airspace without first talking to the tower controller. Failure to do so can result in ghosting for up to 60 minutes.

Approaching an airport

  • Tune to the tower frequency
  • Select Call Inbound to announce that you are coming and select Landing or Touch & Go (to practice landings) depending on your intention. Send the message.
  • Tower will respond with pattern entry instructions. Understanding pattern entry instructions and the Traffic Pattern requires a bit of learning. You can refer to the image below to get a sense of what it looks like.
  • Once you enter the pattern leg that tower requested, keep flying the pattern to Final, tower will issue a landing clearance at some point.
  • Once you receive the cleared to land message, you’re authorized to land.
  • When landed, exit the runway as soon as possible and taxi well past the hold short line. Contact ground directly. Do not ask the tower for a frequency change.


  • Pattern entry and clear to land commands can include a sequencing number. This number is your place in line for landing. Look for the airplanes ahead of you and follow them.
  • Once you are cleared to land, there is no need to report where you are, unless you think there is a conflicting situation or some confusion.
  • You can be 3rd in line for landing and still be cleared to land. Just follow the airplane ahead of you and land.
  • Do not follow the airplane ahead of you from too close or tower will ask you to either do a 360 degree turn or simply ask you to go around.
  • Go around means that your landing clearance is cancelled, join the pattern as instructed by the tower. Do not land.
  • You can request a specific runway to the controller, however, it is at the controller’s discretion to grant the request. If the airport is not busy, they will most likely grant the request but if there is a lot of traffic, they might deny the request. Always follow the controller instructions.
  • Do not send unnecessary Stand by messages.
  • Use common sense, if you’re in a fast airplane, behind a slower one, try to maintain the slowest speed you can so the airplane ahead has time to exit the runway before you land.
  • If you’re calling the tower from far away or if they have a situation to clear, they will just instruct you to “continue inbound”. Pattern entry instructions will come at a later time.
  • Check here for more information about the traffic pattern at controlled airports.

Just downloaded the app. Brand New
How do you tell the controller I want to land?
Approaching an airport?
ATC Instructions

wow, thanx nice summary ;-) and good to read thoroughly through and use it. All of the great tutorials written by you.
Can’t wait till it works at airports like LAXwith all types of planes and experience of pilots and ATC :smile:

@philippe you describe that a pilot can request a certain runway (option 6 in the pic) as an ATC, I can’t recall seeing a button “unable” whereas as a pilot I’ve seen this option many times. What’s the procedure to let pilots know that what they want isn’t possible or hasn’t got your preference?

a tip for pilots and ATC.
Make sure you get handed over (ask for Frequency change by approach/centre to tower - or do it yourself). ATC approach/centre can/should hand you over to Tower in time.
It decreases the load of messages and things pilots need to do when they fly in.

Take note of your distance away from your destination airport. As a pilot this can be easily done by having your flight plan ready and get in your HUD dock “Dist to Dest” your distance to your final destination (approx. 18nm you should have contact with tower) and for ATC (approach/centre) look on the Tower screen to check the distance of your nearest plane your controlling to know the approx diameter where you need to have handed them over.

Don’t forget to descend! to avoid speed violations.

Another thing that helps at larger airports when it gets busy and is possible to tell incoming pilots to exit a runway e.g. left while on the right planes are taxiing towards the same runway.
Even if there is not that busy it gets pilots aware of traffic on base or on final behind them and they can be handed over to ground so collisions on the ground or awkward positions of incoming and out going planes can be avoided.

and pilots - make sure when on the ground/taxiway you have in your dock “Ground Speed” to make it easier to control that you don’t go faster than 35 knots.


very good stuff…thanks


yea really good stuff to know…well done


@philippe GREAT stuff!

These tutorials (all of them) are so wonderful for newer users, or even those with high XPs from solo that still need to learn how to operate in a ‘live’ environment.

Could you add to this one how also to engage approach? This focuses on the tower controller, and obviously it is a little different if approach is active, and I think that is equally confusing to many.



Thanks for the tutorial @philippe,

Just to clarify: if a Pilot calls inbound, you first respond with (continue inbound and then) pattern instructions; correct?

I sometimes get a ‘ceared to land’ while I’m still somewhere downwind, with a long way to go and other planes also approaching.

What is the best moment to issue a ‘cleared to land’ to a Pilot?


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You don’t have to start with continue inbound I start with pattern instructions. Also you can be cleared to land on downwind you just have to know how to sequence properly. But it’s best to sequence them in pattern instructions then clear them when on base or final. Hope that helps