Center ATC - expect vectors for airport?

A question for the IFATC Officers and other clever peoples.

In IF we know that Center ATC can provide Approach services, which can be handy for airports that are not overly busy and don’t have Approach ATC present. But, especially when Center ATC is busy (with Radar services for a busy airport, or much Center traffic, they don’t have to provide approach services.

What would Center ATC do if he can’t provide detailed radar services for that destination airport, but does want to provide some services?

Sometimes, as Center ATC I want to inform a pilot who checks-in: continue as filed, expect vectors to YBBN. The idea is that I can then hand him over to Tower when he’s entering the Pattern, and Tower can take him from there.

But…it appears as Center you can’t give that instruction to a pilot. See below the three screenshots, taken in order:

  1. select .EXPECT APPROACH

  2. choose RADAR VECTORS

  3. then…it appears you have to select a runway. But I want to just give him vectors to the airport.

Maybe in real live Center never uses Radar Vectors to an airport; maybe this is something only Approach ATC would do. Or can they?
Or maybe it’s a little bug?

If Center ATC is too busy to provide Approach services for the destination airport, would providing Radar Vectors not be a good alternative service to provide? Or does he just stick with flight following and then inform the pilot he is ‘unable to provide services to this airport at the moment, proceed on course.’

Why can’t Center ATC not provide Radar Vectors to an airport?

Let’s have a chat! 😊


My two cents are as follows.

As far as I’m aware, this is a bug that you’ll also find on the approach frequency. When a pilot requests radar vectors, ATC will respond with “expect vectors to airport”, which is what should happen. However, when RV is initiated by ATC, the command will read “expect vectors for runway XX at airport”.

It may ask you to select a runway, but I still issue vectors/altitudes and hand off to tower/unicom as if they’re RV. The tower frequency (if active) will assign pattern entries for a certain runway, meaning that this runway selection menu can and should be removed. In my opinion, it’s deceptive to controllers and can cause confusion (much like how we’re discussing this now).

Great topic as always, Anton. :)


Downgrade their service to a visual or radar vectors if I need to, or deny them services completely if I’m too busy and they’ll get flight following.

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Something that I noticed when controlling center is that the only 3 services you can really do on it at the current time is ILS and Radar Vectors, as well as the typical flight following.

Since we don’t have the option to currently ask a pilot to report airport in sight, the visual approach is a no go. Also, another bug a lot of us encountered is when clearing for an approach on the other messages tab, which you would do for GPS and Visual, the pilot is unable to respond to that message.

When I’m controlling and they request Radar Vectors, I will usually go to vectoring instructions and push continue as filed, that is if they have a plan.

Flight following and Radar Vectors are my go to services for Center as when we usually open, it is busy and providing ILS services to a bunch of airports can really get overwhelming especially if you forget some of them are on it.

Hope this helps. Thanks for the awesome discussion as always Anton!

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