Contacting approach at reasonable altitudes

As traffic has increased due to the pandemic, I’ve seen & other controllers is that pilots tuning into approach frequency at FL200 or above & only 20-30 miles away. This is not the proper way to request/call in for approach. Also, seeing pilots call in at speeds that exceed 400 knots. Please don’t do this.

When should I contact approach?

As you begin your descent, you should also start to gradually slow down. A good time to start descending is about 130-145NM away from your intended destination. This insures you’ll be at a reasonable altitude to contact approach (when active). FL180 (18,000ft) & 50NM should be your target when contacting approach.

Why is this important?

It helps controllers & you (pilots) greatly. It makes for a smother approach for pilots. Contacting approach at or below FL180 means we can vector you into the queue easier especially when the airspace is crowded. By doing this, this may eliminate controllers having to place pilots into holding patterns & delaying your flight.

What if I’m away from my device?

There’s times when we are not able to finish our flights due to varies reasons. You will NOT be ghosted if you’re flying circles around an active airport at FL350. We can tell what altitude you’re at & see you are not descending. Now, if you start your descent late, you can put yourself into a holding pattern away from the airport until you reach FL180.

I’m on my descent, but I’m still too high?

As seen below, I’m flying from MCO to PHL. As I missed my time to start descending, I realize I’m still too high to contact approach. So I’ve decided to create my own holding pattern south & away from my intended destination. You can’t make the oval that appears on you map when ATC puts you into a hold, but you can short of fly one. You can create this with Fixes & VORs if you want auto pilot to fly the holding pattern YOU created. Just make sure wherever you’re holding at, its away from the approach line so you aren’t interfering with other aircraft. Once below FL180 please contact approach.

Hopefully this helps more pilots. As the airspace is more crowded than usual, this could eliminate longer flights for you guys & helps us with workloads.

Hope everyone is staying safe! 👋


Thanks for the helpful reminder Darius! Hope you and your family are safe as well.

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