From Approach to Tower ATC

Over the past days as Tower ATC, I have noticed that some of us can learn a bit about the handoff between Approach and Tower ATC. Hope this can contribute.

See the picture below:

In #2: Approach ATC aims to bring you in on a 30 degree angle with the ILS flight path. In order to get established on the ILS, you must turn the last 30 degrees yourself. I see some who don’t do this, and overshoot. See #3

In #3: remember that Approach will hand you over to Tower once it sees you are established on the ILS. If this happens too late to guarantee a safe landing, Approach will not hand you to Tower but will execute a missed approach procedure.

In #4: after Approach hands you to Tower, you do report ‘Inbound on the ILS, runway xx’.
Here we see the most common mistake: many pilots request ‘inbound for landing…’ and also I see ‘nn is in Final, runway xx’. The mistake is not the worst you can make, but please remember: since Approach hands you to Tower once you are established on the ILS, you report ‘inbound on the ILS…’. Makes sense?

Other info:


Nice info. Hopefully this will help some people, although this is a partial duplicate:

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Good find!
I was looking for that one!

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No problem @azeeuwnl

@azeeuwnl it doesn’t have to always be 30 degrees, it could be 10,20, or 30 degrees, as long as you give no more than 30 degrees or don’t give runway heading, you’re good to go.


Good information, thanks for helping us to understand this!


I find it just amazing how approach and tower instruct you to do everything and you hardly ever have to make flight path decisions on your own yet so many pilots struggle to follow these basic instructions! Great info for the community. Take care.

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But seriously though: don’t switch from approach to tower before we hand you off, don’t even send a freq change.

I will send you to tower when you are established. That is - i see that you are approaching the correct runway, you have started final approach etc. THEN i can hand you off to tower.

Why? Because if you do overshoot the localizer or can’t descend fast enough - you have to execute missed approach. If i control with little spacing between inbounds, I don’t have time for you to first overshoot one time, then trying to catch up by turning back. That takes too long, and will result in loss of separation with the aircraft behind. :)


It’s amazing how many times I get the freq change request before the lady is even done reading the intercept command.


Not sure why people rush to get on the tower frequency… It’s not like you’re getting a whole lot of instructions that take really long time to do.

Exactly. “Inbound on ILS”…“Number X”.

Aviate, navigate, communicate. They’re more interested in switching than actually hitting the intercept.

Also, needless to say, switching on your own is not a viable alternative. We won’t forget to hand you off. Be patient, and concentrate on not overshooting.


SFO hands them off to tower way before they reach the ILS.

Also ATC on tower should notice that there is approach active, and stop calling to pilots to contact tower, when they are “managed” by approach, and approach won’t let you change frequency…

It happened to me lot of times, I was too far from airport under approach, and tower atc called me about five or six times…

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that shouldn’t happen on the Expert Server as those guys are in communication with each other and know when one is manned. However if on TS then its more likely that they don’t know that the other station is manned.

Of course the best on TS is when you spawn at the gate, still filing your flight plan and you get SOCAl Centre calling you on “guard”…


You know this as fact, and not just your opinion from watching flight radar and listening to live ATC? I highly doubt that’s an accurate statement.


I live near SFO and I happen to know their patterns. The ILS approach for SFO is at 2500 and pilots contact tower at the Palo Alto Bridge (HWY 84) and at that point their elevation is 4500-6500. When at the Palo Alto Bridge (also known and the Bridge Visual) they aren’t even near the ILS yet.

I know what I’m talking about. Dont’t test me.

Chill out captain happy. He’s just confirming what seems to be a very questionable statement.

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You’re lumping 2 diffrent approach types into one. You can’t be on a visual and an ILS approach at the same time. Anyway this is off topic if you’d like to continue PM me.


That one did me! Love it! :-))
(and I’m sure it does happen)

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Just for info, an ILS approach has a published platform altitude but you can intercept the ILS LOC and G/S much much further out, the signal is usually very reliable up to approximately 25nm IRL. Different airports IRL have local procedures but once 1.) you are established on the LOC and G/S and 2). approach are happy with your speed for the aircraft ahead/departures then they will hand you over to Tower. In IF I don’t necessarily hand people over ‘at the start of the cone’, I hand them over when I’m ready to hand them over as per the above two points