From approach to tower

When do you have to change frequence from approach to tower ?

@Ilyas_Akkaya You should be changing frequency from approach to tower at about 10-12 miles out from the airport itself. Namely, people have said that a good measure of doing this is to hand off when you’re about to hit the red zone of the ILS.

Hope this helped!


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certainly thank you

Two situations:
• Once the Approach controller gives you the clearance for the ILS approach.
• 10-12 miles from the airport if you requested radar vectors.

You can hand over anytime depends on how busy you are but your main purpose is to guide him towards ILS. So the aircraft should be pointing towards ILS 20/30° angle or if he towards airport and catch localiser straight in. Once you think he is gonna hit localiser just tell him to “maintain 3000 until established on localiser then contact tower” this is handover. In real world handover would happen before he’s gonna be on localiser.
things I found out from new approach atc.
They ask me to come from left/right base and ask me to turn 90°
For ex. If I am 180° for rwy27, approach should tell me to establish on 220°-235° not 180.

When doing Apporach control on the Playground this is one of the biggest (and most annoying issues) I come across - namely people handing themselves off to the Tower well before that switch needs to be made. I end up having to send messages to them to get them back off the Tower.

For an ILS approach, the Approach controller should guide you all the way in to a localiser intercept course and then will hand you off to the Tower. As mentioned by @StikLover2 this handoff will happen when you are just about to enter the red zone of the ILS as marked on the map.

Rule of thumb is you shouldn’t self change frequencies really. The only issue with that is on the Playground where sometimes controllers don’t know when to hand off to another, or there is no controller to hand you off to so they don’t do anything. In the situations where there is no controller to hand off to I just send a “Frequency changed apporaved, good day” message to prompt them to go to Unicom.

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As you say, in the real world I think the Approach controller puts you on the localiser intercept course and usually tells you to contact Tower when established. Once you have VOR LOC showing as engaged you would then contact the Tower.

I would agree though the aim for a good localiser intercept is no more than 30 degrees off the localiser heading. Until someone is on that kind of heading I wouldn’t clear them to intercept the localiser.


Contact Tower doesn’t mean you have to contact tower straight away, it is to make you tune into right frequency (like in real world). Tower shouldn’t send you warning, he should know you been handled by approach, and even if you are turned blue. Once you are on final tell the tower your intention(Position-final) don’t make inbound call, that’s when there was no approach. I see lot of people make inbound call on 5nm final😜

When approach tells you, he shouldn’t handle you over until certain you are on the runway localizer during an ILS. When under radar vectors at any point tower tells you to switch. DO NOT NEVER change frequency without instruction.

Sometimes I ask for my ILS, SoCal Approach says to expect vectors, but all I had to expect was no vectors. I’ve heard you shouldn’t always trust ILS, but at least get me 20 miles from the airport and tell me when I’m losing my vectors.

Simple answer; wait till approach hands you off

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What have I do in this case?

@Michael_Raigorodetsk go to advanced where operations are coordinated between the two.

Depends on your location, if you’re far out, I’d stay on approach.

Actually it’s when your requested to by the approach. Doesn’t matter how far your distance, if your on an active approach frequency you must wait until either:

  • Told to change frequencies
  • Cleared for the approach

You should not manually switch without permission. If you feel uncomfortably close to the airport and the Tower is requesting you change to his/her frequency, just request a change. The controller will either tell you to stay on my frequency or change!

Only a few of us here have actually revised what the proper way of doing this is, location is out of it. Hope you’ve all learnt something! :)

I was on downwind \ base

As I said above if the tower is requesting you must wait until the approach is ready to switch you. If you get to final and relise you haven’t switch do it manually.

This is what I did. I was waited to hands off, but tower do not know why I do not switch to tower…

Michael, it’s a bit hard to understand that last message please reword but if I’m right, your saying the approach didn’t switch you?

In that case I said above in the second post to go manually when your on final at least!

The approach switched me when I turned from base to final. But tower wanted to switch me before