How to Help a Controller

Howdy all!

With the holiday season upon us and people renewing their subscriptions do they can brave the expert server skies, I find it only fitting to throw out some friendly reminders, and also show you the ways to get the best out of your ATC experience!

To preface this essay, please note that these are tips that will reduce our workload and make our lives easier. Help us, help you!

Ground Control

Ground is one of the simplest forms of ATC to understand. But either way, here are some tips to be the best pilot you can be while on ground.

  1. Listen to and understand the ATIS. This sounds simple enough, but it will help you in the long run. This way when you are getting ready to go, you’re prepared for the runway you’ll be assigned.

  2. File your FPL before you pushback. Please be prepared! When you pushback and then file your flight plan, you are potentially holding up multiple people. Simply file it before pushing back. You’ll be more prepared to taxi.

  3. Use common sense. In IF, we don’t give you specific taxi routes. Even with progressive taxi, there is a lot of decision making on behalf of the pilot. Choose a taxiway that won’t block runway exits, or those trying to enter a ramp.

  4. Just let them go first. I see so many cases of people trying to cut others off just got the sake of being first. Even if only one of them is going to the runway, they do it anyway. Just understand that you’re all in the same boat here, do you really need those extra 5 seconds?

Tower Control

Tower control is a bit more in depth than ground control. There will be more tips! But understanding tower is vital for understanding how to arrive in an airport with active ATC.

  1. Understand what a pattern is, and how to enter it. For tower in IF, we use VFR commands to bring arrivals in. You will be told to enter a leg of the pattern for your assigned runway. Check this thread for how to enter a downwind leg, a common issue seen with pilots.
Legs of a traffic pattern


  1. Come in at the proper altitude. If you are contacting tower 25nm out, you shouldn’t be higher than 10,000 feet. As a tower controller, it’s always a challenge to see pilots fly on an extremely long downwind leg because they were too high. As a result, other pilots are forced to fly longer as a result of their sequence.

  2. Maintain separation with the aircraft in front of you. I know it sounds basic, but it’s so common to see people coming up behind the traffic in front of them at a speed difference of 50+ knots. It’s just going to make you go around, and it saves us the hassle of fitting you back in for the approach.

  3. Expedite means expedite. When we tell you to expedite off the runway, we don’t mean exit the runway on a high speed exit at 20 knots. We want 30 knots minimum. Chances are there’s someone behind you who wants to land just as much as you wanted to,

  4. Immediate means immediate. No. I don’t want you to enter the runway at 5 knots. No, don’t enter at 15 and then stop on the runway. Enter at 15 knots or more and rev up immediately! We want you off the ground as much as you want to be off the ground.

Approach Control

The dreaded approach controller! To be qualified, extensive training is required. These controllers know what they’re doing.

  1. Descend on time. Please, don’t contact us unless you’re below 18,000 AAL. But don’t think this means you contact us overhead at FL180. Go 50 miles out at a minimum, and be at the proper altitude. It saves you a hold or a scenic tour.

  2. Understand how to intercept. Missing an intercept can result in a backed up line, or a missed approach. Understand how to intercept the localizer. It helps both of us.

  3. Keep your speed in check. Yes, we can give you commands. But trust me, it makes our day if you slow down for us. It reduces our workload dramatically. Don’t be at 240 IAS on base. Just… don’t.

  4. Understand the scenic tour. Trust me, airspace gets busy. You’ll end up being in a long line. No, the controller isn’t holding a grudge, he’s just handling 50 inbounds in 20 minutes. You’ll have to wait.

Departure Control

Honestly, there isn’t much that should be done here on behalf of the pilot.

  1. Just check in. If you have an FPL, just check in! We will (normally) allow you to follow your FPL with minimal vectors.

  2. Flight following is VFR only. Want to save the hassle? Don’t use flight following unless you’re VFR. It’s not a huge deal but it reduces the amount of messages we have to send.

There are quite a few topics on how to fly and interact on the expert server, but I wanted to tell you guys how you make the life of the controller easier. Controlling with understand and able pilots is the most fun I have while controlling. I get so happy when pilots understand what is going on and help me out in the process.

So the next time you fly with active ATC, help us out! We appreciate it, and you’ll even benefit from it.

Thanks, and happy flying!


thanks for making this Will! I see a lot of these issues that you listed occur in an everyday basis. Hopefully this will help limit some of the issues of which you listed.

This will help controllers if people do this. Make IF Great Again! 🤫


Semi-relevant question: How far out can I make radio contact with approach?

Great post!!

A great thread!Thanks! @Will_A

You can make radio contact up to approximately 65nm. Once you are within 50nm and under FL180 we will on guard you.

Your best bet is between 50-65nm out at about FL150, but a maximum of FL180.

1 Like

I’d like to add onto this. Speed is much more critical than you’d think, especially in a busy airspace. When on final, there’s almost always that one person who is either blasting in at 220kn or Taking their merry time at 110kn.

The general rule of thumb I like to follow (found this in a tutorial many moons ago):
Before intercepting the ILS/GPS cone, maintain 180kn IAS unless you are instructed otherwise by approach. Once you are within 10nm from the runway, slow to 160kn. Then you can slow to your final approach speed after around 5-3nm from the runway.

Why is this important? Well, when there’s 10 aircraft waiting to depart the runway, spacing is critical to ensure go arounds don’t happen. If everyone is at a similar speed, they can maintain the spacing approach has provided creating a much smoother operation.


Another thing to add is the misconception of checking in to approach. You should always just request an approach when you can contact the approach controller.


About number 5 for tower control, I think you’re not suppose to turn above 10kts, is this rule an exception when you’re asked to takeoff immediately?

In the end, it is pilot discretion. However, when a controller says immediate we really mean immediate. These tips are to help controllers, and are (mostly) not strict rules to follow.

So although there is no written rule in IF that it has to be below 10 knots, you can take the turn at your own speed.

1 Like

Thanks for this Will - will hopefully keep people in check - its good to have reminders like this from time to time

Possible additions:
Currently we are experiencing high traffic levels due to the holidays. It might take some time until you get a response, for example for pushback. Please be patient and don‘t request pushback multiple times. Especially when you see that gate hold is in ATIS. The controller will most likely not forget about you, most set a reminder for you once you requested pushback. Multiple requests won‘t expedite your departure, they even might result in ghosting.

Please don‘t check in when contacting approach. I experience this way too often, literally every second pilot does this. It‘s simply unnecessary and annoying. Just request your approach. Also, if you requested e.g. a visual approach and the controller gives you an ILS approach, don‘t request a visual approach again. The controller isn‘t accepting anything else than ILS approaches then, probably due to the high amount of traffic.

Only check in when getting a handoff from one radar frequency to another radar frequency

Don‘t check in + request FF + request climb + request frequency change. Creates a lot of more unnecessary workload. Most importantly; Don‘t contact radar after your departure if tower didn‘t give you an handoff to the radar frequency. This happens way too often.


Is that not standard procedure? I thought pilots were supposed to check in with the approach controller instead of just randomly requesting an approach a let’s use runway 34L at YSSY for example.

Check in is when you’re departing an airspace ideally with an IFR flight plan in a commercial aircraft/flight. If you’re a General Aviation aircraft, with a flighplan you generally request ‘flight following’. And if you’re VFR you just state that you’re flying VFR.

When contacting approach on arrival always request an approach either at a preferred runway (check ATIS) or any runway, which is where you are given vectors to a specific runway.

1 Like

You may check in with an approach controller if you would like to follow your flight plan to the airport. If you’re going to check in, however, you have two options:

  1. Don’t say anything after that. By checking in, you’ve stated that you want to follow your FPL to the airport. Anything else is called duplicate messages.
  2. Omit the check in entirely if you’d like a visual, ILS or radar vectors. There’s no point in checking in if you’re going to be requesting something else immediately afterwards.

If you’re being handed off from one radar controller to another (ex. an inital-final setup), that’s when check-in is also appropriate.


This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.