Pattern ATC Question

Hi Gang,

I just had the pleasure of doing some pattern work at PHOG with @Swang007 controlling for us (thanks, Sean!).

The Situation
I requested takeoff and to remain in the pattern, and I was given takeoff clearance and instructed to make left traffic. Before I made my intentions known, I was put in the pattern and cleared for the option, which I complied with.

The Question
I’m not a real-world pilot (yet) so here it is: Is being cleared for the option giving me the choice of a touch-and-go OR a full-stop landing? If so, great. Question answered. If not, my second question would be this: what do I do if the controller clears me for the option before I’ve had a chance to say that I don’t intend to perform a touch-and-go? I’ve stated my intentions after being cleared before and the controller scolds me for clogging up the frequency.

If we could stick to answers from actual pilots or controllers that would be sweet - no “opinions” necessary ;)


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Yes, ‘the option’ gives you the choice of a touch and go or a full stop landing. You answered your own question! Well done. Sean knew your intention because you stated you were remaining in the pattern…which means you will enter the pattern to land at the same airport. Had your intention been to leave PHOG, you would have requested a departure in whatever direction you wanted to go (e.g. West for PHNL or East for PHTO).

Once you are cleared, there is no need to call your legs…downwind, base, etc. It sounds like there was no traffic so Sean was able to do that earlier in the pattern than usual. I do the same when I only have one or two aircrafts to control.

Sounds like you and Sean both did exactly as you should.


Wonderful! Thanks for the clear answer, Bill. The part that threw me was, “after the option, make left traffic,” implying to me that I was being instructed to make a touch-and-go.

Based on what you’re saying, I guess that could be taken as, “you have the option to land or touch and go, and if you’re doing a touch-and-go, make left traffic”. Correct?

It helps the controller if you correct him with your intentions. Report your position and say you’re doing a full-stop landing. It helps the controller plan with efficiency.

On my part, I shouldn’t have sent you the “after the option, make left traffic”. I usually try to avoid this but it’s become a bad habit. Once you’re in a left traffic pattern, you stay in a left traffic pattern unless told otherwise. The only reason the “after the option” command should be used is if the pattern direction needs to be CHANGED, or if you are transferring to another runway (clarification needed once again).

If you are cleared for the option, you’re allowed to do a touch and go or a landing without breaking the rules.

Great. I think my biggest takeaway on this is that I indeed said all I needed to say when I asked to stay in the pattern. If you had more traffic and hadn’t instructed me immediately after takeoff I would have stated that my intentions were to come in for a full stop. But, since you cleared me for the option, it was my duty to follow pattern instructions, and my option to either make a full stop landing or make a touch-and-go.



Exactly right, Jason. Either way, the ‘left traffic’ is telling you to fly the left approach pattern. He wanted you on that side of the airport. There could be a bunch of reasons for that, and was not relevant to whether you did a touch and go or a full stop. You were remaining in that pattern and he was telling you what side to be on, and provided you the option to stop or touch and go around again…and if you did that you shold assume to stay with left traffic unless given instructions otherwise. Don’t switch to right traffic without permission.

And I agree with Sean…if you plan to do a full stop, it is best to resend the inbound request and replace touch and go with full stop. It will help the ATC time other planes…but if you don’t you aren’t breaking any rules. You have the option to do either…its more a courtesy.

Yeah it’s just an extra help for the controller. It may save a go-around from another plane behind you. Although it’s better to report your position saying “full-stop” instead of sending a whole other inbound request since you’re already in the pattern.

Ah, see now this is interesting. I have had several controllers that do not take resending intentions as a courtesy for clarity. They hit me back with “you’re already cleared to land - avoid sending unnecessary reports.” I don’t know if that’s an ego thing, or a difference of opinion.

Either way, thanks for all of the input.

That’s a difference of opinion. They’re technically wrong because if you’re cleared for the option you’re not ONLY cleared to land ;)

The only reason you should be getting that message is if you’ve truly been cleared to land and you’re still reporting your position or saying other unnecessary stuff.

What I mean is that it’s great to clarify that you are doing a FULL-STOP if you are landing.

Roger. Thanks, Sean.

@jasonrosewell…Thank you for taking the time to try and understand how things like this work, asking questions, and engaging in a dialogue with us (advanced controllers). If more people dug in like you have, we would all have a better experience and more fun in IF!


If you’re cleared for the option that means you’re given the option to land and stop on the runway to clean your airplane (retract flaps, turn carb heat off, etc), taxi off the runway, or touch and go. If you do not terminate your flight, upon taking off and gaining altitude before you clear the departure area, ATC will usually ask your intentions then. Depending on the amount of traffic in pattern ATC will tell you to extend downwind to give way to sequenced aircraft, 360 turns for bigger aircraft coming into the pattern, and will call your base if making run for bigger aircraft. It all just depends. But “cleared for the option” gives you, the pilot, the option to do what you want (within reason) on the runway once you’ve landed.

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