Procedure when Approach not available

Hi controllers. I was flying into KSFO from KLAX today (June 30) and the NorCal Approach frequency was not manned at the time so I contacted the tower. As per the Approach Types post in the Tutorials category which I’d read ahead of time I announced inbound on the ILS for runway 28L since I was approaching from the southwest. This was clearly incorrect because while the tower controller did clear me for straight in on that runway (thank you) I was also told to check the ATC tutorials on the forums. This all occurred at 21:00 on the expert server.

So, what did I do wrong here and what is the correct procedure in this case when the approach frequency is unavailable and you’re contacting the tower for an approach? It’s very important to me that I do this correctly as I’m learning and don’t make stupid mistakes. Thanks!


When you called inbound ILS was the not the appropriate, ILS can only happen when approach frequency is in place. I would have just announced inbound without the visual, ILS, or GPS


There’s ☝🏼your answer.

If there was no radar controller open, you report inbound for landing. Tower will then give you a pattern entry instruction and a sequence and clear you to land.

Inbound on the ILS you only report once you’re indeed established on the ILS. If Approach ATC is open, then it’s his task to to get you established, and after this, hand you over to Tower.


What was your callsign? I was the controller. The other two are most likely correct, but I just want to make sure.

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Yes what kinda sucks about the current system is that you technically can’t shoot an approach when approach isn’t on. Flying an airliner into a busy class B is no different than flying the 172 into a small class D airport. Tower has to put you into what is basically a visual traffic pattern no matter what.


Thanks @Cameron_Stone. Call sign is N121PP. After reading the responses above it makes total sense. I should have just announced inbound rather than inbound on the ILS for a specific runway and then you would have guided me into the pattern for whichever runway was appropriate. It was the first time I’d flown on the expert server and also the first time I’d flown into an ATC airport without the approach frequency available. Perfect recipe for a screwup! 😁


Good for you to come hear and ask. For every ‘check help pages’ issued - many will not bother asking the community at all 😊 👍 ❤️


Thanks @Michael_O_Sullivan appreciate that. It’s always important to learn from one’s mistakes in order to improve. I’m trying to treat my IF experience as realistically as possible as I hope to go after my actual private pilot one of these days. 🙂


No worries man! Happens all the time, and as already stated, huge props to you for going out and asking about your error. I have seen errors far worse than that; what happened with you is almost never antyhing to be concerned about on either end.


Its perfectly fine to request a specific runway, atc will generally try to work that in as long as traffic permits (do try to choose from runways the controller has already designated landing runways on the atis frequency)

Thank you for asking the question, the same situation happened to me. I was a bit confused. Now I got the answer.

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