Question Training Series: Part 5

Hello everyone! This question training series is to help myself, as well as others, better understand the flight procedures that we must follow when in the Expert Server. The rules in the Expert Server are there to help create the most realistic flight environment. So understanding these rules is crucial in order to keep the Expert Server the way it was intended to be. Here is today’s question:

When approaching your destination airport, and you tune into the airport’s unicom, what determines how you classify your approach (straight in, left traffic, or right traffic)?

The pattern entry you’re on. Anything other than straight in (that is, inbound towards the centreline of the runway) will be left or right traffic.


Your position in relation to the runway.
If you need to enter left/right base/downwind you would declare left/right traffic. If you come in with the runway heading and don’t/barely need to adjust your heading that’s called straight in. This is also why using “departing straight out” means departing with the runway heading, not directly flying away from it like some people think.
That’s at least how I learned it.

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Thanks! Is this based off of your entry within the tower’s airspace?

Yes. If there’s no tower controller and you’re on Unicom, you’d see which leg of the pattern you’d be joining first, when you come closer to the airport and accordingly announce on Unicom.

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Thanks, when would you announce this on the unicom?

Everything above is correct but if you do find difficultly determining it then I recommend looking at the point in your fpl where you will turn and establish on final.

For example, I’m coming at a 45 degree angle to my final approach. I will be turning left to establish myself on final, therefore I’m making left traffic.

Just a quick image so you can visualize what I’ve just said:


You’d announce it when you call in to say your inbound for landing/touch and go. This would be your first contact with Unicom.

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Okay, how much of an angle would it have to be before you would say left/right traffic instead of straight in?

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Well I mean, it doesn’t have to be perfect. But if it’s obvious that you will be doing a left/right turn then you use left/right traffic. If it’s just a small alteration to get on final then there’s no harm in sending “straight in”.

It’s Unicom, it’s just to inform pilots on the frequency your intentions and what your doing. For a huge majority of the time, no one will complain that you said “straight in” because you turned from 270 degrees to 280 degrees. Does that make sense?

I don’t really have a set number that you must not say “straight in”. If you feel that “straight in” is appropriate then be my guest and use it 😉

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Makes sense. Would you announce this when you are about to make the turn? And if you are announcing straight in, would you announce this when approaching the localizer?

Like I said here:

There’s no separate option to say “making right traffic” “making left traffic” “disregard, making a straight in approach”.

It’s a good idea to do it ASAP as it goes with your announcement of inbound which allows the pilots to be aware that your there and you’ll be coming in.

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If you announced this as soon as you could connect to the unicom, you would most likely still be a good distance away from the airport. Wouldn’t it be better to announce it when you are getting closer to the airport (approaching the red triangle) so that aircraft can better gauge if they have enough time to takeoff or if they should wait?

You can announce inbound from farther away and then “report position” on every leg of the traffic pattern to keep other pilots updated on your whereabouts.

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From the moment your able to tune into Unicom, you’d be about 25nm out. In this image you can get an idea of how far this is around the airport and how far from the red triangles/cones:

The cone goes about 11nm out from the airport and is 14nm from the 25nm range of Unicom. You aren’t as far out as you think.

In this image, are some examples of an FPL that your following and you can easily see if you will be making a left turn or right turn or straight in:

I think your overthinking it a little bit. It’s very simple and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Obviously continue asking questions as it would be nice to see you understand it.

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Thanks! It wasn’t a matter of not understanding the concept. It was more I was trying to make sure the aircraft at the airport would know when someone was getting close to landing. @lucaviness pointed out that you could announce where you were at in your approach to help the aircraft know where you are. Thanks for the help!

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Yeah that’s also a very common thing that many pilots do on Unicom. Glad to be of service 😉

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