Requesting Frequency Change From Approach/Departure

Requesting Frequency Change From Approach Or Departure

Hello everyone! This was just a friendly reminder to everyone on when to ask for frequency change and how to change frequency when under the control of approach or departure, especially on the Expert Server.


Under the control of approach:

If you are under the control of approach, the approach controller will give you the frequency change to contact the tower or unicom frequency of the airport you are landing at. You do not need to request frequency change.

If you are for the ILS or GPS approach then the controller will hand you off once you have intercepted the localiser and are established. We do this, so in case you don’t established correctly we can help resolve the situation.

If you are for a visual approach we will firstly ask you to report airport in sight. This is usually from when your aircraft is in a position that you would be able to see the airport from the cockpit view of your aircraft. Once you report airport in sight, we will clear you for the visual approach and then ask you to contact the tower or unicom frequency of the airport.

If you are for radar vectors to the certain airport, we will vector you to the pattern altitude of the airport which is typically 1,500 feet AAL. Once we have you on downwind or base and a clear sequence is established, the controller will send you a frequency change to contact the tower or unicom frequency.


Under the control of departure:

Departure is simple. The departure airspace is up until 18,000 feet. Once you reach 18,000 feet the controller will send you a frequency change.

Please don’t request to change frequency earlier, even if you’re flight following as we want to keep you on our frequency until you clear our airspace, so that we can vector you to avoid any conflicts with other arrivals or departing traffic.


I hope this topic helps some of you, and provides further clarification as I’ve seen this a lot recently on the Expert Server.

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Fantastic explanation Declan! Thank you for posting 🙌🏼

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Thanks for the kind words mate, really hope this helps people out.

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Yeah this is quite interesting, even for us (new) controllers as me!

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I’m glad that you find it useful as well. Also helps to know when you can expect aircraft to be handed over to you.

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Thanks for saying it!

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That’s a really good reminder, thanks!

On question regarding departure: Shall I always wait until ATC sends the frequency change or is it ok (or even appreciated) if I request a frequency change once passing FL180?

at RJTT for FNF two or three weeks ago tower on guarded me while i was on approach, i was just intercepting the localiser


I never request a frequency change, but does this mean that you should never request one then?

I think if you request a freq. change the controller will say ‘Stay on my freq’. Sometimes when I am out of their airspace I will request freq. change.

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That sounds like a mistake by tower. @Menthesuphisth is correct, do not request for frequency changes as the controller will tell you to change frequency when they are ready to hand you off.


@JulianB Usually controllers will send frequency changes around the time you leave their airspace, but if you’re at (for example) FL200 and you still haven’t received one, go ahead and ask for a change.

Do keep in mind that approach’s airspace extends up to 18,000 AAL, meaning that you should take airport elevation into account. :)

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Thank you for the reply and the added information on the airspace, wasn’t aware it was AAL (which I should have known though)!

If the controller hasn’t sent you a frequency change by the time you’ve passed FL180 then by all means, ask for one.

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You should only request a frequency change if you are on departure and have passed FL180.

You don’t need to request one on approach as the controller will send one once you are fully established or cleared for the visual/radar vectors.

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We’ll most likely use this most on departure. If you are at 7,000 feet and ask for a frequency change you aren’t going to get it.

As controllers we want to keep you on our frequency until FL180 to make sure we can steer you away from any possible conflict even if you’re on flight following.

@TaipeiGuru already answered similarly, so that’s my question answered, thanks!

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I was just given an example what kind of response you’d get from the controller. I fully agree with the thread information. But sometimes when it is too busy I can understand that you can have delay response from the controller. Therefore I said; if you are outside the controlling airspace of the APP/DEP controller and they haven’t said anything regarding the freq. then I’d request and freq. change.

This had happened at a few occasions.

Thanks for the reminder!

One question, what does AAL mean? Is that the same as AGL?

No worries! AAL means Above Airport Level. So if the airports elevation is 2,000 feet then departures airspace goes to FL180 AAL, which in this case would be FL200.

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Yeah completely agree with you, if you haven’t received a frequency change when you’re usually meant to then by all means ask for one.

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