Tower instructions for NZQN or other airports with "non-standard pattern" and high terrain

I was enjoying to fly around in NZ’s beautiful scenery a lot over last few days . During the ATC schedule day I focussed on NZQN because of its beautiful scenery and non-standard approach and pattern ( the figure of 8 pattern) . I use real online charts for my flying. Now when I approached NZQN on Sunday flying VFR from the north west through the beautiful valley tower requested me early to contact him. Fine. Then i got instructed to enter left base runway . Fine in principle. But my valley to me through a turn back north before realeasing me into the fjord over which i can actually turn south to join the base 05. When tower saw me turning I got a “follow instructions or you will be ghosted”. Well the only way to avoid was to shoot up high like a rocket quickly and hastely turn south to show him i am entering the instructed base leg. Totally unrealistic.
Finally on final approach I had to go around, which I announced, followed the published figure of 8 pattern and got the "check forum for assistance …) message as soon as i came round from my left turn over the airport again.

I dont want to complain, dont get me wrong, I am aware of the restrictions in comms that the ATC tower role has , but wouldnt it be great to find a way to these kind of approaches like in real in our beautiful simulator. Similar thing happened to me when we had the TBM Switzerland focus and I flew into Sion through the valley where things are a bit tight.


  • Do ATC Controllers have charts?

  • Are the familiar with the terrain around the airports?( Before global we had the terrain map, which I guess made it easier for the controllers…and the pilots in situations like that where everyone can see wether you are in valley.

  • Any advise from our fellow controller on how to behave as pilot in a situation like that without giving the impression that you are ignorant or worse…a troll and worthy of a ghost warning?

  • Would you accept an “unable” without getting offended :-)/

Your thoughts?

Hope this gets a nice, productive and respectful discussion going

Air Bavaria


I’m not IFATC but here’s my opinion, I won’t get offended if someone said ‘unable’ once (will take it as terrain issue since there’s no need to give a reason). But I will if they keep using ‘unable’ as a way to disobey ATC or just being plain annoying especially on Training Server. Probably the controller wasn’t familiar with the terrain there.

  1. Controllers are only encouraged to use charts. But only if traffic allows, and the airport involved. It could prove to be a difficulty to stick to chart procedures with missing waypoints on the map, and the unrealistic high traffic inbound to the airport. For me personally, I will follow the charts if there are special procedures (especially those surrounded with terrain) only if the amount of traffic allowing.

  2. Checking for terrain is a necessity before controllers open. Some (but not all) even fly around before opening so that they can better serve you at airports surrounded by terrain.

  3. Sending an ‘I’m sorry’ might do for most controllers. If needed, you might need to bear with it and follow his instructions. PM him in a polite manner detailing why he shouldn’t send those instructions/vector you there with screenshots of the ATC comm and maybe the mountain you are headed to, after your flight.

  4. Sending ‘unable’ is ok if you are headed straight for terrain. However if the controller sends you a ‘Please follow instructions’ after, I wouldn’t send ‘unable’ again; like above, follow his instructions and PM him after your flight with screenshots and details.

If you know who was your controller last Sunday, feel free to PM him now and he would be happy to assist!


What time (in ZULU please as that will be easier for all of us) were you at NZQN so we can help you find who was controlling when you were there!

It was on Sunday at 1250Z. I know who was controlling. I don’t want to complain. Our ATC is doing great and make the whole simulator so unique, exciting and never boring. My Intension is to have a discussion on what the expected behaviour of pilots and controllers could be(and comms within the current limititations) in similar conditions to enable flying such “odd” but so interesting procedures in our sim.

I will attach the NZQN pattern and a sketch of my situation.

Also I will attach charts from Sion in Switzerland.

Maybe our ATC experts could outline a suggested behaviour and comms example for the approaches?
So we all cold benefit.


Uploading… Uploading… Uploading… Uploading…

1 Like

I can relate directly to this. When I was approaching KPSP the other day tower instructed me to do a left 360 for spacing, although directly next to me was a mountain, I tried to do a right 360 instead (traffic was on my left) and I got a “follow instructions or you will be ghosted”. I had to do the same unrealistic maneuver.

Small fact correction. It should read “enter right base 05” in the handwritten notes for NZQN. Sorry. Doing this during a “veeeeery interesting meeting:-))


Although this isn’t a suggestion thread, it would be nice if we’re able to explain our reasoning during flight for a certain action or maybe a visual indicator for the controller on their screen. I control TS1 airports every now and then and sometimes from flying on ES, it gets really just and I don’t know if controllers have the time to look for a single aircraft dot out of 20 in a hold. Another idea is maybe a couple of simple vectors showing the recommended approach path on the airport screen for both pilots and ATC for only those terrain challenged airports

Got to say though, the approach is mesmerising even IRL, I once was on a viewing lookout over the approach path, an aircraft landing was below the altitude of the lookout.

I was the approach controller for Zion during FNF 2 weeks ago, and I have to say it was fun! I was definitely not on when you are approaching though, as I was using the other runway.

Anyways with this limitation of ATC comms, that’s not much you can do if the controller just wants you to do just that. We won’t exactly know the reason behind that ‘unable’, and 90% of unables I personally received are people receiving a vector they dont like, eg. slow down to 170kts, getting a vector that deviates them from their flight plan etc.

As always, if you have a strong reason to defend your position in why you can’t follow ATC’s instructions (i.e. terrain avoidance), it’s always best to PM the controller. They may not know about that tall mountain you are heading towards, and thus might do the same thing again the next time he controls there.

It’s not about complaining. It’s part of learning!


Fine. That PM is always there I know. Maybe though our ATC experts can take this thread as a little trigger for their thoughts on future enhancements of the ATC Comms and user interface. That would be nice. I don’t have the forum status for feature requests so I will stay well out of it here and leave it to them.

I would have continued on your approach due to the terrain, the controller wasn’t prepared enough to open that airport. What alitutude where you at when he asked you to follow instructions?


This is my only complaint about IFATC is that they often jump into control at an airfield without doing a little research with the charts etc to ensure a realistic experience. I understand the reason that the STARS are often not followed ( more traffic than in real life) however as a pilot who researches the routes that I am flying to follow the appropriate SIDS and STARS where possible it can be frustrating.

In both cases of KSPS and NZQN I have flown both and you need to follow the STARs / Approach correctly otherwise you end up in a mountain…which will definitely spoil the realism. It is tempting to use the “unable” function, and if ghosted then you can take it up with IFATC supervisors but again it spoils the whole feel of the flight. Please can controllers do a little research on the real airport before controlling?

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