Tutorial Request: IF ATC, expectations for pilots in pattern w/tower/departure/center/approach

Hey guys, I know in real life patterns are for GA and military aircraft, but in our sandbox regions patterns they are a huge draw.

I am wondering if one of the IF experts could put together a tutorial for us on pattern work when there is an active departure/center/approach in addition to the tower. I’ve seen so much variation in styles of controlling when there are a combination of these channels open. As an IF pilot it is very confusing when a center or approach is sending you across the region (slight exaggeration) in a pattern, when there is no need to slow down traffic.

I know the default solution is to always follow ATC instructions, but I can’t find any kind of standard expectation here from controller to controller.

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Thank you in advance, I really enjoy the tutorial section! Those of you putting in the effort to teach us are really effecting change and growth in our community! Definitely appreciated!!

I’m not an advanced ATC in IF, but in the real world, pattern work you should be remaining with the airport tower airspace, and therefore remaining on the tower frequency. There should be no handoff or frequency change if you’ve requested to stay in the pattern.

Approach / departure frequencies should be used outside of controlled tower airspace. Ie once you’ve taken off and climbing out tower will hand you off, and you continue on to your destination. (You usually will get handed off prior to actually leaving the airspace, and on approach, won’t get handed off to tower until final)

Center is only for aircraft over flying above 18,000ft.

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That is exactly what I am wondering about!! That’s a great explanation, but in the IF world, you get pinged nonstop by departures/centers/approaches if you’re in a tower or Unicom pattern. On both the playground and the advanced server.

I personally have no real world knowledge in this area, but I would like to learn the right way to communicate to the right controller. Based on what I have experienced in IF, I’m really confused…

What specifically are you having issues with? What frequency to go to? I think that most pilots have problems with sequencing and recognizing the patterns. If there is an approach controller then it is his job to make sure everyone is at the correct speed/altitude with proper spacing. You should not ask for or change freq. until the appr. Controller tells you to. He will advise you contact tower. At this point you should be on ils for the correct runway and on final approach. Once you change to tower, first thing to do is announce inbound. This confirms the runway and tells the tower if this is for a full stop or touch and go.

No approach controller: this is when the sequencing and confusion can be overwhelming. Tower controllers on IF can not give you specific vectors or altitude adjustments. Only speed adjustments and pattern directions are used to create proper spacing and sequencing. If you are not familiar with the correct names of specific locations in a pattern then you should learn them. I will upload a picture for a visual reference.
Call tower when you are about 20 nm from airport. Call inbound- this tells tower your intentions. He will tell you where to enter the pattern and which runway to expect. It is a good idea to open map and look at pattern traffic to see where they want you to be. Ex. Enter left downwind/ runway Xx. He is telling you where to enter the pattern. Once you enter the pattern, report position. Ex. Delta 1234 is on left downwind/runway Xx. At this point the controller will sequence you numerically and clear for landing. Ex. Delta
1234 number 3, cleared to land, runway Xx, traffic to follow is on left base.
After you have been cleared to land, open map and find your place as #3 in line. There is no need to announce you position again as this clogs up atc frequency.
TIP: an easy way to identify the left and right side of airport. First thing is find correct runway. Imagine standing in front of runway where you are going to land. Left side is left downwind, right side right downwind. Same with base location.


It’s just the nature of IF. In real life, commercial aircraft aren’t doing circuits, and they’re all filing IFR flight plans so ATC know their every move. You just have to find a happy-medium in IF with ATC.

I just flew in the Advanced server and similar things just happened to me. Requested to remain in pattern, cleared for left traffic, told 3 times to go to approach, which I eventually did after reporting on downwind and about to turn base. Approach sent me on a 34 minute flight until I was back on tower frequency being cleared to land (my flight path was nothing like a circuit). The best way is to just do what ATC is instructing you I guess, it’s easier for them to keep control and have an oversight if in their mind, they know what’s happening. The amount of traffic etc also changes so for the purpose of keeping some kind of order in IF, everyone just need to use the common sense rule I think…

Yeah Amsterdam was crazy because of the event and no pattern work would be allowed.

Tower contols the runway and the circuit (the pattern). MJ is right - if you are staying in the pattern, you stay on TWR freq.
Approach handles all inbound traffic below FL180 until they are about to enter the TWR control zone and similarly all outbound traffic if no Dep freq is available.
Alot of pilots say they are remaining in the pattern ( we call it the circuit here), but then vacate straight away. Maybe they think ‘the pattern’ means the map? or their flightplan?

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@mhhodges76 true, but the tower did clear me for left traffic! I was expecting a ‘no pattern work’

Yeah I’ve had that happen to me a lot. Im Controlling on the playground server and the plane who is holding short asks to remain in the pattern so tell him to let’s say make “right traffic” and he just goes of on his flight plan and leaves me confused. I dunno that’s just what happens to me when they do that.

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It should have been in the atis for that airport. However, once you request pattern work, we can’t change it. Our only option is to announce no pattern work and make you hold short until you request correctly. That would back up traffic waiting behind you.

But in playground you can’t use atis and sometimes even when you say"no pattern work accepted at this time" they just keep asking for permission to take off and remain in the pattern.

True. Too many opportunities for people to ghost others for no reason. If an eight year old finds the ghost button on playground then nobody will be remaining in any pattern.

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Haha true but it would be nice if there was something implemented to atleast warn the user that he will be ghosted if if he dosen’t follow instructions. I also remember that when live first came out there was an option to rate controllers, so what happened to that?

I reckon there must be a widespread misunderstanding of what ‘the pattern’ and ‘remaining in the pattern’ means because maybe 50% say they are staying in the pattern and most of those (prob 90%) then immediately vacate.

Yeah I know it sucks. When I control I like to plan out who goes where when I’m handeling traffic “in the pattern” so I set up everything for him to enter right downwind and he just leaves even after he asks for take off 8 times and all of them saying “remaining in the pattern”.

It doesn’t really bother me if they say remaining in the pattern and leave as much as it does if the say straight out and then stay in pattern. Either way, it makes you look like you don’t know what you are doing.

The rating system for controllers was being abused. The only time a pilot would rate a controller was when he was ghosted or denied a runway.

Oh ok now I know what happened to it

To be more specific about the issue I’m asking about… Say you’re in the tower, and you have a pilot requesting to takeoff and remain in the pattern. Now imagine they actually know what that means(rare I know!) and they have every intention of turning crosswind once they reach about 1000ft AGL. On both the playground and advanced server, if there is an active departure/center/approach, they are pinging that pilot almost immediately once their wheels are up!!

I guess what I am really asking for is a breakdown or diagram of responsibilities for each area of control. I.e. At what altitude/ranges should pilots be expecting a handoff, standard operations procedures, scope of control as it relates to the IF world. This would help tremendously!

From pilot perspective, it is distracting/dangerous to manage excessive pinging/frequency changes a couple hundred feet off the ground. Plus it’s annoying when controllers take full advantage of those misc messages to yell at pilots who are doing nothing wrong (once again rare I know!!).

Thanks for the help y’all!

This is one of those areas that varies from place to place. On the advanced server, the approach and tower controller communicate via instant messaging. If tower is getting swamped with departures he may tell approach to pick up aircraft in the circuit. Vice versa, approach may have too many coming in at one time. Usually approach will handle pattern traffic and hand off aircraft to tower just outside of ils marker.

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