All of the requests are the same, except you can add on requesting ILS/GPS or Visual to a specific runway, something you cannot do of departure. (Well, you can, but you’ll be told it’s outside of coverage area.)
I have seen some people say to start with Radar Vectors to the field, then when closer, switch to ILS/GPS/VIS. Don’t do that. Start with what you intend to finish. If you’re eventually going to want an ILS Approach, just start with that. The vectors won’t be any different from RV for the most part, so it’s entirely superfluous to begin with RV then switch, and it’s just plain annnoying.
Quick Rundown of Approach Requests:
Either remain with something already given by a previous controller or, baring any further requests, fly your flight plan to the field. (This only applies if you have an actual flight plan. If your flight plan is WPT-ICAO, expect to get vectors because that FP gives no indication of your intentions and often a straight shot to the tower is a terrible idea in relation to traffic avoidance.)
The former situation happens to me quite a bit when someone departs, then decides to turn around. On departure, I will give them the vectors or Approach they requested, give them a heading and altitude, then send them to Approach. When sent to Approach, a check in is all that is required. The heading and altitude still apply, and I don’t need a new request for the Approach, as I have it from the departure frequency.
This is inapplicable in IMC.
This applies only to IF, as in RWA, FF means something different. But, essentially it’s asking to fly your flight plan to the field. Again, in IF. If traffic allows, we can let you do this, but again the flight plan needs to be an actual plan.
We always reserve the right to vector you for traffic avoidance if you seem unwilling to do it yourself. If a pilot refuses to slow down or descend, I will also switch them over. Pilots in IF seem to think they can dive from 10100 feet to 3k in one nm, but they can’t, and the silly loops at the top of the cone after they realize this interfere with others, so if you want to stay FF, descend responsibly.
FF is inapplicable in IMC.
Approach will direct you to the field and generally set you up for a pattern entry or put you on a pattern leg then hand you off to tower. You call “inbound for landing,” not “inbound on the ILS” or “inbound on the visual.” Because you aren’t either of those last two.
RV is inapplicable in IMC.
The difference between these is simply the type of approach for the runway. Some seem to think GPS is the same as visual. It is not. An ILS Approach has guaranteed terrain clearance, a GPS does not. Nothing changes with regard to how you are vectored, which is used is determined by whether the runway has an ILS (red cone) or GPS approach (white cone).
Approach will vector you to an intercept no more than 30 degrees off runway heading at an altitude below the glidescope. From there, you should remain on the Approach frequency until you have fully intercepted the localizer and are flying runway heading. Approach will then, and only then, hand you to tower. You will not be handed of, nor should you switch on your own, to tower before you have intercepted the correct localizer. There is no reason to request a frequency change before, during or after. Approach knows you need to go to tower and will do so when you’ve illustrated you’ve intercepted properly. A request is entirely superfluous. An unapproved early frequency change is never okay.
Note, in IF, we do not do straight in approaches. Many times, we may have you flying runway heading, but it will be abeam the localizer, not on it. You should not make adjustments to put yourself on the localizer. The offset is intentional. The intercept heading in these cases may be less than 30 degrees, 10 or 20 at times, depending on the offset distance.
When you have been actively vectored for an ILS/GPS Approach is the only time you should announce “inbound on the ILS/GPS” to tower.
Similar to RV, except you choose when Approach hands you off to tower. From that point, you make a visual approach to the runway as VFR traffic.
There are some common misconceptions about reporting airport in sight. You should not report until you have been asked. As soon as you report, you will receive clearance. Because of this, if you are not in a position to make the approach, the controller will hold off on requesting that you report. This is for a variety of reasons, but it’s intentional. So wait until asked. Airport in sight means that you can visually see the airport with your “eyes” from the cockpit. It does not mean you can see the dot on the map at 10k feet. A visual approach is the only time “airport in sight” should be used. It should not be used on any other approach type. It is also the only time you should report “inbound on the visual” to tower.
Visual is inapplicable in IMC.
Approach airspace is a 50 nm radius from surface to FL180.
If you call in at an extremely high altitude, do not be surprised with a hold. We have no way of knowing whether you’re going to descend at 1200 FPM or 3500. Better still, just don’t be insanely high at that point in the flight anyway. It’s only going to cause you a delay, so whatever GS benefits you think you’re getting will be lost to your wasted time losing altitude.
If you are put in a hold, do not keep checking in. You put yourself in that situation. When I have a slot available, you’ll get it. Again, this can be avoided by being at a responsible altitude to begin with. (Last flight I saw between LAX and SAN in RWA cruised at 13k. In IF, pilots want to fly this route at FL340. Why?)
Do not check in the moment your nose is a mm past the ILS cone. We know you’re there. The cone is a visual aid. It is not the beginning and end of the localizer.
Intercept speeds generally have to be given because many think 249 KIAS is appropriate. It isn’t. You should intercept in one turn, not by flying past and swinging back. Speed has a lot to do with this, especially if you’re turning with AP. You are never unable to fly an appropriate intercept speed, no matter the plane. You’re not landing at 250 KIAS, so you have to slow below it some time, may as well be while you’re making the most important turn of the flight.
Check in is for when you initially tune in, and then only. It is not a “hey, I’m still here” message. That is spam.
One more time for good measure: Approach will keep you until you have actually intercepted the correct localizer. There is no need for a change request, nor should you ever change on your own. You will be sent back.