What should be done when APP vectors you to the wrong runway


On initial contact with approach, I was told to expect vectors to a runway, let’s say 18R. Then, the controller vectored me all the way to interception of runway… 18L!

Because both runways are close to one another, I noticed this only on the last turn when I was supposed to intercept the localizer.

So - I couldn’t correct my heading to intercept my assigned runway, because another aircraft was intercepting it to land in parallel at that very moment. Doing that would result in a justified ghost. Landing in the “wrong” runway I was vectored to is also dangerous - once APP or tower notices i’m on final to a runway I was not assigned to, one of them might also ghost me.

Since I didn’t have too much time to think, I just ended the flight to avoid an almost certain ghost in my opinion.

Was there anything else I could do?


You could have announced a missed approach and the controller would have vectored you to the airport again.


Thanks. Seems to be the best option.
Although I tried that once (on a different but similar occasion) and got a “follow instructions or be ghosted” warning.

1 Like

There is an area on the hud view where you can select the specific runway you want the localizer and glideslope to use. You just click it and select the runway. An asterisk will be put next to the runway information to signify that auto select is no longer on.


The problem isn’t with the interception itself, but with landing on the wrong runway because of an approach controller mistake.

1 Like

Your point is that you think that you might wrongfully get ghosted and he kind of messed your flight?

1 Like

He was not ghosted. He’s asking “What should be done when APP vectors you to the wrong runway” in order to not be ghosted.

1 Like

APP vectors you up to 30 degrees of the intercept. Seeing as this was a parallel runway situation it was not the APP’s fault. You are told to continue on that altitude and heading until you intercept. Meaning he wont give final vecotrs for a head on intercept. You just missed your intercept. This is pilot error and not ATC error


I would go to whatever runway I was cleared for. The tower would give you a go around if there was traffic ahead.

Sometimes you get the “Expect vectors” far out and its hard to know 100% which runway you are going to until you are closer.


I was vectored to the furthest runway, and got the last heading towards interception when I was already after the assigned runway. So I was actually “forced” to miss the approach. :)

Issuing a Missed Approach would be your best bet. It has happened that either I’ve missed to incept the localiszer or that the controller has forgotten to give me the instructions to to intercept.

What i simply do is announce a missed approach and get vertored back around for a second attempt to land :)

Just so we’re clear: whatever runway Approach tells you to expect is the only runway for which they can clear you. There is no ability which allows the controller to choose the runway for which they are clearing you that would be different from the runway they told you to expect [except by actually re-sending the “expect vectors for…” command].

The only thing that can happen is that the turn was late. They can’t clear you for the wrong runway. It’s not possible.

It isn’t unheard of that the command is issued several seconds before the pilot reacts (it’s why we want pilots to stay on the frequency until intercept; so we can correct if needed). But it’s also not unheard of for the controller to be late. But it is unheard of to clear for the wrong runway, since it can’t be done.

It would help to know what field this was. When you say close, how close are we talking? 25L/25R at KLAX close, or 18R/18C at EHAM close? Those are pretty different. At a place like the former, a vector for either of the parallels is going to be essentially the same since the localizers are so incredibly close together.


Exactly. I was told to expect runway X and was cleared for runway X.
But I was actually vectored to runway Y while someone else was on final for runway X.

This really just sounds like an issue of receiving a late vector. This happens, especially in very busy traffic, on occasion though we try everything we possible can to make sure we have procedures that don’t cause delay.

It’s possible the approach controller made a mistake and put you into the wrong runway, where as everyone has said the best thing is to say missed approach

Which is why I asked for the field to know how close the runways were.

There is a common problem [not saying this was what happened] of pilots waiting for about 5 to 10 seconds after the vector is given to react, which makes it seem late, even though it was on time. But, the controller can be late as well. Just announce missed approach and move on.

1 Like

I deliberately didn’t disclose the specific airport because then it would be possible to guess the controller, and that wasn’t my intention.

I just wanted to ask the community what’s the right thing to to in the situation, and i definitely got my answer. :)

Anyway, those runways were very very close to each other - almost merging through the cone.

When you have the runway selected in the HUD it shows up on our screen as well. Just because you ask for a specific runway doesn’t always mean you’ll get it. Maybe he was vectoring you to the runway he wanted you to be on. For example LAX. A lot of people ask for 25R to land. When I’m controlling, 25R is used for departures. Most controllers use it like this because that’s how it’s done in real life at LAX. When someone asks me for 25R I give them instructions to go to 25L.

I will say. If he tells you one things and does another and you follow instructions and are ghosted for it. Then take screen shots. It’s clearly an ATC screw up and you’d get your ghost revered.

Fair enough.

In this situation it’s impossible to vector you to the wrong runway. That’s like a 25L/25R scenario at KLAX. The heading is going to be the same. It’s up to you to hit the right localizer. As we have said, the controller doesn’t choose which runway it tells you, that can only be what you’ve already been told. If the cones are overlapping^, it’s virtually impossible, physically-speaking, to be vectored to the wrong runway, unless you’re counting the fraction of a second between localizers at that speed.

[Edit: ^This phrase is vital to the validity of the clause that follows. Obviously, if the runways are separated, such as 27L and 27R at EGLL, or 18C and 18R at EHAM, the intercept wouldn’t be given at the same time. But if the comes are overlapping, the difference is a fraction of a second, so make sure you pay attention to the noted word before judging the validity of the clause that follows it.]

I’ve done this before as a controller. It happens, rarely, but it does happen that you’ll tell someone “expect vectors for the ILS approach runway 18L” and they’ll end up in the line for 18R by accident. I’ve even done it where the two runways are 17 and 25.

Sometimes I notice before I give the intercept, and can just slip the pilot into a gap in the proper approach line. Sometimes I notice once I’ve given the approach and see the tag/hear the vector in my earbuds. Often times this problem can be fixed with a quick command of “expect vectors for [proper approach at the proper runway]” followed by the (now) proper clearance so it isn’t the end of the world.

As pilot, you have a couple options. Say “unable”, which is sure to get any controller’s full attention in 0.0003 seconds. If you’re told “turn right heading 140, cleared ILS runway 25”, then unable is a proper response because you can’t have a 110 degree intercept. It may be more appropriate to declare a missed approach in this situation, as there is an apparent disconnect between what you expected and where you were vectored. If you’re sent to the approach for 18L instead of 18C, you should declare a missed approach and get re-vectored (as was stated above). If your approach path is clear, you’re clearly in line for the runway you were vectored to, you could also just proceed. The controller may recognize their error and correct, or simply let you be. Either way the job gets done.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 90 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.