When to contact approach?

Good morning, Good afternoon, Good evening.

Before 18.1 came out, it was required to be around 70nm max. away from the airport before a plane was able to contact the Approach frequency.

Now, it’s possible to contact approach even if you are more than 150nm away by opening the frequency via the map.

When are we supposed to contact approach? Is it still recommended to wait until one is around 70nm out of the field, or should we contact the frequency earlier?

Thank you; and Happy Landings!

I think contacting approach earlier is better when there’s heavy traffic so the controller can start separating you from far away. (as you probably saw in the FNFs)


You aren’t expected to call in that far out. The expected distances are still the same.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think any of the Approach controllers want to actively vector planes as far away as 150 miles when they typically have a large volume nearer the field.

However, there’s nothing wrong, to my mind, with simply being on the frequency that far out, but not requesting a specific approach right away. Just keep going and descending as you would. You’ll be able to hear where everyone is going where you should expect to also go, where you should be around what altitude, etc.

Later, when you’re a more reasonable distance away (50ish), go ahead an request a specific approach or the controller may assign you something.

I am only speaking for myself when I say I personally don’t mind having the planes on the freq and proceeding on their own until closer to the old distances.

But I can say it’s pretty universal that no one wants to actively vector you for 150 miles. If you do call in that far out, just check in. Don’t request the ILS right away. Maybe if the controller sees that you’re way too high and not descending, he may decide to start a little bit further out.

Personally, I like having pilots on the frequency, but not asking for active vectors until they’re much closer. If I can see that they’re not gonna do something on their own, I have the option to prevent what used to be people calling in at FL240 in spots where they should have been around 10k.

I know not everyone is a fan. But I do know that no one wants to actively vector that plane for the entirety of 150 miles. So just help them out if you do check in, don’t request vectors right away. (Imagine vectoring, as KSAN approach, every plane as it left the runway at KLAX all the way to KSAN. Just not feasible.)


Thank you very much Tim, I always appreciate your detailed answers!

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