When to request visual approach

Sometimes on TS I’m controlling approach at busy airports like KLAX or EGLL. I dislike doing approach/departure as I don’t understand why pilots request visual approach when they’re flying a jet (not a GA aircraft) and there’s ILS on all runways both KLAX and EGLL. After I tell them to expect vectors for the ILS approach runway xxx they replied ‘airport in sight’. This confuses me.

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Just because there is the ILS system doesn’t mean it must be used. If VFR conditions prevail, you can vector the aircraft close to the airport for a visual approach

Now, the pilot giving incorrect ATC calls, just chalk that up to being on TS


Well unfortunately Training server is Training server. Most of them (some) do not understand ATC that well

Ok so if visual approach is permitted that means they should get close to the airport and report airport in sight, then all I have to do is just clear them for visual approach runway xxx afterwards and let them land visually? (That means ignore the localiser and glide scope just use their eyes?)

Well, the pilot wouldn’t ignore the glideslope, but they’re more or less using visual references to get to the airport. The difference is more pronounced in the real world, less so in IF because of our lack of IFR procedures and uncommon non-visual conditions.

I had pretty good luck controlling on TS, even at LAX and EGLL, for tower / ground. Accumulated 3000 ops or something. I had the occasional TS type that won’t follow instructions of course but if I was responsive compliance was surprisingly good.

I tried approach maybe five times and just gave up. Compliance is absolutely terrible for approach on TS in my experience. In fact I only had a portion of one session ever where pilots were actually following commands. Actually had an approach line at EGLL until a few new pilots showed up, completely ignored approach and blew the whole thing up. That was my last try as approach on TS. :)

I suspect when pilots request visual approach on TS and then immediately report airport in sight (from 50 nm out sometimes :) ) they really just want to avoid dealing with approach. Probably because they don’t realize requesting radar vectors would be an even better way to do so. :)

If you ever want to join IFATC you start with tower/ground/ATIS so that’s a great place to focus on TS. You won’t be bored with TGA on expert! Once you really master that you can continue to get approach qualified.

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Most of the time at those airports, tower and ground were already taken up (no one likes approach or departure) and I can see some people have been there for at least an hour!

I guess it’s the same for expert as well since most of the time I only see ground, tower and ATIS.

Yeah you have to be ready to jump if they open on TS. Often controlling smaller airports is more beneficial for controlling skills because lax and egll are so chaotic it can create bad habits.

My favorite TS airport was SFO but that is also hard to get into.

You typically only see TGA on expert because we can handle a surprising amount of traffic with one controller. Usually we only open approach if inbound traffic is either very busy or someone just enjoys being approach and/or wants practice.


The problem is really that many pilots don’t understand the different approach types and under what circumstances they should be used. We see this still on Expert.

So even if a pilot requests a visual approach there’s a good chance he doesn’t know what he really requested. He may never report ‘airport in sight’ for example. And if you assist a pilot with the ILS approach, he may report airport in sight, while still being at 9000 feet, 25NM out.

So even though you, here on this forum, can learn all about Approach types, you still face the struggle with pilots not having a clue

Don’t let it stop you from Radar controlling! 😊
Just make sure, you know your stuff and use it for practice and learning.

The rule of thumb I use (may be different for others):

  • if visibility is below 5NM then NO Visual Approach. I announce ‘Airport is only accepting ILS approaches at this time’
  • all heavies get an ILS approach from me. I ignore their ‘airport in sight’, or I say thank you ;)
  • GA and small airliners I allow Visual Approach.
  • If they don’t give me ‘Airport in sight’, then I assume they don’t know, and clear them anyway (shoot me!)

Good stuff here but IRL, the difference between getting an ILS vs a visual is distance dependent.(at least for busier airports and not smaller ones) If visual conditions exist, they may vector you for the ILS, request the airport in sight then once you have it in sight, you will be cleared for the visual approach.


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