Does App tell tower you intend to Circle-to-land? No?

Matt777

Well-Known Member
Yesterday I had my first miscommunication with a controller...

I told SEA Approach that we wanted a circle-to-land. When I get handed off to the Class D tower and tell him I am FAF inbound, he says, " continue ". (GPS 17 approach Rwy 35 in use).
I continue and he never says a word, so when we break right off the Final App Course for our circle to land I announce, " Making left downwind for 35 " to which he is clearly surprised. He wasn't upset and really didn't seem to care, but he was assuming a straight-in low approach I guess when I requested a Circle to App.

I've done these same approaches many other times and have never had this happen. Now that I think about it, normally when I call up tower they tell me to call a 3 mile final and then when I do they say "circle to the west, report starting the circle". This controller just said "continue".

Maybe App forgot to tell tower that we were a circle?

thanks for the help!
 

MikeFavinger

Hubschrauber Flieger
Whatever happened, the miscommunication is easily avoided with your check in to tower.

Blank Tower, Cessna 12345 at FIX, GPS 17 circle 35.
 

BajtheJino

I'm looking at you.
Whatever happened, the miscommunication is easily avoided with your check in to tower.

Blank Tower, Cessna 12345 at FIX, GPS 17 circle 35.
:yeahthat: Never assume that people communicate your intentions with the hand off. Besides even if they do what does it hurt to check on with what you're doing "descending, level, climbing..." "direct xxx" "heading 090" "outside/inside (faf fix)"
 

Matt777

Well-Known Member
When we are told to contact tower at the FAF/OM do you guys care if we contact you a mile after the fix or 3 miles before the fix?

Since new instrument students are so busy at the fix I teach them to call 2 miles before the fix and say " Approaching NOLLA", for example.

Would it be acceptable to call 1 or 1.5 miles past the fix and say " Inside NOLLA"? or is that too late? Usually it seems like Tower doesn't really care about where I am until I " report a 3 mile final" as requested. Of course if there is a jet behind me it is important to be on freq ASAP. What is the controller's view?
 

Matt777

Well-Known Member
:yeahthat: Never assume that people communicate your intentions with the hand off. Besides even if they do what does it hurt to check on with what you're doing "descending, level, climbing..." "direct xxx" "heading 090" "outside/inside (faf fix)"
It's funny because I always say what I'm doing when handed from one App or Center freq to another. When level I call up and say " SEA Center, 123DS 4,000'" at least.

However in this case, getting handed off to tower I didn't volunteer anything. This will be my new habit since it makes such good sense.
 

SteveC

Really?
Staff member
When we are told to contact tower at the FAF/OM do you guys care if we contact you a mile after the fix or 3 miles before the fix?

Since new instrument students are so busy at the fix I teach them to call 2 miles before the fix and say " Approaching NOLLA", for example.

Would it be acceptable to call 1 or 1.5 miles past the fix and say " Inside NOLLA"? or is that too late? Usually it seems like Tower doesn't really care about where I am until I " report a 3 mile final" as requested. Of course if there is a jet behind me it is important to be on freq ASAP. What is the controller's view?
I'm not a controller and I'm just shooting in the dark here, but I'm guessing that the reason they hand you off that way is so there is continuity on who you are talking to, when. Let's say that you are 1 mile outside the fix and all of a sudden another aircraft pops up with a fire emergency and is full speed towards the runway and you are on a collision course (yeah, I know!). The approach controller is the one who is expected to be able to call you and tell you to get your butt out of the way. If you've already made the switch to tower you won't get the word...bad news.

[/uneducated guess]
 

Juliet Lima

New Member
When we are told to contact tower at the FAF/OM do you guys care if we contact you a mile after the fix or 3 miles before the fix?
most class D's are built to contain the FAF within its confines. so technically, if u call a mile inside the fix you could possibly be an airspace violator for entering a class D without first establishing 2 way radio communication with the tower.

if u are IFR then there are exceptions because some of the responsibility lies on the approach controller to have you switched to tower in time. it is imperative that if you are on a practice VFR approach that you ensure your switched to tower prior to entering their airpsace. approach control is not responsible for you VFR practice approach guys getting switched over.

i know for myself that if i see you coming down final on an approach i'm not too worried about when you check in, even if its 2 miles inside my airspace on the approach. i already know your there so its not a surprise. you could run into the one controller that will violate you though for something like that. pretty weak a violation if that is the case.

anyway, based on your pilot workload at the FAF i would suggest calling 3 prior to the fix rather than after. always better to announce yourself earlier than late.
 

Matt777

Well-Known Member
most class D's are built to contain the FAF within its confines. so technically, if u call a mile inside the fix you could possibly be an airspace violator for entering a class D without first establishing 2 way radio communication with the tower.

if u are IFR then there are exceptions because some of the responsibility lies on the approach controller to have you switched to tower in time. it is imperative that if you are on a practice VFR approach that you ensure your switched to tower prior to entering their airpsace. approach control is not responsible for you VFR practice approach guys getting switched over.

i know for myself that if i see you coming down final on an approach i'm not too worried about when you check in, even if its 2 miles inside my airspace on the approach. i already know your there so its not a surprise. you could run into the one controller that will violate you though for something like that. pretty weak a violation if that is the case.

anyway, based on your pilot workload at the FAF i would suggest calling 3 prior to the fix rather than after. always better to announce yourself earlier than late.
Thanks for the responses! Yes, that is my rational also: earlier is better than later so that's why I've been calling early.

Actually, as a CFI I have never done a VFR practice approach because I need to enter the Class B to come home on the ILS into Boeing Field. If I was a controller I wouldn't want people calling me for pop-ups all the time when they could of filed DUATS and saved me a bunch of typing!

I think that if I switch to tower 3 miles early and there were an airplane with an emergency that needed to take my place on the ILS... Approach can call tower and tower can tell me to get out of the way. :)

this forum is great!
 

Matt777

Well-Known Member
aw man, gross. the dreaded dyslexic nightmare. runways 13 and 31. talk about "listening intently". the only thing worse is probably an airport that has runway 02/20.
Yeah I've had more than a few students who had a hard time getting it straight - especially foreign students who may be translating everything as they go.
Believe it or not I had not even noticed the numbers were reversed until a new student on an intro flight asked me if runway numbers were always reversed for opposite direction.

I've always known that BFI was 13/31 since I was about 12... so I never even thought about it until I was asked about it!
 

polo708

New Member
for me, my airport is too busy to get a late call from someone on final... if I have traffic and you call me 2 miles into my airspace then you are going to get breakout instructions. Im at a VFR tower and we dont constantly monitor the STARS radar, too busy looking out the window.

As for the circling approach, if 35 is in use and you are on an approach to 17 I expect you to circle to the runway in use (or fly a missed approach procedure prior to the runway)... unless approach coordinates with me to have you land opposite direction on 17.

Freq changes... change when you are told. There is usually a reason.
 

TripSix

Well-Known Member
Yesterday I had my first miscommunication with a controller...

I told SEA Approach that we wanted a circle-to-land. When I get handed off to the Class D tower and tell him I am FAF inbound, he says, " continue ". (GPS 17 approach Rwy 35 in use).
I continue and he never says a word, so when we break right off the Final App Course for our circle to land I announce, " Making left downwind for 35 " to which he is clearly surprised. He wasn't upset and really didn't seem to care, but he was assuming a straight-in low approach I guess when I requested a Circle to App.

I've done these same approaches many other times and have never had this happen. Now that I think about it, normally when I call up tower they tell me to call a 3 mile final and then when I do they say "circle to the west, report starting the circle". This controller just said "continue".

Maybe App forgot to tell tower that we were a circle?

thanks for the help!
A circle is included in the approach clearance, and when the direction of the circle is a requirement it is stated as well.

Sounds like something went askew - oversight, something in the scratchpad or coordination between controllers.

If you are sweating it, don't =)
 

TripSix

Well-Known Member
When we are told to contact tower at the FAF/OM do you guys care if we contact you a mile after the fix or 3 miles before the fix?

Since new instrument students are so busy at the fix I teach them to call 2 miles before the fix and say " Approaching NOLLA", for example.

Would it be acceptable to call 1 or 1.5 miles past the fix and say " Inside NOLLA"? or is that too late? Usually it seems like Tower doesn't really care about where I am until I " report a 3 mile final" as requested. Of course if there is a jet behind me it is important to be on freq ASAP. What is the controller's view?
My answer to your seemingly easy question started to look like War and Peace so I'll just say this:

There are an infinite number of factors in place here and your answer will be different from probably every air traffic controller you ask. Different regions of the country, different airspace, different procedures between facilities regading who is responsible for the what, when and where of separation.

I would highly advise you execute the frequency change when/where it is issued. You have both an arrival controller and a tower controller doing a compression dance. If you're not where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there and either of those controllers can't hold their separation as a result - there is going to be a problem. That's without going down the obvious road that if there is an emergency you're not where you're supposed to be and well...that's just not good for anyone involved.

Understand I give you the above opinion from a place where aircraft are packed in like sardines on final because the days where visual isn't used are few and far between, and surrounding airport proximity and runway configuration gives you a bit of squeak room if something unanticipated happens. I used to work in the Seattle area and it's a whole different ballgame - with those pesky clouds/fog messing up your visual mojo (thus, having to protect a missed approach segment), and airports being crammed on top of each other...so, milage may vary.
 

PilotChip

Air Traffic Controller
At our VFR tower your approach is coordinated with tracon so you don't necessarily have to establish 2-way comm prior to crossing the D boundary. IF you are not on flight following or you did NOT coordinate some type of approach clearance (vfr or ifr or without sep svcs on final) you shall estab your 2-way prior to the boundary.

If it's a VOR or other type approach NOT aligned with the landing runway (titled, for example VOR-A approach) how could you NOT circle to the landing runway? (that's my own question for you)

We (twr) will issue your circling instructions once you report the airport in sight.

"N222HB, circle northeast of the runway for a left base to runway 19, cleared to land."

YOU are responsible for beginning your circling maneuver INSIDE of your circling min distance from the runway. Don't rely on the twr to watch your circling distance, it's your responsibility.

Hope to clear somet things up, but remember, each facility may be diff!

JC
 

PilotChip

Air Traffic Controller
ah. duh. good point. INQUIRE!

when you report the airport in sight if the tower doesn't issue instructions or just clears you to land, perform a standard circling maneuver to the approach end of the runway.

i'm not IFR rated yet so i'm not sure of the specifics on the pilot side of circling but i'm assuming you would fly the shortest circling route to the landing threshold. remember always to maintain visual with the airport though. especially if it's nasty out.
 

PilotChip

Air Traffic Controller
And I now correct myself. We no longer issue circling phraseology, however, in the military the tower would issue circling instructions to the final controller for PAR or ASR approaches. The final controller would then issue that clearance to the aircraft.
 

ATLTRACON

MODERATOR
We always verbally coordinate, either on the landline or in the data block scratchpad, when the aircraft is circling. In almost all cases it will be verbally coordinated and then approved/disapproved by the tower as it is an opposite direction approach and we don't have the luxury of many slow times at PDK, LZU, RYY or FTY.
 

TheresaPilot

Well-Known Member
for me, my airport is too busy to get a late call from someone on final... if I have traffic and you call me 2 miles into my airspace then you are going to get breakout instructions. Im at a VFR tower and we dont constantly monitor the STARS radar, too busy looking out the window.

As for the circling approach, if 35 is in use and you are on an approach to 17 I expect you to circle to the runway in use (or fly a missed approach procedure prior to the runway)... unless approach coordinates with me to have you land opposite direction on 17.

Freq changes... change when you are told. There is usually a reason.
The Class D I fly out of all the time is also very busy and doesn't have the time to allow pilots to pass FAF without a call at FAF or even when intercepting FAC inbound (if opposite runway traffic).

To keep everything the same and simple (KISS), just say everything that you have said to the last controller, ie, Skyhawk 12345 heading 210 to intercept final for ILS RWY17 circle to land 35 just so there is no hassle. Not all controllers are going to be as nice about it as your controller was.
 
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