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10 Answers

Do I Contact Tower or TRACON for Instrument Approach?

Asked by: 2202 views
Airspace, Instrument Rating

If I wanted to shoot an instrument approach into a class D airport that underlies class C airspace, who do I need to contact for the approach? 

10 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Nov 17, 2014

    Are you asking whether you should contact Terminal Radar Approach Control for an approach clearance?

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  2. Ash on Nov 17, 2014

    Hey Drew,

    The easiest place to look for the appropriate ATC frequency to contact for an instrument approach would be on the instrument approach plate itself. Look for it in the briefing strip section (top of the plate). It will be the approach controller – not the control tower – that you will want to contact first in order to get a clearance to fly the approach. Once you are established on the final approach segment of the approach, anticipate getting switched to the control tower frequency (if not, make sure you request it before entering the Class D airspace!). I hope that clarifies it …

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  3. Drew on Nov 17, 2014

    I ask this mainly because there’s a couple of approaches that you can fly without contacting TRACON because the approach segment is not in their airspace? Should I know and fly the approaches that can be flown without TRACON, or does it not hurt to simply call TRACON every time?

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  4. Mark Kolber on Nov 17, 2014

    Drew, do you have a specific approach as an example?

    As Ash said, the approach plate will tell you who is providing approach services, and in areas not served by a TRACON, it will typically be Center. And, in the real world, where you are coming from somewhere in contact with ATC the whole time, you will simply be handed off to the proper facility.

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  5. Kris Kortokrax on Nov 18, 2014

    What might be missing from this discussion is whether Drew might be asking about a practice approach. There are a couple of towered airports in the Chicago area where it is common practice to just call the tower and request a long straight-in approach or a practice approach without calling approach.

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  6. Drew on Nov 18, 2014

    Kris, you are correct. Sorry for not including that information. If a practice approach altitude and route doesn’t transit through class C, is it common practice to simply contact tower?

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  7. Best Answer


    Kris Kortokrax on Nov 18, 2014

    It may be acceptable in your area. Best ways to find out would be

    1. Call the tower on the phone ahead of time and ask them

    2. Call the tower on the radio and ask for the practice approach. If they don’t ship you to approach, it’s OK.

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  8. Mark Kolber on Nov 20, 2014

    Drew, the issue isn’t whether the approach requires transit though class C. The issue is whether TRACON serves the approach (that approach plate again). Understand what Approach is doing. They are sequencing traffic in the approach environment. Even for class D and E and even Get airports.

    There’s no regulatory requirement to use ATC at all for a practice approach but if I wanted to use ATC services in the approach environment, I would always use the one listed on the approximate plate. If for some reason I didn’t want to into class D, I’d fly the approach and contact tower to advise them I was flying a practice approach and what I wanted to do in their airspace, just like any other VFR traffic, unless there was some airport-specific procedure that was different than the usual one. As Kris said, calling and asking would be the way to find out.

    Is there a reason you don’t want to talk to them?

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  9. Drew on Nov 20, 2014

    Thank you for the explanation, Mark.

    I just didn’t one to be “that guy” who bothers the wrong controller for a simple procedure; I promise it’s not because I have a phobia of talking to TRACON.

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  10. Mark Kolber on Nov 21, 2014

    Ah. “bothering the controller” is a very time and location specific thing. I won’t even attempt any generalities in that one.

    Consider busy airspace as an example. You might think the controller might not want to be bothered, and that might indeed be the case, but she might very well prefer knowing everyone is in radio contract and following instructions instead of wandering around anonymously.

    Practice approaches with ATC are a bit like flight following – workload based. Don’t worry, if they are too busy to handle you they will tell you.

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