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4 Answers

Cleared visual approach, when to switch to tower frequency

Asked by: 855 views Instrument Rating

I'm unsure when to switch to tower when cleared by ATC for visual approach under an IFR flight plan. Do I switch as soon as I hear the words "cleared visual approach"? Or do I wait for ATC to instruct me. I believe I should wait for specific instruction to contact tower just as on any other instrument approach. 

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4 Answers



  1. Jake144 on Aug 02, 2016

    In my experience, I’ve always been told to switch to Tower. Approach is waiting for the Tower to be ready to recieve you, switching and calling too early can (and has gotten me) a “just contact me when you are 5 miles out”. It’s best to wait, but sometimes they do hand you off late. If you really feel like you should be on with Twr by now, ask for a freq change or if you have the field in sight, say that. That may be what App is waiting to hear, 9/10 times that’ll get you a change.

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  2. Best Answer


    Jeff on Aug 02, 2016

    ATC should give you an instruction like “Frequency change approved, contact tower xxx.xx” When landing at a non-towered airport they should say something like “radar service terminated. change to advisory frequency approved. cancel IFR with me in the air or on the ground with flight service.”

    If they don’t say this to you, you can always ask if you think they should have switched you over by then.

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  3. sr22captain on Aug 03, 2016

    So next question. Let’s say hypothetically if one did not get the frequency hand off from ATC but switched to tower frequency anyway after being cleared for visual by ATC, did one violate a FAR?

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  4. John D Collins on Aug 04, 2016

    I think that it is unlikely you will be called to account, but one might construe that you were in violation of:

    Sec. 91.123

    Compliance with ATC clearances and instructions.

    (a) When an ATC clearance has been obtained, no pilot in command may deviate from that clearance unless an amended clearance is obtained, an emergency exists, or the deviation is in response to a traffic alert and collision avoidance system resolution advisory. However, except in Class A airspace, a pilot may cancel an IFR flight plan if the operation is being conducted in VFR weather conditions. When a pilot is uncertain of an ATC clearance, that pilot shall immediately request clarification from ATC.
    (b) Except in an emergency, no person may operate an aircraft contrary to an ATC instruction in an area in which air traffic control is exercised

    Sec. 91.183 IFR communications.

    Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, the pilot in command of each aircraft operated under IFR in controlled airspace must ensure that a continuous watch is maintained on the appropriate frequency

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