Welcome Guest. Sign in or Signup

6 Answers

Proper phraseology when using center as approach / departure?

Asked by: 2781 views , ,
Airspace, General Aviation, Private Pilot, Student Pilot

I'm used to towered airports with dedicated approach and departure controllers you contact when inbound to land who then hand you to the tower. (TRSA or class C)

When approaching a class delta with just a tower frequency, if I wanted approach services, what's the proper phraseology for an initial call that says I'm inbound to land?

For a normal approach controller it would be "[Airport] Approach, Cessna 12345, 10 South inbound full stop with Zulu" but I'm not sure if it would just be...

"XYC Center, Cessna 12345, 10 South inbound to [Airport Name] full stop with Zulu" - ?

(Under this example, you wouldn't be under vfr flight following or in contact with ATC beforehand)

Thank you

Ace Any FAA Written Test!
Actual FAA Questions / Free Lifetime Updates
The best explanations in the business
Fast, efficient study.
Pass Your Checkride With Confidence!
FAA Practical Test prep that reflects actual checkrides.
Any checkride: Airplane, Helicopter, Glider, etc.
Written and maintained by actual pilot examiners and master CFIs.
The World's Most Trusted eLogbook
Be Organized, Current, Professional, and Safe.
Highly customizable - for student pilots through pros.
Free Transition Service for users of other eLogs.
Our sincere thanks to pilots such as yourself who support AskACFI while helping themselves by using the awesome PC, Mac, iPhone/iPad, and Android aviation apps of our sponsors.

6 Answers

  1. Best Answer


    Bill Trussell on Jan 15, 2013

    In each case for the establishment of communications the best method is to follow: “who you are, where you are, and what you want to do” In this case your example “XYC Center, Cessna 12345, 10 South inbound to [Airport Name] full stop with Zulu” is nearly correct except you should include what specific services you are requesting. In your example it is best to add “requesting traffic advisories inbound to XXXX” this way the controller knows what services to provide to you. In the case of services provided by one of the 20 air route traffic control centers you may experience a very busy controller. In this case it is best to break up your request into an initial call ” who you are and where you are and “request”. They will answer you in sequence. Also know that you may be denied services if you are VFR as services are offered on a “as workload permits” basis but my experience is that this is rarely done.

    Most importantly, please be prepared to listen very actively when on a center frequency and be mindful of a quick handoff to the tower frequency. Also remember that it is still your responsibility to contact the tower outside of the Class D airspace to initiate a “dialog” prior to entry. This is in spite of receiving advisory services from Center.

    +1 Votes Thumb up 2 Votes Thumb down 1 Votes



  2. Lagmanbek on Jan 15, 2013

    Flying in and out of KGMU (Class D), the call is, “Greenville Tower, Cessna 1234, 10 miles West of the airfield, inbound to land” or similar. They’re not picky over whether or not you’ve listened to the ASOS or not, but KGYH (just a few miles South) turns off their AWOS so you’ll get it from them during operating hours. If you call “Greenville Center” or “Greenville Approach” they’ll correct you, or ask you if you’re calling someone else! 😉

    0 Votes Thumb up 4 Votes Thumb down 4 Votes



  3. Matthew Waugh on Jan 15, 2013

    You’re not going to get “approach services” from a center, for the fairly obvious reason that they are not an approach control (which affects the kind of radar they have and their ability to separate traffic). So you are unlikely to get vectored for a runway or sequenced for the approach.

    I guess the point I’m making is, if you haven’t felt the need for flight following during your flight it’s not clear to me why you would want flight following as you approach an airport. You’re not going to get any different or better services BECAUSE you are approaching an airport.

    +3 Votes Thumb up 3 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes



  4. Peter Roberts on Jan 15, 2013

    Hi Heather,

    it seems to me that you should take a look though the Aeronautical Information Manual, Chapter 4, sections 1 thru 5 and perhaps discuss it with a qualified CFI. 4-3-2 specifically deals with airports that have an operating control tower.

    Control towers only sequence traffic. If it is some other service that you require, such as VFR radar traffic advisories (commonly known as “flight following”) then if you are already approaching the class delta airspace you have left it too late! The AIM advises pilots to initiate contact with a tower about 15 miles from the airport.

    Some towers have a radar screen in the cab and may assign a squawk code. This is for their own situational awareness and should not lull you into thinking that you are somehow safer.
    VFR flying is always based on the “see and avoid concept”. If you receive instructions from a tower controller you should follow them unless you feel that it will violate a regulation or compromise the safety of flight.

    Safe flying and remember ” knowledge is power”

    0 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes



  5. Peter Roberts on Jan 15, 2013

    PS a tower is a tower and therefore you address them as such, see Lagmanbeck’s example, however you should attempt to copy the ATIS before calling and if you have done so you should say ” with —- ” at the end of your initial call.

    0 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes



  6. Lagmanbek on Feb 19, 2013

    Anyone want to own up to why my answer got two negative votes? Errant click, or am i really missing something on answering the question?

    0 Votes Thumb up 0 Votes Thumb down 0 Votes


Answer Question

Our sincere thanks to all who contribute constructively to this forum in answering flight training questions. If you are a flight instructor or represent a flight school / FBO offering flight instruction, you are welcome to include links to your site and related contact information as it pertains to offering local flight instruction in a specific geographic area. Additionally, direct links to FAA and related official government sources of information are welcome. However we thank you for your understanding that links to other sites or text that may be construed as explicit or implicit advertising of other business, sites, or goods/services are not permitted even if such links nominally are relevant to the question asked.