Flying an Approach Into an Uncontrolled Pattern

You are flying an ILS approach into an uncontrolled pattern. The weather in the pattern permits VFR. There are other pilots buzzing around the airport.

As you change from ATC’s frequency to the airport’s common traffic advisory frequency, what are you thinking about? Completing that ILS? Sure. If you are like me, you are thinking about whether another plane established in the pattern is going conflict with you as you arrive on short approach.


Here’s what you can do to avoid turning your single-wing airplane into a biplane at the point where your ILS straight-in crosses paths with VFR aircraft on base-to-final.

Show Notes:

Aeronautical Information Manual 4-1-9 4−1−9. Traffic Advisory Practices at Airports Without Operating Control Towers

TBL 4−1−1
Summary of Recommended Communication Procedures

Under “Practice Instrument Approaches”, “No Tower, FSS, UNICOM”–Make a position report: “Departing final approach fix (name) or final approach segment inbound.”

Coincident with VFR procedures, inbound to the airport: “Report 10 miles out. Report leaving the runway.”

My Techniques

15 miles or more out, with time, workload, and radio traffic permitting, either request off frequency with ATC or quickly switch to UNICOM on Radio 2 and announce:

“Fenway Traffic, Skyhawk 9130 Delta, 15 miles northwest, inbound ILS Runway 15, full stop, Fenway.”

After ATC says, “Radar service terminated. Frequency change approved,” make another position report, time and workload permitting:

“Fenway Traffic, Skyhawk 9130 Delta, 10 miles northwest, 5,500, ILS Runway 15 inbound, full stop, Fenway.”

At 2 to 3 miles from landing, make a last chance report:

“Fenway Traffic, Skyhawk 9130 Delta 2-mile final, Runway 15, full stop, Fenway.”

Report leaving the runway:

“Fenway Traffic, Skyhawk 9130 Delta, exiting Runway 15, Fenway.”

2 comments… add one
  • John Link Reply

    My flight instructor taught me that there is no priority for IFR traffic on a VFR day in a non controlled airport. The airport we fly out of runs a flight school, so this happens quite often. Usually we will break off early and join the downwind on the 45. He also tells me to leave out the instrument approach I’m on in my calls, because most students there won’t know what that is.

    • JeffK Link Reply


      Your instructor is correct on all points. I agree 100%.


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