Communicating with Approach/Departure/Center Controllers

When departing or approaching an airport or enroute, Infinite Flight supports three types of controllers:

  1. Departure
    Handles departing airplanes from a few seconds after take off, when tower transfers them, up to 18,000ft if Center is available.

  2. Approach
    Handles the incoming traffic to one or more airports.

  3. Center
    Handles enroute traffic, over long ranges, at altitudes above 18,000ft

Talking to those controllers is not mandatory when you are flying nowhere near airports, but it is recommended when approaching an airfield with lots of traffic.

There are 4 types of requests that can be sent to the controllers:

1. Flight Following

Flight following is when you would like the controller to know about you, where you come from, where you are going, and potentially get traffic advisories. This type of requests is only recommended when the frequency is not busy.

If you are in an airspace with lots of airplanes we advise against asking a controller for Flight Following.

In Flight Following, you are responsible for your own navigation, that includes your heading and altitude. Please do not ask for altitude change. The controller will most likely not respond.

Controllers might in occasion give you heading and altitude instructions to keep you away from other traffic. But will always issue a "Resume own navigation" once the traffic is no longer a factor.

Flight following can be done to another airport when one is present in the Flight Plan, but if no destination airport is specified, the "Flying VFR" option will be shown. Flying VFR is only recommended if the frequency is not busy.

2. Radar Vectors

Radar vectors is something you will ask any of the controllers if you would like them to guide you to your destination and keep you clear of all other traffic. As for flight following, a controller might deny the request and ask you to fly to your destination.

With Radar Vectors, the controller might ask you to maintain certain altitudes. The controller will normally guide you to a heading that will take you straight to the airport, then will ask you to switch to tower. Tower will then issue pattern entry instructions.

If you would like to be vectors for an ILS approach, you can request it at any time.

3. ILS Approach

When you request for ILS Approach, ATC will guide you from your current position to the ILS approach path at the destination airport.

They will issue a series of heading and altitude changes to take you to a 30 degrees interception course for the localizer, typically below the glideslope. Once you are cleared for the ILS, make sure you maintain the assigned altitude, and once you are crossing the localizer, turn inbound, join the glideslope and follow the ILS down to the runway.

You are responsible for making that last turn to final. The controller will not instruct you to turn to the runway heading.

Once on final, of shortly before, the Approach controller will transfer you to tower. When on tower frequency, make sure you specify the "On the ILS for Runway XX" in the "Call Inbound" option so they know where you are.

Tips

  • Do not ask for ILS when you're too close to the field, or too low. ATC will most likely ask you to turn outbound for an approach or ask you to contact tower directly.
  • When approaching, speed is your responsibility. ATC might issue speed commands for traffic separation and flow, but if you come in at 250kts on that 30 degree interception course, you might have a hard time to not overshoot. The controller also might have difficulty vectoring airplanes that don't go at normal approach speeds.

    Here's a quick chart to help, try to follow those speeds unless instructed otherwise by ATC:
    10,000ft250kts
    8,000ft200kts
    6,000ft180kts
    4,000ft160kt
    < 4000ftFinal Approach speed
  • Do not ask for altitude change permission if you're in Flight Following or Free Flight.
  • ATC might deny approach or radar vector requests depending on their workload.
  • If you request an ILS at an airport that is outside of the controller sector, they will ask you to fly on your own, or transfer you to another frequency if available.
  • During peak times, ATC might send out messages like "Portland Approach is only accepting ILS approaches at this time". This means that other requests will be denied. Please do not send anything else besides ILS approaches to the airfield that is tied to this approach.
  • Resume own navigation means that you are free to fly at whatever heading and altitude you want.
  • Do not send the "Check in" message if you haven't requested anything to the previous controller. 
  • Be patient, approach controllers can sometimes be overloaded.
  • If the frequency is busy, please do not contact Approach from too far away, they might not respond to you. Fly inbound and contact Approach when you're about 70  to a 100 NM from the arrival airfield.
  • As with other ATC entities, use common sense, do not jam the frequency, act foolish, etc...
  • When you are with an Approach/Departure/Center control, do not change frequency unless instructed to do so by the controller, especially if you are being guided for an ILS approach.

Feedback and Knowledge Base