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When descending your aircraft you will eventually have to talk to an approach unit, so that they can vector you around to the final approach course for the runway at the airport. This can be a high paced environment, with lots of transmissions being given in quick succession and the controller will need information from you when you initially call them up. So we thought we would give you a handy guide on what to say to the approach unit.

Cleared Level

Enroute will typically issue descent instructions to you before you talk to the approach unit, and therefore it is important to let the approach unit know what level you are descending to so that they can verify the information on their flight strips. The controller will not however need to know what your passing level is, as this was verified by the enroute or departure controller

Aircraft type

The approach controller needs to know your aircraft type, this is because they need to confirm that the aircraft type on the flight strip is correct, as this affects things like wake turbulence separation, which if incorrect, can lead to aircraft literally falling out of the sky.

ATIS information

As we saw in the how to request a clearance blog that you can read here, the controller needs to know that you have the up to date airport information and weather. This includes the expected approach type and any other relevant information like taxiway closures. Make sure that you check the metar before you talk to the approach unit.

So many times whilst controlling Gatwick will the METAR say expect an ILS appraoch runway 26 left, and so I will tell the pilot landing runway 26 left no delay etc and the pilot wioll either ask “what runway?” or “what approach should I expect?”. All for something that takes a minute to listen to.

Other relevant information

The enroute controller may issue speed restrictions or headings before passing you onto the approach unit due to conflicting traffic. In these cases they will tell you to report your speed, or report your heading to the approach unit. Again, like with the cleared level, it is important that you give the approach unit this informaiton so that they can confirm that the informaiton on their flight strip is correct and know what you are doing.

Requesting a non-standard approach

So many times am I controlling, you get a pilot call you up and you tell them its vectoring for an ILS approach, and then the pilot says they want an RNP approach. You need to make this request in the initial callup, as for some types of approaches, the approach unit needs to coordinate with tower to see if they can accept the approach before issuing it to you.

We will now see some examples of how to call up an approach unit
On own navigation

“Gatwick director good evening, TOM4575 descending FL80, type B788, information A”

Report your speed

“Gatwick director good evening, TOM4575 descending FL80, type B788, information A, speed 270 knots”

Report your heading

“Gatwick director good evening, TOM4575 descending FL80, type B788, information A, heading 090 degrees”

I was watching a video on ATC in the UK and heard a wierd phrase that I thought I would share. The controller asked the pilot to report his high speed to a controller, so I thought I would just mention this to you as food for thought.

Have fun flying my friends and remember Aviate, Navigate, Communicate

1 Comment

How to contact the departure controller (UK) - Aviation Sim UK · Sun 15, August, 2021 at 7:48 pm

[…] How to contact the approach unit when arriving at an airport? […]

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