April 13, 2018

VFR Communications in the Circuit


This second article will deal with position reports in the circuit, having in mind the objective of keeping these VFR communications clear, concise and standardized.

Around the traffic pattern, the first consideration in communicating one’s position is safety and then complying with the stated requirements. And it should start with broadcasting one’s departure procedure intentions before moving onto the runway. Once airborne, the pilot should comply as much as practical with the standard reporting in the circuit. However, generally in some areas, student pilots have been taught to report indiscriminately up to four times in their local traffic pattern and will evidently continue to do so everywhere else after they are licensed.

Unnecessary Position Reports. Unless traffic dictates otherwise, only two transmissions are required in the circuit. Arriving, TC’s AIM directs pilots operating within an MF and ATF to report when joining the aerodrome traffic circuit, giving the aircraft’s position in the circuit; when on downwind leg, if applicable; when on final approach; and when clear of the surface on which the aircraft has landed. Unchecked, the practice of reporting four times can lead to frequency congestion under heavy traffic, particularly at those airports where, for instance, Air Cadet Glider training is taking place, a flight school is simultaneously conducting dual flight training and launching solo’s, and inbound traffic is approaching, or at Air Meets. So, for consecutive circuits with touch-and-goes for example, only two radio reports are required, downwind and final, provided that the intentions given are not limited to the touchdown phase of the circuit.

Incomplete Intentions given on Final. If we transpose ourselves in a control zone, intentions must be provided to the controller before obtaining clearance to land for a landing with a full stop on the runway, a touch-and-go, or the option with ensuing departure procedure, or the continuation of circuits. When uncontrolled, these same corresponding intentions (plural) should be broadcasted on final for the benefit of the arriving and local traffic. Again, when properly made, the report on final will minimize radio transmissions. Also and as stated in my first article on the subject, when on-going flight is planned and transmitted on final, the pilot can concentrate exclusively on the parameters of this crucial phase. For continuous circuits, the AIM with reference to CAR 602.102, direct to: ‘Report when on final approach; stating the pilot-in-command’s intentions. Note the use of plural.

Examples: ‘XXX Radio\Unicom\Traffic FABC on final for Landing, or Touch-and-go and the Circuit, or Stop-and-go, or Touch-and-go with departure to the West for CYXX’ at 2500 feet’. Note that for a Stop-and-Go, full departure intentions must be given on the runway, not the take-off only.

The following videos about approaching and landing at an MF and ATF zone are pertinent:



The next article will cover communications on cross-country and local area flights.