discussion will give you a good basic introduction to tower-controlled airfield operations. Study
the following explanations and procedures.
To operate at a tower-controlled field, you must first know the airport's airspace classification.
During your preflight preparation, refer to the appropriate Flight Information Publications (FLIP)
(i.e., the VFR Sectional Chart, En route Supplement, etc.), to find this information. If the tower
is in Class D airspace, your initial radio contact will be with tower directly. If the tower is in
Class C airspace, you will first contact the appropriate approach control to receive clearance to
the airfield. For example, flying into Mobile Downtown (Class D), you would directly contact
tower. Flying into Mobile Regional (Class C), you would first contact Mobile Approach and
follow their instructions to the airfield. If a navigational aid (NAVAID) is located at the field,
you should tune it up to help navigate to the airport; if not, use your charts and visually navigate
to the airport.
Obtain the ATIS information, if available, prior to the initial radio contact with approach control
or tower. In the absence of an ATIS, some airfields offer the same type of information through
an Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS).
Once under tower control, the controller will direct how he/she would like you to enter the
pattern (unless governed by a local procedure). Realize the tower controller coordinates/de-
conflicts both IFR and VFR traffic and many times these aircraft aren't on the same radio
frequency. Clear vigilantly for traffic.
Based on many factors, such as traffic, aircraft arrival angle to the airport, weather, etc., tower
will normally direct either a straight-in, downwind entry, base entry, or the overhead/break into
Typically, you will see the overhead/break only at military fields,
and the procedures will flow like the "Break Entry" explained in
the previous section.
If the tower controller clears/directs you to enter a right downwind, attempt to intercept the
downwind leg with a ~45° intercept (recommended) with the runway off your right side (a right
downwind causes right turns). Moreover, intercepting a right base will give you a right turn to
Unlike the OLF, the tower controller will be more directive with radio calls as he/she de-conflicts
traffic. Thus, you can expect more delayed turns and maneuvers that aid in aircraft separation at
a tower-controlled field. Furthermore, you must request and be cleared over the radio to turn
crosswind (after a touch and go, for example) before initiating the crosswind turn. Additionally,
at civilian fields, you are expected to roll out of the approach turn and the crosswind turn to clear
for traffic as opposed to the continuous turns of the Navy pattern. Your instructor will provide