At towered airports, the pilot must establish and maintain communications with and follow the instructions from the control tower. Prior to contacting the tower, the pilot should receive the current ATIS information, if available for that airport.


The Automated Terminal Information Service is a recording of the local weather conditions and other pertinent non-control information, played on a loop. It is normally updated once per hour, but will be updated more often when changing local conditions warrant.

When the ATIS is recorded, it is given a code. This code is changed with every ATIS update. For example, ATIS alpha is replaced by ATIS bravo. The next hour ATIS charlie is recorded, followed by ATIS delta, etc.

Prior to calling the tower controller, the pilot tunes to the ATIS frequency and listens to the recorded broadcast. The broadcast ends with a statement containing the ATIS code. For example, "advise on initial contact, you have information bravo".

On contacting the tower controller, the pilot states information bravo was received. This allows the tower controller to verify the pilot has the current local weather and airport information, without having to state it all to each pilot who calls. This also clears the tower frequency from being overtaken by the constant relay of the same information, which would result without an ATIS broadcast.

Sometimes the ATIS broadcast will omit the sky condition and ceiling from the weather conditions. This omission indicates to the pilot that the ceiling is more than 5,000 feet and the visibility is greater than 5 statute miles.

Class B and C Tower Procedures

If landing at a towered airport inside class B or C airspace, approach control will switch you to the tower frequency at the appropriate time. Class B and C procedures will be detailed later.

Class D Arrival Procedures

Similar to a non-towered airport, make your initial radio call to the control tower when about ten miles out. Give the tower controller the following information:

1) Who you are calling

2) Who you are

3) Where you are

4) What altitude you are at

5) What you want to do

6) What ATIS information you have

For example, "Downtown tower, Cessna Two Two Four Bravo Kilo, ten miles northeast at three thousand, inbound for landing with bravo".

The tower controller will respond with any necessary instructions. For example, the tower controller might respond with, "Cessna Two Two Four Bravo Kilo, Downtown Tower, Roger". When the tower controller states your aircraft callsign, communications with the tower have been established. Communications must be established with the tower prior to entering the Class D airspace area, which is usuallyy the airspace within four nautical miles of the airport, below 2,500 feet AGL.

Note: Should an towered airport lie in Class E or G airspace, regulations require radio communications be established with the control tower prior to flying within four nautical miles of the airport, below 2,500 feet AGL.

If the tower controller were to reply, "Cessna Two Two Four Bravo Kilo, Downtown Tower, Standby", communications have still been established. The controller stated your callsign.

usuallyy, the tower controller will provide you an instruction, such as, "Cessna Two Two Four Bravo Kilo, Downtown Tower, enter the left base for runway two two".

Prior to landing, a landing clearance must be received.

After landing, the control tower may instruct you to turn off on a particular taxiway. Otherwise, you can turn off at the first convenient taxiway. The tower will then have you switch to the ground control frequency and contact the air traffic controller in charge of all ground movement on the airport. Common ground frequencies are 121.7 and 121.9. Because of this, controller's often omit the 121 part of the frequency, assuming that you'll know the ground frequency will begin with 121. For example, "Cessna Four November Kilo, turn left on taxiway foxtrot, contact ground point niner". The ground controller will then issue instructions and clearances as you move to parking.

Notice in this example the controller did not state the full call sign, but instead abbreviated it to "Cessna Four November Kilo". Anytime a controller abbreviates your call sign in this manner, you may also abbreviate your call sign. The controller must be the first to abbreviate, however. When you make radio contact with a new controller, state your full call sign and do not abbreviate it unless the controller does so first. The controller may elect to continue using your full call sign to avoid confusion with a similar sounding call sign on the frequency.

Transition Procedures

On initial contact, state your request to transition the airspace. For example, "Columbia Tower, Cherokee Four Eight Four Alpha India, ten miles to the west at three thousand five hundred to transition your airspace from the west to the east".

The tower might reply with, "Cherokee Four Eight Four Alpha India, Columbia Tower, transition approved".

Again, the tower must respond with your callsign in order for radio communications to have been established.

Departure Procedures

The airport surface is divided into movement and non-movement areas. The ground controller has authority over all the movement areas on the airport. Ground control does not exercise control over the non-movement areas of the airport, areas such as those areas near hangars, fuel pumps, and parking areas. A movement area marking on the pavement tells pilots where the movement area begins and ends on the airport surface.

Prior to entering the movement area, listen to the ATIS broadcast and contact the ground controller. Advise the controller of your location and intentions. For example, "Columbia Ground, Cessna Seven Three One Bravo Tango, at the general aviation ramp to taxi, departing northwest, with x-ray".

The ground controller will respond with instructions. For example, "Cessna Seven Three One Bravo Tango, Columbia Ground, taxi via bravo to runway three".

Upon reaching the departure runway and completing pre-departure checks, contact the tower controller for takeoff clearance. For example, "Columbia Tower, Cessna Seven Three One Bravo Tango, ready for departure, runway three". The tower might respond, "Cessna Seven Three One Bravo Tango, Columbia Tower, wind zero two zero at one one, runway three, cleared for takeoff, left turn northwest bound approved".

Satellite Airports

Arrivals to satellite airports must contact the appropriate control tower if the Class D airspace will be penetrated. Satellite departures must contact tower as soon as feasible after departure.