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9 Things You Need To Consider When Flying Into Pilot Controlled Airfields

When you're flying into a pilot controlled field, there's a lot you need to be thinking about...

1) One Frequency, Multiple Airports

A lot of pilot controlled airports use the same CTAF or UNICOM frequency. It's important remember to always state the airport you're operating at during the beginning and end of your radio call.

2) Situational Awareness

There isn't a FAR that states that you must announce your position at pilot controlled fields, but it's highly recommended. And remember, just because you're making radio calls doesn't mean everyone else is.

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3) Automated Weather

Most fields have AWOS or ASOS, and the weather is updated as frequently as once a minute. This helps you to form a good mental picture of the current weather situation during arrival.

The U.S. Army

4) There Are No "Active Runways"

Because there isn't a governing facility mandating which runways are the active runways, it's up to you to determine the best runway for landing. You might choose one runway, and someone else might choose another. Make sure you announce your intensions over the frequency, and coordinate with the other traffic if necessary.

Ronnie Robertson

5) Be Courteous

Don't cut people off in the pattern, and avoid long straight-in approaches when there are other aircraft in the area. And when there's IFR traffic approaching the airport, whether they're actual IFR or simulated, give them space so that they can complete the approach.

stuart.mike

6) Traffic Pattern Direction

Standard traffic patterns have left turns, but not all patterns are standard. Make sure you check your VFR chart, or overfly the field and look at the segmented circle around the windsock for traffic pattern direction.

7) Pilot Controlled Lighting

Pilot controlled fields can be tough to spot as the sun gets low in the sky. Use pilot controlled lighting to locate the runway by keying the mic on CTAF frequency: 3 clicks for low intensity lights, 5 clicks for medium intensity, and 7 clicks for high intensity (where available). And remember once you've spotted the runway, it's typically a good idea to reduce lighting intensity so you're not blinded as you touch down.

Ronnie Robertson

8) Services, During Business Hours

Many pilot controlled fields don't offer as many services as you would see at towered fields. And when a field has services (the tick marks around the field on a sectional), it means they're attended and have fuel available from 10AM-4PM Monday-Friday at a minimum.

If you need to refill oxygen or need any other special services, make sure you coordinate ahead of time.

wiltshirespotter

9) NOTAMs

After all, you want to make sure you aren't landing on closed runways or operating on closed taxiways.


What else should you be thinking about a pilot controlled fields? Tell us in the comments below.

Corey Komarec

Corey is a commercial aviation student, Certified Flight Instructor and commercial pilot with multi-engine and instrument ratings at the University of North Dakota. He has been flying since 16 years old, and is pursuing a career in the airlines. You can reach him at corey@boldmethod.com.

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