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9 Ways To Prepare For Flying Into Busy Airports

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Before you go, make sure you have a plan.

1) Plan ahead

Calling the tower on the phone ahead of time is a good way to get started. Ask them about busy and slow times of day to fly into their airspace, as well as any local procedures you should be aware of. For very busy airports, flying at off-peak hours can make your flight a lot more manageable.


2) Get familiar with the procedures

If there are specific arrival procedures or reporting points, make sure you're familiar with them. And if ATC asks you to report a local waypoint that you can't locate, tell them, and ask if you can report a radial/DME distance from the airport instead.


3) Choose the right aircraft

Flying into busy airspace with an ADS-B or TIS equipped plane helps you keep an eye on other traffic, and helps avoid potential conflicts.

Kyle Harmon

4) Bring another pilot

Flying into busy airspace can be very demanding. Have another pilot tag along to help complete checklists, run radios, and scan for traffic. And before you go, make sure you brief the flight so everyone knows what their role will be.


5) Consider going IFR

Because the IFR world is more structured, consider filing an IFR flight plan before you go (if you are instrument rated, of course). Going IFR makes flying through busy airspace more simple and straight-forward.


6) Make sure you're comfortable

If most of your flying experience comes from non-towered fields, spend some time reviewing ATC procedures before you go. Chapter 4 of the AIM is a good starting point, and videos of ATC communication help too.


7) Write down clearances

Finding a break in radio transmissions at busy airports can be a task in itself. When you get a clearance, write it down so you don't forget.


8) Keep your speed up

Just because your final approach speed is 61 knots, doesn't mean you need to fly that speed 10 miles from the airport. If you can, keep your speed up until final (or when you enter the pattern, if that's what ATC asks you to do) to keep things flowing smoothly.


9) Use a taxi diagram

Once you pick up ATIS on your way in, have a plan of what runway(s) you're most likely to land on, and how you'll get to parking. Pull up a taxi diagram in your paper charts or EFB, and make a mental note of the direction you'll need to go. Then, when you get your taxi clearance from ground control, draw it out with your finger to make sure you know where you're going, and what taxiways/runways you'll need to cross to get there.


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Corey Komarec

Corey is an Embraer 175 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota, and he's been flying since he was 16. You can reach him at

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