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Is it typical for ATC to make you circle all the way around to land?


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Is it typical for ATC to make you circle all the way around and use a different runway from the one your closest to coming in on? It seems many times when I fly to an airport and I'd be pretty well lined up to land on a certain runway and then ATC almost never clears me to land straight in when I request landing clearance. They want me to fly all the way around and land from the other side.


Maybe this is common in the real world, I don't know. Or do airports tend to have certain traffic patterns for landings?

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Firstly, yes, it's typical, especially in FSX. ATC regularly tells you "turn left heading 150" and just when you get settled on 150, "turn right heading 200" which was your original heading 15 seconds ago. It's just FSX make-work trying to simulate all the vectors you might get from real world Approach Control.


In both real world and FSX, ATC designates active runways based on terrain obstructions and wind direction. Some airports only allow takeoffs in one direction while allowing landings in both directions (St. Barts, for example) due to adverse terrain.


There is a wind-speed threshold, which I believe is 6 knots, so until the tailwind component exceeds 6 knots, they will continue to use that runway. Some addon airports "mess with" this in-built logic. Las Vegas (KLAS) is notorious for this, almost always giving you Rwy 25 no matter where you're coming in from or what the wind is doing.


In the real world, changing a major airport's runways is a "big deal" with ripple effects for miles and miles in all directions, so ATC generally resists doing that until it's absolutely necessary. That's how you get mild tailwinds on approaches and landings sometimes- the adverse wind hasn't reached a level yet where a runway change is mandatory.


Of course, you always have the option to request a different runway, and FSX will always grant your request as far as I know. So you could request, for example, the one you're already lined up with. :D FSX ATC isn't smart enough to worry about letting YOU land westward when everybody else is landing eastward. So just request a different runway if you don't want to play their game.

i7-10700K @3.8-5.1GHz, 32GB DDR4-2666 SDRAM, GTR-2060 Super 8GB, 2x SSDs
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One can alleviate the effect to a considerable degree by flying the STAR for the individual airport, or at least an approach that lines up on an intersection, navaid or extended centreline for the runway some 20-30 miles out, and by operating on Comm 2 to listen to the Tower a long ways out to find out what runway is in operation and adjusting to suit.


Very few airports use an overhead join (airfields are, by nature, different) so you never, ever aim directly at the airport - even a `direct to` GPS route should be to the navaid or intersection. That also minimises these twisting and turning instructions as ATC can route you to the active and with its' limited intelligence, plan for your integration into the AI for landing.


A flight plan is just that, a plan, not a rule.


Hope this helps.

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I'm no pilot, so don't use this info for real world flying.


Lets use an example airport with two runways, RW 36-18 and RW 09-27.

We'll call it airport XXXX

The wind is from the west.

Active is RW27

No runways are out of service for maintenance, the can each be used if the wind changes.


In the real world:

This would mean aircraft are supposed to land RW27.

But, in emergency's the other runways are available too.

Lets say an aircraft is coming from the west with a fuel-emergency. they are low on fuel.

If they request RW09 to land they would usually get it.

(unless it would endanger other flights, for example parachutists to the west, that can't get out of the way, light aircraft, or other closed airspace.)

They would get cleared RW09, and aircraft that are approaching RW27 would be told to go around to make room.


In FSX not so.

The Active runway is the only runway in use.

So at airport XXXX RW 27 is the only you can land on now with the wind direction there is at the moment.


When you are on a flight in FSX without using a flightplan with waypoints and atc telling you where to go, this is straightforward.

You get to the airport, contact the tower, and you only get the atc-option in the menu to request landing on RW27.


But when you are following a IFR flightplan, with waypoints and atc telling you where to go, this changes.

You then get the options for aproaches to all runways.

(I have to say I may be slightly off here and there. I don't fly like that much, I'm not 100% sure of the nitty gritty details.)


The thing is, even though you get offered all these approaces, there is still only one runway active!!

So if you request ILS approach to RW 18 (coming in from the north) .................................

You will get:

""XXXX tower, ........ Cleared Runway 18, circle to land Runway 27.""


What you are meant to do here is fly the ILS approach for runway 18, down to where you have visual contact with the airport.

Then, when you have good visual reference to the airport and the area around it, you must:

-level off.

-Turn left, to get on a downwind leg for the approach pattern to RW 27

-Turn right, to fly the Base-leg for RW27

-Turn Right again to get on the final for RW27, and then land on 27.


Of course this becomes a tighter, lower flown pattern approach. You are basically flying a visual approach to RW27.

(If 27 has a ILS you can of course use that in the final stage, either actively or as guidance only.)



Why this monkeybuissness??

This is something that is often done in real world airports too.


Let's use a real world airport that is exactly like XXXX as example. And this same situation.

ILS Systems are amazingly expensive, and cost a lot of maintenance and accuracy checks. Often a airport has only one ILS system.


RW 27 is active. Above 2500ft there is a thick layer of cloud. Lower down there is also a lot of cloud/fog, visibility is 3 miles.

The fog is just a bit thinner to the East of the airport, but only at low level. there the visibility is 6miles.

This allows only landings from the east, When landing the margins get very tight and a pilot needs to see the ground so they are sure they are at a safe height.

XXXX is also in a small valley in the mountains.

The pilot needs to get down through the cloud to get below it and see the airport. But without crashing into a mountainside.

RW27 has only Visual aprroach guidance. Red and white papi lights next to the runway. No ILS systems installed.


Lets say this airport has another Runway that does have ILS. RW18

The pilot can then use the ILS from Runway 18 to descend. That will keep him clear of obstacles.

Before going in he decides the minimum altitude. And he will go no lower then that.

He will then descend down that ILS, looking for the airport. Once he has visual contact he will level off. Then circle to land on the active runway 27.

If dring this visual contact is lost again he should go-around right away.

If he reaches his minimum altitude and has not yet spotted the airfield, he should also go-around right away.


Hope that helps. This is what I made of it. I learned much about flying from seeing how it is in fsx, then looking around for 'real world' info only ocasionaly.

There are probably some details incorrect in the firs few paragraphs. I don't actually know that much about multiple runways (that are not paralel) being used at the same time on airports. It is not common practice I think, but with emergencys anything is possible. And landing in the opposite direction is definetly not uncommon.

That is allways at the discression of the Tower btw. The can simply deny a landing from the other side. They have the final say.


Ultimately, you can not physically stop the pilot either, so if he decides to land, he says so, and he does....

Meaning everyone could have to go running for cover!!!



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