Taxonomy Tag Cloud

Double checking ATC
I learned at an uncontrolled airport. Naturally before takeoff we look for traffic on final. And when transitioning to a controlled environment, it still seemed like a good idea. But a CFI told me that it annoys the controllers if I position the plane to take a peek for traffic on final. I'm inclined to annoy them if that is truly the case. No disrespect for their wonderful service, but it's my neck out there. And as Christopher L. Freeze (CFI) says on p. 14 of "Flight Training" (Jan/Feb 2021), "And the fact is, I will do what I can to determine my fate in the air {or ground!}, not hope on someone else". Am I recalcitrant?
8 Replies

When you say "position the plane" do you mean on the taxiway while holding short of the runway? In my experience the controllers really don't care. If they do, for example you are requested to move up to make room for traffic behind you or something like that, the controller will just ask. Maybe it is a local issue where you operate?

You have a shared responsibility to look out for traffic before taking the runway for departure. Put your aircraft in a position to see down the final before taking the active runway. It is a basic practice at all airports. if you don't like what you see, stay short of the runway and decline the take off clearance.

If you mean making a 270 degree turn after entering the runway and before commencing the take off roll, or some clearing maneuver like that, that is unusual and would take a controller by surprise. If you feel the need to do that, ask first. The controller isn't anticipating that and may not be spacing you accordingly. It is an uncommon maneuver at a towered airport, I've never seen anyone do it.

Not rolling across the hold short line until you are satisfied it is safe to do so is the best practice in my mind. And when there is any doubt, stop and ask ATC.

Have fun,


Ronald Levy
1230 Posts
I'm with Matt.  If you pull up to the hold short line angled a bit up the final so you can see if there's anyone out there the controller doesn't know about (yes, it happens), no controller should give you any guff.  OTOH, if you're back in the run-up area when you're cleared for takeoff and you stop at the hold short to look up final, and that buggers their spacing ahead of the next plane in the pattern so they have to send that plane around, that's going to upset them.
Personally, I just cannot see pulling blindly onto a runway to depart without checking the final approach path - even at a towered airport. A picture is worth a thousand words and just getting a quick look-see helps to confirm the path is clear amidst all the radio chatter. A pilot would be remiss in his or her duties without making this last check.

Think about this - who is in that tower? A human being. And what do human beings do? We make mistakes. When cleared for takeoff, make that final check yourself to ensure the approach path is clear and then continue to the runway to takeoff. As stated earlier, if you are not comfortable with what you see, advise ATC and decline the takeoff clearance.

I am in full agreement with the others here in that any unusual or non-standard maneuvers prior to takeoff should be avoided.
B Ford
1 Posts
Really....a CFI who doesn't check short final prior to pulling into position for takeoff?  Check final prior to pulling into position.  Always be checking for other aircraft; descent, turning final...never stop looking. It'll save you life and others.  Safe....Not Sorry.
Cheers and keep flying safe!
Ni, you are being diligent.   I was a controller at a VFR tower for a couple of years before moving to a busy approach control for the remainder of my 27 years of ATC.  I am also an instrument rated private pilot.  Controllers are human and make mistakes too.  I always check the final before entering a runway at a controlled or uncontrolled airport. That doesn't mean delaying your takeoff by doing a bunch of gyrations at the end, but looking to see if someone is going to run you over as you taxi onto the runway.  When the controller clears you for takeoff, you need to go.  If he is busy, he is probably basing separation on you rolling post haste. You can do yourself a favor by listening up on tower frequency prior to you calling ready.  A lot can be gleaned by listening to what's going on around you.  That works for all frequencies that you are on.
I'll add one more thought...  As nearing the Hold Short line I get more in to Aviate mode and depending who is in the cockpit (pilots or aviation aware pax) it may not be a sterile cockpit, but I'm focused more on "I'm flying now!"  So I'm aware of who the controller is talking to and who is supposed to be on or about to turn final.  But I'm also looking out the window at Base and Final (or as much of it as I can see), so I've got a pretty good picture of the pattern BEFORE I'm cleared onto the runway.

So as everyone else has said, you don't have to spin around to look at the whole pattern.  And, IN THEORY, you're just double checking the Controller, not actually looking for someone at an uncontrolled field that never announced.  So yes look, but you don't need to get crazy about it. 

All bets are off when you go back to an Uncontrolled field.