Communications at Uncontrolled Airports

When operating at an uncontrolled or non-towered field, pilots must communicate with each other to coordinate landing. Although a radio is not required, most aircraft do have radio communication capabilities, but stay aware. This communication is made on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF).

The CTAF is frequency designed for the purpose of carrying out airport advisory practices while operating to or from an airport without an operating control tower. The CTAF may be a Universal Communications (UNICOM), MULTICOM, Flight Service Station (FSS), or tower frequency, and is identified in appropriate aeronautical publications.

The following are general procedures for communications related to landing at an uncontrolled or non-towered airport.

Approximately 10 miles out: Listen to the automated weather reporting, if available to the airport. This will help you determine which runway to use. Then, make your first call. Self announce on the CTAF your location and intentions. At an uncontrolled field, the call sign can be abbreviated unless there are other known aircraft with similar call signs. Below is an example of an initial call at an uncontrolled airport.

Listen for any landing traffic. You may need to communicate with other traffic landing at the airport.

About five miles out, state intentions. Below is an example.

Upon entering right downwind, report this position. Depending on the amount of traffic, you may need to make additional calls prior to entering the downwind.

When turning base (right or left) is a good time to make a call. When an aircraft is turning, it often easier to see.

However, As the helicopter pattern is short, it can be feasible to eliminate the “turning base” call and just make the “turning final” call. When turning final, you do not need to say “right” or “left” as the position of the aircraft is known.

TRAINING or PATTERN WORK: When operating a helicopter at an uncontrolled field, remember that we are required to stay out of the flow of fixed wing traffic. As most airports have a left traffic pattern for fixed wing, helicopters will often conduct a right traffic pattern. In the example below we will make traffic calls for remaining in the pattern.

After taking off, all other calls will be the same when entering the pattern.

  • Down Wind (right or left)
  • Turning Base (right or left)
  • Turning Final

Optionally, you may also take off from the taxiway or ramp. Although taxiways do have specific designations, such as Alpha, Bravo, Charley, etc, at many smaller airport, it is often easier for others if the helicopter pilot states they are taking off taxiway parallel to runway X as this confirms which direction the helicopter is taking off. Below is an example.


When there is no tower, FSS, or UNICOM station on the airport, use MULTICOM frequency 122.9 for self‐announce procedures. Such airports will be identified in appropriate aeronautical information publications.