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Arrivals, departures and transits

Procedures CAAP 166

Arrivals procedure



Recommended circuit join

Pilots departing and arriving at non-controlled aerodromes where the carriage of radio is mandatory are expected to monitor their radios and broadcast their intentions. Pilots should also make additional broadcasts when considered necessary to minimise any risk of collision.

Where a pilot is unfamiliar with the aerodrome layout, or when its serviceability, wind direction, wind speed, or circuit direction cannot be ascertained prior to arrival, use the overfly procedure. Overfly or circle the aerodrome at least 500 ft above the circuit altitude, which may be 2000 ft or more above the aerodrome elevation (as in the case shown above). When you have determined the circuit direction position the aircraft to a point well clear (normally the non-active side of the circuit) before descending to a circuit altitude that equates to the aircraft’s performance.

Do not descend into the active side of the traffic circuit from above because of the difficulty of seeing – and being seen by – aircraft directly below the aircraft’s flight path.

Low performance aircraft – For low-performance ultralight aircraft and rotorcraft with a maximum speed of approximately 55 kt, it is recommended that the aircraft overfly midfield at 500 ft above aerodrome elevation. This will minimise the risk of conflict with higher or faster traffic.

Descent on the non-active side – When arriving and intending to join the circuit from overhead, descend on the non-active side of the circuit so that the aircraft is established at its circuit altitude as it crosses the runway centreline on crosswind, between midfield and the departure end of the runway

Arrival on the active side – When arriving on the active side, the recommended method is to arrive at the circuit altitude entering midfield at approximately 45° to the downwind leg, while giving way to aircraft already established in the circuit.

The downwind leg – On downwind, maintain the applicable circuit altitude until commencement of the base leg turn. The base leg position is normally when the aircraft is approximately 45° from the reciprocal of the final approach path, measured from the runway threshold. Along the base leg, continue to look out and maintain traffic separation.

The final leg – When on the final leg, confirm that the runway is clear for your landing.

Go around – A pilot who elects to abort a landing should manoeuvre to keep other traffic in sight, maintain a safe distance from all aircraft and re-join the circuit when it is safe to do so. This may involve manoeuvring to the right, left or maintaining the runway centreline, depending on traffic, the circuit direction and terrain.

Suggested go around manoeuvre


Straight-in approaches – Straight-in approaches are not a recommended standard procedure; however, CAR 166B allows pilots to make straight-in approaches providing they meet certain conditions:

  • pilots who choose to adopt a straight-in approach should only do so when it does not disrupt or conflict with the flow of circuit traffic
  • on a straight-in approach, the pilot must give way to any other aircraft established and flying in the circuit pattern at the aerodrome (pilots on the base leg and before entering the final leg should be vigilant that no traffic is on long final for landing)
  • before making a straight-in approach, pilots must determine the wind direction and speed and the runway in use at the aerodrome. There are several ways to do this:
    • automatic weather station (AWS), aerodrome weather information service (AWIS), automatic aerodrome information service (AAIS), CA/ GRS or UNICOM
    • radio contact with a ground-based radio communication service, company agent, approved observer [CAR 120], or aircraft currently operating at the aerodrome or
    • visual indications if the information cannot be determined by the above means.
  • pilots must assure themselves, by other means, of the aerodrome’s serviceability and other hazards which are usually indicated by markings adjacent to the wind indicator
  • on a straight-in approach, the aircraft must be established on final at not less than 3 nm from the landing runway’s threshold. Pilots should include their intention to conduct a straight-in approach with their inbound broadcast. Also make a further broadcast of intentions when not less than 3 nm from the runway threshold.

Pilots making a straight-in approach should observe the following:

  • do not commence a straight-in approach to a runway when the reciprocal runway is being used by aircraft already established in the circuit
  • only minor corrections to speed and flight path, to maintain a stable approach, should be required within 3 nm on final. The aircraft’s transponder should be squawking (transmitting) Mode C or ALT. The aircraft’s external lights should be illuminated and remain on until the aircraft has landed and is clear of all runways
  • an aircraft established on the base or final leg for any runway has priority over an aircraft carrying out a straight-in approach.

Joining on base leg – Pilots should be mindful that the following types of incidents are more common when joining on the base leg:

  • landing downwind in direct conflict with other traffic using the into-wind runway
  • having to go around from late final due to other aircraft or vehicles on the runway
  • landing on a closed runway or at a closed aerodrome.

Joining on the base leg is not a standard procedure. CASA recommends that pilots join the circuit on either the crosswind (midfield) or downwind leg. However, pilots who choose to join on base leg should only do so if they:

  • have determined the:
    • wind direction and speed
    • runway in use
    • circuit direction
    • presence of obstructions on the runway
    • serviceability of the aerodrome and runway
  • give way to other circuit traffic and ensure the aircraft can safely (no traffic conflict likely) join the base leg applicable to the circuit direction in use at the standard height and
  • broadcast their intentions.

Taxi after landing – After landing, vacate the runway strip as soon as practicable. Aircraft should not stop until clear of the runway strip (AIP ENR 1.1).

Transiting flights – Pilots who prefer to track via non-controlled aerodromes for risk mitigation or other purposes should avoid overflying the aerodrome at an altitude that could conflict with operations in the vicinity of the aerodrome. Be aware, however, that IFR approach procedures may commence at significant heights above the aerodrome (for example 4954 ft at Innisfail).

If you determine that you are flying at a height that is within the vicinity of an aerodrome that requires the carriage of radios, you must monitor and broadcast your position on the CTAF (CAR 166C).



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New rules come into effect from 2 December 2021 that cover the general operating and flight rules. We are currently updating this guide to reflect the new rules. A new version will be available to download from 2 December.
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