By Kyle Ramsey


To ensure pilots know the rules and practices for operating aircraft under visual conditions from non-controlled airports.

While flying in VFR conditions at a non-controlled airport, the pilot will be able to know and understand the airspace, airport layout, and operations procedures to follow while parked, moving along the ground, and maneuvering in the vicinity of a non-controlled airport.

You should have completed the lesson on Airport Diagrams and Airport Circuits prior to beginning this lesson.

Procedure or Discussion
A Non-Controlled airport is one that has no direct air traffic control on the airfield; no Clearance Delivery, Ground, or Tower positions on the field itself. The pilots themselves control all ground, taxiway, and runway movement and operations of their aircraft, and each pilot is responsible to see, be seen, and maintain separation from other aircraft and objects.

1. Airspace

  1. Non-controlled airports are found with overlying Class G or E airspace. Airports with a magenta fringe over it on sectional charts have Class G airspace from the surface to 700 ft AGL where it meets the floor of the overlying Class E airspace, which extends to 17,999 MSL.
  2. In some cases, notably at non-controlled airports in mountains with poor low level Center radar coverage, you may see a dotted magenta line on sectional charts around an airport showing the Class E airspace goes all the way to the ground.
  3. VFR weather minimums for Class E airspace should be observed. These airports are considered closed to VFR departures or arrivals when the visibility drops to 1 SM or below and the ceiling is less than 1000 ft AGL.

2. Parking and Ramps

  1. In general, all ramps and parking areas on these airports are sized for GA aircraft. Airliner sized aircraft aren't typically found here. Business aircraft up to regional jets can be found in shuttle operations flying to and from these airports.
  2. Parking is usually in a common area for local GA aircraft that are commonly stored in T Hangars, long, narrow hangar structures that hold single and twin engine aircraft. They are often marked on airport diagrams.
  3. Transient aircraft park on a Fixed Base Operator?s ramp to receive services such as fuel, food, and weather/flight planning tools and computers.
  4. Some small airports do have commercial scheduled aircraft that usually load and unload near a terminal for security.
  5. Military or paramilitary operations are also conducted at some small airports and usually have their own ramp and parking areas.
  6. Not all airports have fuel; check the Airport/Facility directory to verify the airport you need to get fuel from has fuel available. In FS, fuel is marked by a fuel island on the ramp; taxi close, set your parking brake, and your fuel tanks will be filled completely. If you want less fuel, load it using the menu in the Aircraft section.

3. Taxiways

  1. Taxiways are aircraft movement areas and are usually given letter names, such as Alpha, Bravo, etc. Short extensions of taxiways that connect to other taxiways and runways are given a letter-number combination such as Alpha 1, Alpha 2, etc. The letter is associated with the longer letter only taxiway designation (Alpha in the last example).
  2. As stated above, taxi operations are done at pilot discretion and separation from other aircraft and objects is up to the pilot.
  3. If another aircraft is in the vicinity of the taxiway you plan to use you can transmit your intentions on the UNICOM (122.80), i.e., "Bravo Foxtrot traffic, Skyhawk 4321 taxi from ramp to Runway 22 via Charlie."

4. Runways

  1. Like any other airport, runways are aligned to magnetic headings. They are named for this heading using two numbers, such as 04 or 22. The use of a leading zero is a regional difference; in the US it is not written nor spoken, thus it would be called "Runway Four" in the US and Runway Zero Four in Great Britian. Check your local conventions.
  2. Some non-controlled runways have assigned instrument approaches such as ILS or NBD, and more and more GPS, however many have a single runway with IAP coverage and all other require the pilot to enter a VFR pattern and land visually, integrating into whatever other VFR traffic is in the pattern.
  3. Asphalt and concrete runways have the best braking and take off roll performance. Short dirt, coral, gravel, or grass runways require longer take off rolls and use of short and soft field take off and landing techniques. The Pilot's Operating Handbook for any aircraft will have these procedures in it to help you fly your aircraft correctly.
  4. Verify the base and final legs are clear and announce entering any runway on the UNICOM frequency. When holding short of the runway stay behind the ILS hold line (yellow solid and dashed lines) on the taxiway.


  1. A common communications frequency associated to a non-controlled airport. Airports have specific listed UNICOM frequencies but 122.80 MHz is most commonly used on VATSIM regardless of airport.
  2. Pilots should use this frequency to let other potential pilots in the area where they are located and what their intentions are, i.e., "Bravo Foxtrot traffic, Skyhawk 4321 on left downwind, touch and go, runway 22."
  3. Pilots should NOT overuse this frequency. If you are the only aircraft within 10-20 NM, you may not need to make any calls, or at least you won't need to make a lot of them. Extra calls just clog up the frequency. UNICOM is for safety and not a regulated procedure. And remember, if you see another aircraft near your airport, the other pilot may not be on UNICOM; each pilot is always responsible for their own separation.

6. Departing

  1. From the taxiway hold short line check the base and final flight paths to your runway or any other conflicting runway.
  2. Announce your intentions on UNICOM, i.e., ?Bravo Foxtrot traffic, Skyhawk 4321 taking runway 22, south departure.?
  3. Once airborne and clear of the local pattern you may switch frequencies to Approach, Center, or Flight Service for additional services.

7. Arriving

  1. Check local weather if possible using AWOS or ASOS on by typing a dot command ?.wx KABQ? (using the four letter ICAO code for the airport) in the SB3 textbox to get a METAR if one exists; do this about 25 NM from the airport.
  2. Listen on the UNICOM to see what runway others are using.
  3. If no one else is in the pattern, you should usually choose the runway that gives the best headwind and least cross wind component.
  4. Announce your pattern entry intensions on the UNICOM frequency 6-10 NM from the airport. Comply with pattern instructions for all runways found in Airport/Facility Directories. If not noted, all runways use LEFT traffic.
  5. Be at traffic pattern altitude before entering the pattern itself, usually 2-3 miles from the airport if terrain allows.

8. IFR Traffic

  1. Any IFR aircraft entering a non-controlled airport during visual conditions must break off their approach and enter a normal VFR traffic pattern with all other traffic. IFR traffic has no priority over VFR traffic.
  2. Any IFR traffic departing a non-controlled airport will have a clearance from ATC and a time they have to be in the air and on radar (Clearance Void Time). They must yield to any other traffic on base or final on their runway.
  3. If the weather is below 1 SM visibility and/or 1000 ft ASL ceiling, no VFR traffic should be in the pattern or on runways so no conflicts exist.
  4. ATC cannot release another IFR aircraft for takeoff nor allow another to start an approach to the same airport until the first aircraft on the approach cancels his IFR clearance with ATC in the air or on the ground.

9. Services and FBOs

  1. AWOS/ASOS/weather - Unlike controlled airports, there is no weather forecaster on non-controlled airports. But similar to controlled airport ATIS, recorded weather information can be found on the Comm frequencies called AWOS (Automated Weather Observing Station) or ASOS (Automated Surface Observing System)
  2. Windsock - For airports with no AWOS or ASOS, overfly the field at or above pattern altitude and check the windsock. The enter the pattern safely.
  3. No Weather Airports - A nearby airport within 10 NM, if it has weather info, can also be used. When on the ground and no altimeter setting is available, set it to the airport?s published altitude.
  4. Fuel - Three general types of fuel; 100LL, MoGas, and Jet ? A. Not all airports have all these fuels, but in FS they do not make any distinction. Do watch out for airports that DO NOT Have fuel during your flight planning on long cross-country flights. Declaring an emergency for low fuel then landing at an airport without fuel will only cause you to cheat and add fuel through the menu screen.

3.∞ Australian VFR Non-Towered Airport Guide