Making Initial Contact at KITH

Ithaca Area

     The first task when approaching any airport is to gather information. This would start before getting airborne with a briefing from flight service. Please check for any NOTAMS before heading out to prevent surprises! Once within range of Ithaca, listen carefully to the ATIS broadcast on 125.175. Along with the weather, you will hear the runway in use and the type of approach to expect as well as any other pertinent airport advisories and NOTAM information.

     It is our opinion that the most valuable tool in air traffic control is not radar. Although we would like to have radar equipment here, we believe that the most valuable tool is clear and concise two-way radio communication. Proper radio technique, using standard phraseology, and listening carefully, is the way to insure a good experience at a controlled airport.

     After obtaining ATIS, dial up tower frequency on 119.60 and just listen for a few minutes. By doing this you will be able to get an idea of what is going on at the airport, what kind of traffic to expect and it may prevent you from "stepping on" another transmission. Remember, the more informed you are, the easier it will be for the local controller (tower) to do his job.

     According to the AIM, the initial call-up should be done 15 miles from the airport. Here at Ithaca we feel a good time to make your first call to tower is about 10 to 12 miles out. This gives tower enough time to come up with a game plan to fit you into the rest of the traffic.


The initial radio call should include the basic five items (5 Ws and not much more...keep it brief). Who you are addressing (Ithaca Tower), Who you are (your aircraft type and tail number), Where you are (your position from KITH...Northwest, South, etc and include your altitude), What you want (Your, touch-and-go, etc), With the current ATIS (Alpha, Bravo...not "with the numbers"). An example would be "Ithaca Tower, Cessna 52096, 10 miles southwest at 3,500, landing with information Delta." If it seems really busy just an initial "handshake" might be appropriate "Ithaca Tower, Cessna 52096." Either way, listen up carefully for instructions and read them back to verify your entry procedures. If there are any doubts, please request verification, we want to be on the same page here! Once you are inbound, please make sure to maintain radio contact by paying attention (a requirement in every tower-controlled airspace).

     You will be told which runway to use and where to enter the traffic pattern for that runway. You do not have to fly the entire pattern at a tower-controlled field. If told to enter on a base leg, you do not have to fly the downwind first, and it may ruin a controllers spacing plan. The tower controller will also give you a reporting point, usually between 2 and 5 miles out depending on the traffic conditions; "report a three-mile base runway 32." This report allows us to make changes to the landing sequence if needed. When you receive your clearance or any other control instruction, you should always acknowledge. The easiest way to do this is to repeat exactly what the controller said followed by your call sign (nothing more). Again, if you are not sure of your clearance, or that you received one, please request verification from the controller. Good radios, headsets and radio dicipline make this all go smoothly. Here is similar advice from another tower