Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

By Paul Van Brunt
CFII MEI FAAST Team Representative 

Control Tower vs Non-Towered


November 1, 2020

Whether you fly in a towered environment or non-towered, the two are very different and require you to be aware of other traffic. While the towered environment is much more controlled, you still have to observe and avoid. Non-towered does not have someone setting things up for you or giving you advisories of who, what, and where there are other planes.

Non-towered have lots of complaints from pilots about people landing in the opposite direction during calmer winds or even with light tail winds. As a pilot, you need to always be aware of what other planes are doing. You may be lined up on 12 and announce you are taking off, then hear another plane on final for 30. What if the pilot says I am doing an approach? Do you wait until he lands and goes to his hanger? Things like this get pilots a little angry because it disrupts the entire pattern. The nicer way would be to do your approach, then break off and enter the pattern with the other aircraft, right? In a control tower environment, they would handle that issue.

Some pilots seem to not want to waste time, especially when trainers are operating in the pattern, but what if there is a plane with a first solo student (I had this happen to a student)? While on a downwind first solo, another plane announced final straight. The solo student was about to turn base, so he made a turn out and left the pattern. The student then decided to wait until he heard the plane was clear before he re-entered to land. The straight in landing plane did not announce they were clear so the student finally, after trying him on my handheld, came back in and landed safely.

As pilots and instructors, our primary concern should be the safety of ourselves and others, not if we can get ahead of someone in the pattern. If you fly a faster plane, be aware of the C150 and how much slower they are than you. I know it can be frustrating at times but everyone has the opportunity to learn to fly in a safe environment and what you do as a pilot does influence other people flying, especially the beginning students.

Continue to fly safe, think of others, and participate in the FAA safety courses on the wings program or AOPA pilot. They are informative, easy to take, and we will all be better pilots because of them.


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