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Are there any airports with scheduled services where big jets (say 737 or A320) or wide bodies regularly operate without control tower?

Are there any rules (EASA FAA) for this?

If controllers go on strike can commercial air transport continue to operate?

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    $\begingroup$ What is the scope of your question @Andrius? So you mean US, Europe, or the whole world? $\endgroup$ – GdD Apr 12 '16 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ As Pondlife's answer mentioned, it's probably best to separate this question into a couple of questions. Operating from non-towered airports is fine. Operating the flight with no controllers at all (Tower, Approach, Center, or otherwise) is quite another matter, though. I'd be a bit surprised if they're allowed to fly unfiled VFR and they sure wouldn't want to remain below 18,000 ft for a flight of any significant length. $\endgroup$ – reirab Apr 12 '16 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ Related: aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/14016/… $\endgroup$ – digitgopher Apr 12 '16 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ Is AFIS a control tower for you? Many commercial airports have AFIS instead of a TWR. And some have TWR in some hours and AFIS in other hours. And many very small airfield have a RADIO station. Is that a controller for you? $\endgroup$ – Vladimir F Apr 14 '16 at 9:15
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The Canadian Arctic has B737 scheduled airline operations to many uncontrolled airports that have no control tower.

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  • $\begingroup$ Totally OT, but that first route map has me wondering what languages are those in the top left corner? I'd assume the bottom two rows are some sort of Indian/Eskimo dialect, but the middle row looks like some MathJax or APL code. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Apr 12 '16 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ I am quite sure that those are 3 different Inuit languages. Here are some of the languages that are used in Canada's north: Tlicho, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, Inuinnaqtun, Chipewyan, Slavey, Gwich'in, and Cree. $\endgroup$ – Mike Sowsun Apr 12 '16 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ Also OT: in the second map, who had the bright idea to color the land blue and the water white? That took me a long time to realize what I was looking at and invert my sense. $\endgroup$ – Tristan Apr 12 '16 at 14:25
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan: The script is Canadian aboriginal syllabics. The language is probably Inuktitut, which is an official langauge in the territory of Nunavut. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Apr 12 '16 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ Wow, that's cool, @HenningMakholm! Thanks for finding that and sharing. Also, my apologies for showing my US-centricness in assuming "Indian/Eskimo" and forgetting that our Canadian friends are the Inuit. /OT wanderings. We now return you to your regularly scheduled SE forum operations. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Apr 12 '16 at 15:17
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I will answer your question with what we can see in Brazilian Airspace and its rules.

In Brazil, there are some airports - non towered, operated by radio stations - which give information such as wind direction/intensity and temperature and QNH. Based on this information, the pilot decides on which runway they will land or take off, and relays this message to the radio operator. The operator will only relay these pieces of information to pilots monitoring the radio frequency.

Those airports are not controlled, then, if there is any strike, flying visually, no control will be effective.

For example, ARU/SBAU is a non towered airport, and TAM Airlines operates the A320F there.

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  • $\begingroup$ The question specifically asks about commercial traffic and big (737/A320 and up) jets, yet your answer doesn't specifically indicate that these type of aircraft operate at the airfields you've described. In the US, there are hundreds of small, untowered GA airfields, but they don't see regular, scheduled service by larger pax aircraft like the 737/A320. If you simply left those details out of your answer, adding them in will make it much more complete, otherwise, it doesn't really seem to address the question. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Apr 12 '16 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I have answered according to the question. For example: ARU does not have a tower, and TAM Airlines operate there with A320F. $\endgroup$ – eduardoguilherme Apr 12 '16 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ Fantastic, the addition of that last sentence makes this a great answer! Though, I don't think Brazil is part of EASA is it? ;) $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Apr 12 '16 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, guys, I'm kinda old school. When I grew up, a smilie indicated sarcasm. I'm fully aware that Brazil isn't anywhere near Europe. (At least, in a regulatory sense - with these wonderful flying contraptions, it's less than a day's travel away, and that's not far at all!) $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Apr 12 '16 at 19:38
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    $\begingroup$ In Finland, which is an EASA member, we have AFIS airports, where carriers operate regularly. AFIS is not an air traffic control, but offers information service. Airspace classification is G+. $\endgroup$ – Sami Apr 14 '16 at 9:43
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American Airlines operates an A319 seasonally from DFW to Gunnison (KGUC), which is an uncontrolled airport. There are probably many other similar examples.

An airline flight arriving at an uncontrolled field operates just like any other aircraft: it will almost certainly be IFR and fly an instrument approach, or a visual approach if conditions allow it. Radio calls, pattern etc. should be the same as for any other aircraft arriving IFR at an uncontrolled airport.

The airline's OpSpec might have some specific procedures for uncontrolled airports, but otherwise it's just another aircraft.

Controllers going on strike is a totally different scenario; you might want to ask about that separately.

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Any plane can land at any airport as long as the runway is long enough. There is no regulation saying that a 737 cannot land at a non-controlled airport. All of the commercial pilots that have had their training in the private sector have had to land at non controlled airports. I say all, but I'm sure there are some exceptions. Let's just say most. It is no big deal.

Here at our local airport, KLBX, there is no tower and there are four large jets that come and go every single day, even when the weather is IFR.

There is so little realistic understanding of aircraft and air travel due to the continued misrepresentation by the media and movies. There was the incident of the control tower guy falling asleep and the commercial flight had to land without the tower control. It was all over the news as though it was a miracle that the plane didn't just crash all over the place. As though a pilot cannot land a plane without the tower saying "Cleared to land 13R." That's all they do anyway. The pilot is still responsible for looking and seeing if the runway is really clear and ready to take the plane.

In IFR conditions there is still what's called the minimums. If you can't see the runway when you reach the minimums you are not allowed to land there. Again, there is an exception, but it won't be available at non-controlled airports because of the cost.

I don't know about Brazil or Japan or any other country. I fly in the US only, and most of it in Texas. You'd be surprised how many non-towered airports there are where you even have to turn on the runway lights from your plane at night.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for that - say, how do you turn on those lights? You mean radio a human and ask, or is there "an app for that" these days?? $\endgroup$ – Fattie Apr 12 '16 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBlow - No controller necessary - see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilot-controlled_lighting $\endgroup$ – CJBS Apr 12 '16 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ got it ! click five times eh. :) never heard of it, thanks for that $\endgroup$ – Fattie Apr 12 '16 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ How do you ensure separation while positioning for the approach in the clouds and IMC conditions? $\endgroup$ – Andrius Apr 12 '16 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Andrius Usually one-at-a-time traffic. Approach control clears one aircraft for the approach, terminates radar services, and waits for them to report that they're on the ground. Nobody else gets an IFR clearance in the meantime. This would break down quickly if there was a lot of traffic, but if there were a lot of traffic, the airport wouldn't be uncontrolled. $\endgroup$ – Zach Lipton Apr 12 '16 at 19:55
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Usually any airport with enough traffic that it would attract a big commercial jet will merit a tower. However, there are a few weird exceptions here and there and some of the other answers have described these.

I think you may be thinking that a tower would be necessary somehow or that flying a heavy into an airport without a tower would be dangerous, and that is not necessarily true.

Pilots can self-organize and land themselves just fine without a tower. The tower is mostly there to speed things up and enable large volumes of aircraft to land as quickly as possible. If an airfield is busy and there is no tower, then the aircraft will tend to spread themselves out more, approach from longer distances and do things more slowly. With the tower there it speeds everything up.

If an airport is out in the middle of nowhere and does not get any traffic, then there is no need for a tower and it does not really matter whether the plane is big or small.

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