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Is it required when under VFR to contact an airfield's approach when approaching to land at a class D?

KDLH is my example airfield. They possess independent radar approach and departure (same frequency) with a separate tower frequency. What would be the process of approaching this airfield under VFR?

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No it is not required to contact approach. Unless you have to go through a larger D, C or B airspace to get there. I don't know of any larger Ds in the US, but there are plenty of D-airfields underneath C and B airspace.

In Germany (and I think around Europe, not sure though), there's a distinction between the tower-D and the approach-D (the former being called D-CTR, and the other just D), to enter the approach-D you'd have to talk to approach, but if you can sneak under/around it, go ahead and call the tower directly, let them know where you are, and they'll tell you how to enter their airspace. In the US, they'll probably just tell you to enter the pattern (like "N12345, enter and report the right base for runway 5").

In Europe you need an explicit clearance and they'll usually tell you how to enter (like "DEFGH, enter control zone via Echo, report Echo", Echo being a reporting point on the chart, Echo usually being to the east, with November, Whiskey and Sierra being north, west and south respectively (usually, that is, there may be more, and they may be placed differently, but they're always on the sectional or the terminal area chart)

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  • $\begingroup$ To be honest, I've never heard of tower-D and approach-D. In the countries I've flown (in Europe) the airspaces were named CTR (around airports), TMA (shelves above a CTR) and CTA (above that). Anytime there's a TMA associated with a CTR, you have to talk to approach first, unless you stay below the TMA and want to enter the CTR directly. $\endgroup$ – Philippe Leybaert Dec 23 '13 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ @PhilippeLeybaert; Ok, well, in Germany they're called D-CTR and D (mind you, there's also C, but no C-CTR, so all surface airspace is either D, F or G), in Sweden they're called CTR and TMA as you say, however they still have an airspace classification (which in Sweden is C and not D, IIRC), so you can't tell from the classification (which the question is in regards to) if you need to talk to approach or not. $\endgroup$ – falstro Dec 23 '13 at 23:59
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@Pondlife I suppose it's possible there's an airport somewhere with Class D airspace that REQUIRES you to call approach before you can call the tower, even for VFR flights, but I can't think of any off hand. That would certainly be an unusual situation though: I'd expect a NOTAM about the procedure at the very least.– voretaq7Dec 25 at 7:05

Required is too strong a word. Standard Procedure to land VFR at Westchester County Airport, White Plains NY (KHPN) is to contact NY Approach first for sequencing. However, I have heard both sides of this: a pilot being chewed out for not contacting approach, and sent back away from the Delta space to "get in line", and also the tower accepting arrivals that just call the tower as the first contact. It is all based on how busy the Tower is.

The "requirement" to call Approach first is not written in any NOTAM I can find. It is a "local knowledge" thing.

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  • $\begingroup$ I suspect that it's the same kind of "local knowledge" as Republic (KFRG)'s "voluntary" noise abatement procedures - they're technically voluntary and we get some transient pilots who don't look them up, but when they don't follow them the folks in the tower certainly sit up and take notice of the airplane "behaving strangely" and may ask pointed questions like "N12345, Where are you going?" $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jan 7 '14 at 6:57
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Out of courtesy, you MAY contact approach when VFR, but it is by no means necessary. Judging by the 86th issue of the Green Bay sectional, it is not even obvious that radar services are available. The procedure would be to listen to ATIS on 124.1 and contact tower before entering the class D.

I believe this is true even if you are flying into a class D airfield with charted TRSA, such as Fargo (FAR) or Tri-Cities (TRI) You are welcome and encouraged to lookup the frequency on the edge of the chart, (it will likely be contained in the ATIS) contact approach during the approach to the field, but it is by no means compulsory. You can make your desire for non-participation clear by stating "Negative Radar Service" in your initial contact, arriving or departing.

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Unless there is a charted B or C airspace, you are not REQUIRED to contact the approach facility. Different towers may have different opinions on what they prefer you to do, however. Some have TRSAs (responsibility is mapped out, and you can participate if you want), and some just mysteriously have a approach/departure frequency listed and it's anyone's guess where that airspace extends to.

As a further amplification, they may just tell you 'contact approach on 123.45 and remain clear of the delta'. So, their own operating procedures will dictate that you do contact approach, but you could run into a similar situation at any airfield where you just have to follow tower instructions.

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