Hypothetically, if I owned a private airstrip on my property, with all the necessary permissions to do so, and I only want certain aircraft landing there, would I be allowed to issue takeoff and landing clearances even though I am not an air traffic controller?

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    $\begingroup$ Where in the world? $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 10:01
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    $\begingroup$ This is probably similar to what happens on the advisory frequency at untowered airports, you can issue "advisory" information but it is still up to the pilot to determine the traffic and best course of action to land. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 11:25
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    $\begingroup$ Related: you can't give clearances, but you could provide a UNICOM-like service $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Fattie there absolutely is a clear answer: No. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 14:42
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    $\begingroup$ I second J Hougaard. The word "clearance" has a specific meaning with legal ramifications. A pilot could call you and ask permission to land on your strip, but beyond that you can't be giving vectors or clearances. You've got to be licensed and have proper equipment for that. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 16:25

5 Answers 5



An uncontrolled field is just that - uncontrolled. No pilot will accept a clearance in uncontrolled airspace in the first place. Consider the legal consequences if two aircraft were to collide as a result of a "clearance" issued by you. Since the aircraft are in uncontrolled airspace, it is the responsibility of the pilots to make sure they do not get too close. However, if you got on the radio and started issuing "clearances", you might trick pilots into thinking that you are in control. If something bad happens, you should not expect to just walk away from it.

Besides, what makes you think you are qualified to provide air traffic control? Becoming an air traffic controller takes years of intense training, and only the top few percent of applicants are admitted to the education in the first place. Even the fact that you have to ask this question makes it seem like you have a very poor understanding of air traffic control.

The issue of not wanting people to land on a private airstrip has nothing to do with air traffic control. Air traffic controllers do not exist to tell pilots what they can and can't do - they are there to provide a service to the pilots! As others have pointed out, this would be a matter of trespassing. Pilots are very well aware that private airfields are just that - private. No one will just randomly spot a private airfield from the air and decide to land there without having first done some research - unless in emergency situations, of course.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 for "the fact you're asking this question at all means you should not even try it" regardless of whether you technically could. Which is not true anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 5:06
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    $\begingroup$ Have you checked your facts on the years of intense training, because as far as the FAA is concerned ANYONE can act as a controller at a NFCT. Of course their AC on the topic suggests that the controller have a CTO certificate, and I think that is a good idea. But the fact is that there are just very few regulations which impact the operation of a NFCT. Perhaps you have a few authoritative cites which support your strong statements? $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ @mongo As a trainee air traffic controller in Europe, I have no idea what most of those acronyms mean. My answer covers a general point of view, not rules specific to individual countries, since there was no country specified in the original answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ @J. Hougaard Congratulations on being an ATC trainee. From my perspective your answer sounds rather emphatic, while it is stated generally, clearly in the US and in Canada there are mechanisms for doing what the OP stated that they wanted to accomplish. There may indeed be similar ways in other countries. Apparently you have commented generally without a general check. If you read my answer NFCT is defined, and AC mentioned (Advisory Circular). That leaves CTO, which is someone who holds a Control Tower Operators' certificate. And just in case, FAA is in the US the Federal Aviation Admin... $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ "Pilots are very well aware that private airfields are just that - private. No one will just randomly spot a private airfield from the air and decide to land there without having first done some research" -- oopsie! $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 23:40

In the past when airport owners want to control traffic flow, they file a NOTAM that the airport is closed, and contact xxx at 123456789 for exceptions. Then for the takeoff, the airport manager would issue a verbal "the airport is open for N1234 to depart" and then close the airport. This could be done on the unicom, in person, via telephone or however one wanted to. This happens at some private and corporate strips. It is actually more common in the northern parts of Canada, where there are fields operated by mining companies. In those cases, authorized aircraft come and go, and the field appears as a restricted use field. (Often they are not even charted, even though they may have VOR-DME on the field.)

So in summary, you have at least two paths to take: 1. NOTAM the field closed, or 2. Restrict the use

If you really want to play controller, you could install a private tower, or Non-Federal Contract Tower (NFCT), but then there are a bunch of rules to follow, and I believe your tower controllers would essentially have to be FAA trained. But I am not up on those regs, and they may have changed since I was more fresh on them. Here is a sample NFCT set up for an event.

Specifically, the FAA permits NFCTs, whereby an agency or entity that wishes a towered airport which does not meet federal criteria, or is otherwise unable to get an FAA Contract Tower (FCT), may operate a control tower.

Technically, this satisfies the OP criteria for issuing "clearances" but perhaps with a little more red tape than he might be interested in.

AC 90-93B states in part: "There are no comprehensive set of federal rules governing the operation of NFCTs." The Advisory Circular goes on to make recommendations for procedures, policy, training and equipment.

In summary, if you want to install a tower at your private field, you can do so. Good luck getting insurance. Make sure you follow FCC Part 87 for your radio licenses. Spend some time working with your center, and regional approach facilities.

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    $\begingroup$ OP wanted to "issue takeoff and landing clearances" at private field. Examining the constructive meaning of that, it means that he wants to regulate flow into and out of his field. The three concepts presented here, NOTAM, Restricted Airport and NFCT, each allow the OP to effectively accomplish flow control to and from his field. All three methods are common practices, and recognized by the FAA. Since the OP appears to not be well versed in FAA terminology, the word "clearances" should be liberally construed to the meaning of controlling airport flow. He did not talk about routing, altitude et $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps "instructions" or "approvals" might be more appropriate than "clearances." $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ you are correct in that I am not well versed in terminology, because I am attempting to learn still. I just thought of this situation and wondered how regulations address this (very) niche case. To answer your question, yes, instructions or approvals would be more appropriate. $\endgroup$
    – smithb99
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 3:17

Without a control tower, the field would be "uncontrolled" in the eyes of the FAA, so no, you couldn't issue clearances per se. The FAA would probably take a dim view of an untrained individual playing air traffic controller at his private field.

That said, the field would still be private property, and you'd be within your rights to bar anyone whom you didn't invite from landing there. "No tresspassing", etc. I don't think very many pilots assume that they can just land at any private airstrip they see -- emergency situations notwithstanding.

As a practical matter, even if you built yourself a platform & got a radio, those whom you hadn't invited would probably have no way to know what frequency to select, in order to be told not to land there. I don't think private strips get UNICOM or CTAF frequencies published on the charts, mainly since the traffic at such fields is presumed to be very, very low.

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    $\begingroup$ Private strips in the US are most certainly eligible for CTAF and UNICOM use, as well as for licensing of the ground station. A default frequency that could be used is 122.9 MHz. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ private strips do have a plate in the regional document which lists the ATM contact information. Part of the approval of the flight plan is contacting the destination airport to verify that the airport is accepting traffic. These are separate from the inflight clearances provided by regional control stations which the OP would not be able to issue. The airstrip operator would be able to control flight operations at their site when they are open. A lot of paperwork needs to be tracked to do so though. its not just plugging in a radio. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ Private fields do have a CTAF frequency - MULTICOM on 122.9. Anytime a field doesn't have a tower, FSS, or UNICOM frequency then 122.9 is the default CTAF frequency. (See AIM 4-1-9(g).) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 8:53

There is also AFIS (aerodrome flight information service, callsign Info) and Radio type stations. These are not control towers and operators are not air traffic controlers. They provide advisory services and information, they do not control air trafic.

It is much more easy to get one of these stations to a small airport and its ATZ - aerodrome traffic zone. The people providing this service are indeed often owners or members of the club owning the airport.

They can tell the pilots if the runway is free for takeoff or landing, but they do not issue clearances you for that. They tell the pilots about other traffic in the circuit, in the ATZ and its intentions. To some extent you can this way get to similar activity as tower ATCOs, but your instructions are nor clearances, they are advisories.

AFIS is a little bit more involved. For example in Czech Republic most small airports had AFIS but almost all of them were converted to Radio which has fewer requirements because the common European regulations for AFIS and AFISO (AFIS officers) became more strict.

An airport can be controled in certain hours and uncontroled with just an AFIS at other times (LKLK).

  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't really answer the question $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry for voting to close this post as it is an interesting information. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with the above comments. The information is interesting, but it does not address the question of issuing clearances. An abbreviated version of could make a good comment. $\endgroup$
    – J W
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not an expert but the information seems relevant to me, as in offering a different solution. $\endgroup$
    – Koyovis
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Vladimir F, AFIS sounds similar to CTAF in the US, which is a common traffic advisory frequency. It may be the tower frequency, and continues to function as a CTAF when the tower is not operating. It can also be a UNICOM frequency at a non-towered airport. (I believe that technically AFIS or FIS is the equivalent of UNICOM.) BTW, at least in the US, more than one UNICOM can be licensed at one airport. A company I worked for had their own UNICOM, at a towered field, and the two FBOs used another UNICOM. The FBO UNICOM frequencies were the ones published, and the company UNICOM was unpub. $\endgroup$
    – mongo
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 15:09

The FAA has thousands of locations listed that are uncontrolled private fields. Some offer services, some don't, and some don't even have safe landing strips any longer.

They all have an ATM, and probably at the time of the submission had everything required for being a non FAA controlled Airport. The requirements have likely increased over time. (I've contacted the FAA about strips where the ATM has died and was told they don't have the manpower to check the small airstrips.)

You would in conjunction with the local ATS be able to approve and issue landing clearances for your airstrip. That is why an airstrip plate has the Airport Manager and Phone number listed.


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