Does the rule say that only one IFR aircraft may land or depart at an airport at one time? I'm having trouble finding the official rule in an FAA document.

What about other VFR traffic that may be flying in the traffic pattern doing practice touch-n-goes? Would that activity be affected by the rule?

  • $\begingroup$ Depends on city $\endgroup$ – Squareoot Jun 3 '18 at 16:52
  • $\begingroup$ At an nontowered field - when you are cleared for an approach you are the sole owner of that airport until you report landing or go missed. If there is VFR traffic in the pattern, ATC will advise you of the traffic, you are responsible for avoidance. Of course there will be little chance of pattern traffic if the ceiling is at 500 feet. $\endgroup$ – Mike Brass Jun 4 '18 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Mike - does that mean that only one aircraft can be cleared for an approach for ANY runway at an airport, OR that one aircraft can have a take-off clearance for an airport on ANY runway? ATC can't issue both a take-off and a landing clearance at the same time, for the same nontowered airport, correct? $\endgroup$ – slantalpha Jun 6 '18 at 21:59

Several sections of the AIM give guidance on this. It is explicitly stated that only one aircraft at a time is given a departure clearance. It is implied that there would be no approach clearances until the departing aircraft’s position is known by ATC.

4−4−1. Clearance

a. A clearance issued by ATC is predicated on known traffic and known physical airport conditions. An ATC clearance means an authorization by ATC, for the purpose of preventing collision between known aircraft, for an aircraft to proceed under specified conditions within controlled airspace.

5−2−6. Departure Restrictions, Clearance Void Times, Hold for Release, and Release Times a. ATC may assign departure restrictions, clearance void times, hold for release, and release times, when necessary, to separate departures from other traffic or to restrict or regulate the departure flow. 1. Clearance Void Times. A pilot may receive a clearance, when operating from an airport without a control tower, which contains a provision for the clearance to be void if not airborne by a specific time. A pilot who does not depart prior to the clearance void time must advise ATC as soon as possible of their intentions. ATC will normally advise the pilot of the time allotted to notify ATC that the aircraft did not depart prior to the clearance void time. This time cannot exceed 30 minutes. Failure of an aircraft to contact ATC within 30 minutes after the clearance void time will result in the aircraft being considered overdue and search and rescue procedures initiated.

NOTE− 1. Other IFR traffic for the airport where the clearance is issued is suspended until the aircraft has contacted ATC or until 30 minutes after the clearance void time or 30 minutes after the clearance release time if no clearance void time is issued.

5−5−4. Instrument Approach

b. Controller. 1. Issues an approach clearance based on known traffic.

5−5−4. Instrument Approach a. Pilot. 1. Be aware that the controller issues clearance for approach based only on known traffic.

  • $\begingroup$ This makes sense in IMC since two IFR flights may not be able to see each other. Buy what about in VMC, when there may be VFR flights in the area (possibly below radar) and IFR flights are getting visual approaches? $\endgroup$ – StephenS Nov 26 '18 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenSprunk All aircraft in VFR conditions are responsible for seeing and avoiding other traffic. That’s why airports with instrument approaches have the approach contained in Class E airspace so that you have a chance of seeing VFR traffic when you break out of the clouds. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Nov 26 '18 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ Logically, the point of the one-in/one-out rule is to cover cases when IFR aircraft can't see each other; if they can, though, then does the rule not apply? Or is this one of those (many) cases where logic and rules diverge? $\endgroup$ – StephenS Nov 26 '18 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ @StephenSprunk I don’t think logic and rules diverge, there are just different rules for IFR separation and VFR separation. Controllers are required to keep IFR traffic away from other IFR traffic. They may not even know about VFR traffic so they can’t provide separation. e.g., The ceiling can be 1500' with 3 miles visibility and in a Class E airport you can be doing touch-and-goes in the pattern. ATC may not have coverage to the ground at that airport, but if everyone is playing by the rules, the plane in the pattern is at least 500' below the clouds giving you time to see and avoid them. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Nov 26 '18 at 18:00

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