What would be the proper procedure to follow, when in the pattern or approaching an airport, if ATC gives you the position of an aircraft and you do not have them in sight? Do you just report "not in sight" and wait to turn base?


Please don't use "Not in sight". Parts of radio transmissions, such as single words, can easily be cut off or missed, making it sound like you said "In sight". I commonly hear pilots use the phrase "Looking out" or something similar, which conveys a clear message: "I understood what you said, but I don't see the traffic yet".

ATC provides traffic information when there is a risk of conflict, or in the traffic circuit if we want you to follow another aircraft. No matter the reason, we will continue to update you on the traffic either until it is no longer a factor, or until you report having the traffic in sight. So, when you receive traffic information, keep looking until you see the traffic. We will keep you updated as long as it is still relevant. And please do report when you spot the traffic, that is a super helpful piece of information to us.

In the traffic circuit specifically, if you can't see the traffic being called out, you can always ask the tower to confirm you are cleared for base and final turn. When I have someone on downwind who can't spot the aircraft to follow, I will typically just tell them to continue downwind and then I will call their base turn when appropriate. But, as always, if in doubt, ask.

  • $\begingroup$ The correct phrasology when receiving a traffic service in the UK is Traffic not sighted. This doesnt reconcile well with your comment (which is of course true) about the odd word sometimes getting dropped. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 9 '19 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Jamiec That phraseology is UK specific. It does not comply with ICAO SARPS: skybrary.aero/index.php/Traffic_Information $\endgroup$ – J. Hougaard Sep 9 '19 at 13:18

In the USA, we attended a safety seminar, where the preferred response was "Negative contact, Nxxxxx", or "Traffic in sight, Nxxxxx".

My panel now shows ADS-B In traffic, so planes with ADS-B Out are a lot easier to spot as we now have a much better idea of where to look.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.