Here’s the scenario that happened to me - Flying into a busy class D, I contacted tower with the usual “XYZ tower, Warrior 12345 12 to the west at 2,500 full stop with Oscar”

They respond “Warrior 12345 remain at altitude of 2,500” giving me clearance into the airspace but no specific entry to the pattern like “enter left downwind, base, etc, for rwy 29”. (Pattern altitude is 1200AGL)

Never heard again from tower as I got within ~1-2 miles of airport and frequency was completely busy and couldn’t get a word in.

What would you do until they addressed you or you could get a word in? Fly in circles a couple miles west of the airport? Continue on current heading and fly over the airport above pattern?


  • $\begingroup$ What is the pattern altitude at the airport in question? $\endgroup$
    – user22445
    Aug 11, 2021 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ 1200 AGL @757toga $\endgroup$
    – Spencer DR
    Aug 11, 2021 at 23:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! What did you do in that situation? There are lots of variables at both towered and non-towered airports, and if you think that you didn't make the best decision at the time then adding more details might get a better response. This question is fairly similar and might help too. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 12, 2021 at 0:17
  • $\begingroup$ @pondlife I did a 360 2 miles to the west of midfield at 2,500 and by the time I finished the 360 I was able to reach tower who then instructed me to drop into the down wind I was next to $\endgroup$
    – Spencer DR
    Aug 12, 2021 at 0:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sounds like you did the most reasonable/safe thing you could. There's no (IMO) exact answer to this question, except the usual "you should aviate, navigate, communicate" $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Aug 12, 2021 at 8:03

1 Answer 1


There's probably no perfect answer to your question because there are lots of variables. But, because ATC told you to stay at 2500 ft, I would remain at that altitude and well outside the airport area. When I'm able to contact the tower I would ask for further instructions.

By the way, if the airport/runway uses left traffic, ATC can omit the traffic pattern information (e.g. enter left downwind).

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. What do you mean they can omit traffic pattern info? Isn’t standard entry into a towered airport whatever ATC instructs you to do? Or do you just mean if they say “enter downwind” to assume it’s left downwind? $\endgroup$
    – Spencer DR
    Aug 12, 2021 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Spencer the second one, though I always specify myself. But I don't work at a super busy place where dropping the "left" will make or break my flow. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Aug 12, 2021 at 0:54
  • $\begingroup$ @SpencerDR The tower could just say something like "report entering downwind" (or similar). Assuming you reported that you had the ATIS. Left hand traffic can be assumed if omitted by the tower. $\endgroup$
    – user22445
    Aug 12, 2021 at 0:57

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