Let’s run through a standard flight from cruise downwards, specifying what to do depending on whether a specific frequency is active or not.
- Once you are clear that you will be at your device for descent and landing, engage VNAV. Assuming you have already input a STAR into your flight plan, altitudes will already be in your FPL and VNAV will calculate a TOD based on your speed and other factors. To see your distance from your TOD, you need only look at the VNAV button: The xxNM will be your distance from your TOD.
- If there is a Centre frequency that’s active, ensure you are tuned into it (based on the airspace you’re in.) When you tune in to a new frequency, all you need to do is “Check in” with the controller.
- As you are nearing your TOD (5-10NM away) you will need to Request descent via xxx STAR. This is more of a formality, but wait until this is approved by Centre before actually starting your descent.
- If Centre frequency is not active, you can descend using VNAV as usual.
- Continue descending normally and follow any ATC commands, if any.
- Once you enter the Approach airspace, you will be handed off to Approach by Centre, if open. If there’s no Centre, tune into Approach as normal. Once you tune in, you need to request an Approach service, as usual. For instance, request an ILS/visual or GPD approach to the specific runway you are headed for.
- ATC will then reply with one of two commands: “Continue as filed, expect _____” or “Expect vectors for the ____“. “Expect vectors” means the Controller will be providing service and give you vectors and other commands to follow. “Continue as filed” means you can follow your filed STAR until you need to be taken off of it by the ATC, whether for traffic or for clearance. You can still expect a full clearance as you would currently. GPS approaches are a little different in the sense that you will be flying your own approach all the way to the runway and you will simply state “cleared GPS approach runway __” at an appropriate point when there is no conflict. We recommend requesting ILS approaches wherever possible as this not only makes it much simpler for you, it is also much easier for Controllers.
- Once you are cleared for your respective approach, you will be handed off to Tower as appropriate.
- From here onwards, the procedures are the same as they have been.
I hope this helps a bit and enables you to engage with ATC better in 20.1 and beyond.