National Airspace Procedures for Non-Towered Aerodromes


1. Background

Changes to Australian Airspace have progressively been introduced since the decision to adopt the National Airspace System in May 2002.

The changes largely bring Australia into line with recognized ICAO standards and pick up many features of the American airspace system.

The next series of changes become effective on 24 November, 2005. These changes impact flying at all non-towered aerodromes – that is any aerodrome / airfield / bush strip / Ag strip / aircraft landing areas (ALA) etc across Australia. Consequently, these changes impact glider pilots.

These latest changes include a standard set of practices to be adopted for operations at all non-towered aerodromes.

2. Definitions

Non-towered aerodrome
- aerodrome without a control tower.
- aerodrome where control tower is not operating.
- an approach where the aircraft is aligned with the landing runway by 5nm and broadcasts at 3nm and 1 nm (with intentions). Aircraft must be radio equipped!
- Normal circuit aircraft have right-of-way.
Circuit Live-side
- that side normally used for circuit direction (generally left hand side)
it is a requirement that all turns at non-towered aerodromes be left hand turns unless the CASA has issued a direction to the contrary.
Circuit Dead-side
- that side not normally used for circuit direction (generally right hand side of circuit).
- Mandatory Broadcast Zone. (Redundant in the new system.)
- Common Traffic Advisory Frequency.

3. Changes

a) No defined volume for airspace associated with non-towered aerodrome.

b) MBZ's will be discontinued.

c) Radio carriage and use will be mandatory at some aerodromes. This will be depicted by CTAF XXX.X (R) on charts. (XXX.X = frequency) e.g. Mildura 118.8 (R)

d) Radio equipped aircraft to monitor and broadcast on CTAF frequency at or before 10NM (18 Km).

e) Positional broadcasts will be introduced in the circuit area to enhance situational awareness.

All Operations

General Aviation Calls Glider Calls
- Before taxying
- Before entering any active runway
- When clear of an active runway
- Before takeoff (by Tug if applicable)
Inbound/Overflying (regardless of altitude)

- Before 10 NM
- When entering circuit downwind
- When entering circuit on dead side
- When conducting straight in approach
- at 3 NM
- at 1 NM

- Before 10 NM (18 km)
- When entering circuit downwind
- When entering circuit on dead side
- When conducting straight in approach
- at 3 NM (6 km)
- at 1 NM (2 km)

In The Circuit

- Downwind
- Turning onto Base leg
- Turning Final, with intentions

- Downwind
- Turning onto Base leg
- Turning Final


- Departing contrary to circuit direction

- Departing contrary to circuit direction

f) Standard Broadcast Format: Location Traffic, A/C type, Callsign, Position, Intentions, Location
e.g. "Waikerie traffic, glider India Kilo Oscar, joining mid-downwind, Runway 26, Waikerie".


Gliders – Example Calls

Before take-off

- if aerotow, Tug will make the call

- if Winch – "Balaklava Traffic, Glider Zulu Bravo Golf, preparing to winch launch, runway 16 Balaklava"


- "Balaklava Traffic, Glider Zulu Bravo Golf, 4500, departed Balaklava for Clare" (or first turnpoint)


- "Balaklava Traffic, Glider Zulu Bravo Golf, 18km north-east, 4000 inbound for Balaklava"

Circuit Calls

Joining Downwind (live side): "Balaklava Traffic, Glider Zulu Bravo Golf, 900, joining mid-downwind, runway 16 Balaklava"

Joining Downwind (dead side): "Balaklava Traffic, Glider Zulu Bravo Golf, 1100, joining circuit, crosswind for runway 16 Balaklava"

Turning Base: "Balaklava Traffic, Zulu Bravo Golf, turning base, runway 16 Balaklava"

Turning Final: "Balaklava Traffic, Zulu Bravo Golf, turning final (short final / long final) Balaklava"

Other Calls

Other calls should be made (recommended) or information provided, if pilots consider the additional information will enhance flying safety, e.g. if another glider is observed ahead, the call might be: "Balaklava Traffic, Glider Zulu Bravo Golf, 1100, joining circuit, crosswind for Runway 16 Balaklava, number 2 to ASK 21 ahead"

g) Circuit Heights, relative to Aircraft Performance

High Performance aircraft - 1500 Ft AGL on QNH, e.g. RFDS, i.e. 1640 Ft (at Waikerie)

Typical GA aircraft - 1000 Ft AGL on QNH, e.g. Tug, i.e. 1140 Ft (at Waikerie)

Gliders - 600 – 1000 Ft, AGL on QNH, i.e. 750 Ft – 1150 Ft (at Balaklava)

h) Preferred Entry Point

The preferred circuit entry point is mid downwind, joining at 45 degrees to the downwind leg.

If joining from deadside of circuit, enter on crosswind and cross the active runway between mid-downwind and the upwind end of the runway, giving way to other circuit traffic and aircraft entering at 45 degrees mid-downwind (on the live side). Consider gliders being launched by winch when overflying airfield!

If possible, avoid flying through the circuit area.

i) Max Speed in Circuit

The maximum speed in any circuit at a non-towered aerodrome is 200 Kts.

j) Take-off and Landing

Takeoffs and landings should be performed on the runway most closely aligned with the wind direction.

k) Straight-in-Approach

May only be conducted when it is safe to do so.

Aircraft must be radio equipped and monitor and broadcast intentions on the CTAF.

Aircraft must be aligned with the runway by 5 NM (9 Km), make calls at 3 nm (6 km) and 1 nm (2 Km).

If conflict occurs, the pilot conducting the straight-in approach must give-way.

l) Departure Procedures

Broadcast intentions.

If departing from live side of circuit, climb to circuit height, or above and clear of other circuit traffic, before turning outbound.

If departing from the deadside of the circuit, climb straight ahead to 500 Ft above circuit height before turning, and broadcast intentions.

m) Fly Over

It is recommended pilots avoid flying over a recognized airfield to minimize risk of conflict. The "avoid" may be by lateral or vertical separation – i.e. fly over high, not at circuit height.

n) Aerodromes with Gliding Activity

Ideally gliders and powered aircraft should be separated thus gliders should operate inside powered aircraft circuit


1) Existing discrete CTAF frequencies will remain – i.e. Waikerie 126.7

2) Any aerodrome with specific local procedures will remain.

3) All pilots are encouraged to monitor and broadcast on the CTAF if radio equipped.

4) The requirement to maintain a good lookout remains. Remember to LOOK, TALK and TURN.

5. CTAF information is contained in ERSA.

6. There are no rules that grant one type of operation priority over another, pilots should use common courtesy.

7. Gliders must give-way to balloons. Other powered aircraft must give-way to gliders.

8. Existing rules relating to gliders remain, except for references to MBZ (now CTAF (R).)

9. Pilots should use QNH as the datum for all altitude / height references.

10. These Standard Procedures are recommendations.

11. The formal documentation refers to exemptions under CAO 95.4 These exemptions are addressed in a separate document.

John Hudson, October 2005.

Last update 13/11/05