The communication strip provided near the top of NACO approach charts gives flight crews the frequencies that they can expect to be assigned during the approach. The frequencies are listed in the logical order of use from arrival to touchdown. Having this information immediately available during the approach reduces the chances of a loss of contact between ATC and flight crews during this critical phase of flight.

It is important for flight crews to understand their responsibilities with regard to communications in the various approach environments. There are numerous differences in communication responsibilities when operating into and out of airports without air traffic control towers as compared to airports with control towers. Today’s professional pilots face an ever-increasing range of ATC environments and conflicting traffic dangers, making approach briefing and preplanning even more critical. Individual company operating manuals and SOPs dictate the duties for each crewmember.

Advisory Circular 120-71, Standard Operating Procedures for Flight Deck Crewmembers, contains the following concerning ATC communications:



Approach control is responsible for controlling all instrument flights operating within its area of responsibility. Approach control may serve one or more airports. Control is exercised primarily through direct pilot and controller communication and airport surveillance radar (ASR). Prior to arriving at the IAF, instructions will be received from ARTCC to contact approach control on a specified frequency. Where radar is approved for approach control service, it is used not only for radar approaches, but also for vectors in conjunction with published nonradar approaches using conventional NAVAIDs or RNAV/GPS.

When radar handoffs are initiated between the ARTCC and approach control, or between two approach control facilities, aircraft are cleared (with vertical separation) to an outer fix most appropriate to the route being flown and, if required, given holding instructions. Or, aircraft are cleared to the airport or to a fix so located that the handoff will be completed prior to the time the aircraft reaches the fix. When radar handoffs are used, successive arriving flights may be handed off to approach control with radar separation in lieu of vertical separation.

After release to approach control, aircraft are vectored to the final approach course. ATC will occasionally vector the aircraft across the final approach course for spacing requirements. The pilot is not expected to turn inbound on the final approach course unless an approach clearance has been issued. This clearance will normally be issued with the final vector for interception of the final approach course, and the vector will enable the pilot to establish the aircraft on the final approach course prior to reaching the FAF.