Make Closed Traffic at a Towered Airport

A listener to my podcast, Radar Contact, had a great question today about “Make closed traffic.” In today’s show, I said when a tower controller says, “Make closed traffic,” that means you are free to fly continuously around the airport traffic pattern. Once Tower says, “Make closed traffic,” you do not need renewed approval to fly around the pattern after each touch and go or low approach.

So here’s the question I got from Dave: “Your note on “Make Closed Traffic” moved me to write because the controllers at my home airport typically say “Make left/right closed traffic until further advised.” One controller just says “Make left/right closed traffic.” My instructor then asks whether the command is “until further notice”.

Officially Speaking

The answer is, neither “Make closed traffic until further advised,” nor “Make closed traffic until further notice” is standard phraseology. The Air Traffic Controller Manual says the correct phraseology is:

3-10-11. CLOSED TRAFFIC
Approve/disapprove pilot requests to remain in closed traffic for successive operations subject to local traffic conditions.
PHRASEOLOGY-
LEFT/RIGHT (if required) CLOSED TRAFFIC APPROVED. REPORT (position if required)

And here is the definition of closed traffic from the Pilot/Controller Glossary of the AIM:

“CLOSED TRAFFIC- Successive operations involv­ing takeoffs and landings or low approaches where the aircraft does not exit the traffic pattern.”

I called the tower supervisor at Peachtree-Dekalb Airport in Atlanta to get clarification on this. He said the correct phrase is simply, “Make closed traffic,” or, “Closed traffic approved.”

As you can see, the definition of closed traffic is “successive operations,” meaning, you are authorized to make continuous circuits around the pattern until you request something different or until Tower amends your clearance.

Stop Pestering Me!

I believe the reason why some tower controllers say, “Make closed traffic until further advised” is because many pilots do not know the meaning of the clearance “Make closed traffic.” Some pilots pester Tower for renewed approval to fly the next pattern even though they received authorization to keep flying patterns without further approval when Tower says, “Make closed traffic.” In response to this pestering, some controllers have developed the habit of adding the phrase “Until further advised.”

By the way if you missed today’s Radar Contact show, check it out here. It had some pretty good poop; and the information contained in it was good too!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Kinnear January 26, 2016 at 3:20 pm

I’m often given “make closed traffic” and the tower controller will continue to give me landing clearances, turn down wind, base, etc… Why would the controller continue to “control” the pattern after giving me closed traffic?
Is this a controller training issue, they don’t know what closed traffic means???
Additionally, once the control starts giving me traffic pattern instructions does that now terminate the “closed pattern”? When is the pilot required to ask for and receive landing clearance from the tower? Thanks, Tweeter

Reply

JeffKanarish January 26, 2016 at 3:46 pm

Tweeter,

I wrote directly to you with an answer. For anyone else reading this comment thread, I would recommend calling the tower supervisor any time you have a question about how a controller handled your flight at a tower-controlled airport.

One other note. A landing clearance must always be issued by Tower for each landing, regardless of any traffic pattern instructions that came prior.

Jeff

Reply

Herb September 28, 2016 at 7:47 pm

Correct, even though the tower has given you the go ahead for continuous pattern operations by saying Right closed Traffic,. The tower still needs to affirm you on final by saying your plane numbers ex: ” Cessna 759JD clear for for runway 29R. Then you can continue your pattern work until further advised.
Happy Flying…

Reply

JeffKanarish September 29, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Hey Herb,

The exact ATC phrasing would be the one-time clearance, “Cessna 759J, right closed traffic approved,” then prior to each landing, “Cessna 759J, Runway 29R, cleared touch and go.”

Cheers,

Jeff

Reply

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