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FAA updates nontowered flight operations AC

Advisory circular 90-66C, relating to operations around nontowered airports, will replace an earlier version of the AC, with updates to reflect current procedures and best practices—notably including amended guidance on straight-in approaches.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

ACs are not regulations, but rather guidance to help pilots comply with regulations. This one, re-published June 6, aims to mitigate midair collisions with new advice on straight-in approach procedures at nontowered airports.

The preceding version (90-66B) encouraged pilots use the standard traffic pattern approach but recognized that pilots might execute a straight-in approaches on certain occasions, such as landing while performing “a visual approach executed as part of the termination of an instrument approach.”

The FAA now cautions pilots to avoid straight-in approaches altogether when there are other aircraft in the traffic pattern.

“To mitigate the risk of a midair collision at a non-towered airport in other than instrument conditions, the FAA does not recommend that the pilot execute a straight-in approach for landing, when there are other aircraft in the traffic pattern,” the updated AC states. “The straight-in approach may cause a conflict with aircraft in the traffic pattern and on base to final and increase the risk of a midair collision.”

The update follows a pattern of fatal midair collisions including accidents in Winter Haven, Florida, Dallas, and Las Vegas.

The AC also covers communications procedures and general operating practices for pilots flying around an airport without a control tower, or a control tower that only operates part time.

If you’re flying in or around nontowered airports, be sure to familiarize yourself with these best practices and take the opportunity to refresh your memory on nontowered airport operations and procedures by revisiting the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and the Aeronautical Information Manual.

If you want to test your nontowered airport operations knowledge, take the Air Safety Institute’s Nontowered Operations safety quiz.

Lillian Geil
Communications Specialist
Communications Specialist Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.

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