Who's Online?
Quick Chart Search
Arriving into LAX with Metroplex

The ATIS and Arrival Briefing

First things first: Check the ATIS! LAX ATIS is on 133.8.

You should check the ATIS soon after you start your initial descent and before reaching FL180 (so you will know the altimeter setting). The ATIS has everything you need to know about the weather, arrival runways, NOTAMS and anything else pertinent to ensuring everyone is all smiles when they leave your plane (although we do judge your landings, we can’t make them for you). You should be able to tune to the ATIS at least 40 miles away from LAX.

Though we're happy to answer questions on the frequency, the frequency can be VERY busy during events. So, asking your busy controller which runways are in use or the altimeter setting is not a good use of valuable frequency time.

So, get your ATIS and brief yourself on the arrival and potential approaches. If it's not included in the ATIS, and you need to know, then ask your controller.

When you switch from Center to Approach, call up Approach with the following information:

  • Flight or Tail Number
  • Current altitude (your controller has to validate the altitude he sees on his scope)
  • The current ATIS code (you’ll know this if you listened to it, right?? Hmmmmmmm.....)

Example: "SoCal Approach, AAL123, flight level 200 descending with information foxtrot." Boom! Done. You’ve just earned a special star you can put on your pilot certificate. (Call the FAA to order. Expect delivery in 12-120 weeks.)

Don’t I have to tell him what arrival I’m on? Nope! That’s in your flightplan, and your controller is required to pass a basic reading test before he starts his shift.

What if I am told to descend except maintain xxx altitude? Then add the altitude restriction you were given!

Example: “SoCal Approach, AAL123, flight level 200 descending 17,000 with information foxtrot.

When you do this, it saves time because your controller has now immediately validated your altitude and knows that you have the current weather information. That means he doesn't have to quiz you about everything. I mean, what are you trying to hide?

You also don't need to report where you are. When you're within radar coverage and handed from one controller to the next, we already know where you are. Yes, we ARE watching you...

Easy peasy!

Common Mistakes:

  • Not checking the ATIS
  • Not reporting you have the current ATIS information
  • Asking your controller for the arrival runways, altimeter setting or anything else that's already included in the ATIS
    • Really? You don’t even have to read. You LISTEN to the ATIS being read to you. Think of it as story time for pilots!
  • Asking Center what approach to expect or asking Center to tell Approach what you want
    • During events at featured airports, approach is online. This means center is focused on making sure en route traffic is well separated and the arrival flow is nice and organized. Center is not responsible for approaches into LAX.
  • After transferring from Center, telling Approach what approach or runway you're already setup for
    • This is like telling your mother you don’t want the spaghetti she cooked tonight and you prepared your appetite for steak and lobster. Well, that’s just WONDERFUL. You don’t have to eat then.
    • Seriously, we are happy to assign any approach you like, but only when operationally feasible. If 30 other planes are also headed for 24R and 25L, you can bet your bottom dollar you're not going to get 25R. If you want the RNAV Y RWY 25L instead of the ILS RWY 25L, then that's fine. Just don't get your feathers ruffled when we assign you 24R and you had your hopes up for 25L.
  • Giving the altitude to which you are descending and not your current altitude
    • Example: "SoCal Approach, AAL123, descending to 12,000."
    • We need the altitude you see as soon as you are calling. Any difference between what you see and what we see has to be less than 300 feet.
  • Being unnecessarily verbose over the frequency
    • Example: "SoCal Approach, uuuhh, this is American Airlines uhhhhhh flight number one two seven seven, we're with you uhhhhhh descending out of flight level two one zero heading to one two thousand. We checked the ATIS and uuuuhhhhh have current weather and uuhhhhhh it's a smooth ride up here uhhhhh glad to be flying ZLA! uuhhhhh You guys are the bestest!!!! OVER!"
    • While we'd love to chat and are glad to hear ZLA is your favorite airspace, be courteous and keep it to-the-point when the frequency is busy.
  • Barging in on the frequency too soon and/or stepping on someone else's transmission
    • Would you walk into a room and immediately start talking over someone else’s conversation mid sentence? People would look at you funny, you say? Yeah, we do, too. You just can’t see us :-).
    • Listen before you speak on the frequency and allow other pilots to read back instructions. Yes, we know there is a voice delay on VATSIM, so sometimes it is inevitable. But, waiting and listening first improves the experience.
    • When you're handed off from one controller to the next, we already expect you, see you and know what you're supposed to be doing. So, you don't have to rush to the mic and report in. We will call you if we need to hear from you sooner.



Arrival Procedures

Typical arrivals into LAX include the IRNMN from the northwest, the ANJLL from the northeast and the HLYWD from the east.

These replace the SADDE, RIIVR and SEAVU arrivals and are optimized profile descent (OPD) arrivals. OPDs are designed to allow aircraft to descend continuously rather than descending and leveling multiple times.

You'll get your initial descent from Los Angeles Center. You'll likely hear something like: "AAL123, descend via the IRNMN1 arrival" or "AAL123, descend via the IRNMN1 arrival except maintain 12,000."

In the first case, you should follow the published altitude restrictions all the way to the lowest altitude on the appropriate arrival until you receive further ATC instruction.

In the second case, you should do the same except stop at the altitude instructed. Usually, you'll be given further descent by approach prior to reaching that altitude.

All you have to do is make sure LNAV and VNAV are doing what they’re supposed to and the plane is crossing within the altitude and speed restrictions shown on the STAR. If you have a problem, just let us know! We’d rather get you setup with alternatives (vectors, different arrival) sooner than later. Letting us know early also gives us more time to coordinate with other controllers.

Common Arrival Mistakes:

  • Not following lateral guidance on the STAR
    • Please be sure to follow the appropriate fixes as depicted on the STAR. Proceeding direct to a fix further down the arrival throws the arrival sequence, which means delays for you.
  • Not descending via the published altitude restrictions
    • Many pilots expect to be given hard altitudes to which to descend. That won't be the case with optimized profile descents. Your FMS should have the altitudes preset for a nice smooth descent.
  • Not descending with the published speed restrictions
    • The speed restrictions are there to keep the sequencing stable. Be sure your aircraft is meeting those restrictions!
  • Dialing in the wrong voice frequency given for Approach
    • During busy events (when we have multiple sectors), several frequencies may sound similar. Listen carefully for the hand off!
    • NOTE: Check the STAR and the approach plates for published frequencies. We will use the published frequencies as much as possible. But, sometimes we have to combine or split sectors during the event. So, preset what’s published, but listen carefully in case you get something different.
    • TIP: Use vPilot or xSquawkBox to list online controllers to see if the published frequency is being used!



Approach Procedures

Approaches into LAX is where it gets tricky. LAX is surrounded by several airports and thus has very tight airspace boundaries. Most of the time, LAX runs in west operations. This means arrivals land on the outboard runways (24R and 25L).

If LAX is IMC, you should expect the ILS runway 24R or 25L approach.

If LAX is VMC, you should expect a visual approach to runway 24R or 25L and you should expect to intercept the localizer. Why? Visual approaches allow controllers to handle more traffic because we can use pilot-applied visual separation between aircraft.

If you're starting your approach at an IAF that feeds from a STAR, we will clear you for the instrument approach initially. We will then ask you to report traffic in front of you in sight. Once you do, we'll clear you for the visual approach and then you will use visual separation to safely follow the preceding aircraft.

If you are being vectored for the visual approach, you'll also be given a heading to fly to intercept the localizer either with or just prior to your visual approach clearance.

Example:

ATC: "AAL123, traffic 10 o'clock, 5 miles, westbound, a Boeing 737 at 3,200 descending for runway 25L. Report traffic in sight."

You: "Traffic in sight, AAL123."

ATC: "AAL123, turn left heading 280, intercept final approach course, number 2, cleared visual approach runway 25L."

You can and should continue to follow the instrument approach as you would normally. The main difference is that you are maintaining visual separation. (The other difference is a visual approach clearance does not authorize you to fly any missed approach procedure automatically. You will receive vectors if you go missed.)

Arriving from the East and Northeast

If you're coming down the ANJLL or HLYWD arrivals, you will start the approach from either CRCUS (from the ANJLL STAR) or SEAVU (from the HLYWD STAR).

You'll hear something like: "AAL123, at [CRCUS or SEAVU] cleared ILS runway [24R or 25L] approach."

This means you will continue on the ANJLL or HLYWD arrival and then start the ILS approach using CRCUS/SEAVU as your initial approach fix (IAF). 

NOTE: The ANJLL and HLYWD arrivals terminate at CRCUS and SEAVU respectively. And, CRCUS and SEAVU are IAFs for both ILS RWY 24R and 25L approaches. The arrivals feed directly into these approaches to make everything seamless.

You won't actually capture the localizer that far out, so you need to be RNAV 1 or GPS capable to start the approach. If you are not, be sure to remind your controller.


ILS RWY 24R: After you cross CRCUS or SEAVU, your next fixes will be SKOLL, then DECOR, and so on until you intercept the localizer and glideslope.


ILS RWY 25L: After you cross CRCUS or SEAVU, your next fixes will be KRAIN, then TAROC, and so on until you capture the localizer and glideslope.


Common Approach Mistakes:

  • Proceeding after CRCUS or SEAVU direct MERCE (24R), HUNDA or GAATE (25L)
    • Check your FMS once, twice and three times to be sure after CRCUS or SEAVU you are proceeding to the fixes as instructed on the appropriate approach plate.
    • When you depart CRCUS or SEAVU direct to some other fix, you shortcut yourself and throw the arrival sequence into disarray. This means delays for you.
  • Not dialing in the correct localizer frequency
    • Check, double check, triple check to be sure you have the correct frequency. Because LAX runs simultaneous parallel approaches, capturing the localizer is essential to avoiding aircraft coming from the opposite direction!
  • Not dialing in the correct Approach frequency
    • Look carefully at the frequencies on the charts. During a busy event, you will likely talk to 2 Approach controllers after Center. We use the same frequencies listed on the chart, so you will be given one that is listed.
    • Things happen fast when the airspace is busy. Getting the frequency change wrong or missing it causes delays!! Stay ahead of the plane and dial it in early!
  • Not dialing in the correct Tower frequency
    • Again, check the chart. During events, there are two LAX tower controllers: one for north and one for south. Have them preset and ready for the switch over!
    • Runways 24L/R are handled by LAX_N_TWR on 133.90.
    • Runways 25L/R are handled by LAX_S_TWR on 120.95.

Arriving from the Northwest and West

If you're arriving via the IRNMN or RYDRR arrivals, you will likely be given vectors to an approach. Listen carefully for instructions from your ATC controllers.

Common Mistakes:

  • Not following appropriate headings at the end of the STAR
    • Look closely at the IRNMN and RYDRR stars. Unless you receive instructions from ATC, after GADDO you are to proceed to fly track 071 and then expect radar vectors. Also note the last altitude and speed noted at DAHJR.
    • So, if ATC hasn't given you any further instruction, after GADDO, maintain 6,000 at 210 knots on a 071 track. That's it.
  • Proceeding to the RNAV Z RWY 24R approach without a clearance
    • You should only do this if you are simulating a lost communications scenario. Note that controllers are unlikely to approve an emergency during an event.
  • Proceeding direct MERCE and joining the ILS or RNAV RWY 24R approach
    • See the first point.



SPECIAL: ILS RWY 25L Approach at CLPUR

This is VERY LIKELY to be used during heavy arrival pushes!

In order to handle more traffic on simultaneous parallel approaches, the ILS RWY 25L approach has a new initial approach fix (IAF) named CLPUR. The path starting at CLPUR keeps 25L arrivals more separated from those on 24R.

While desceding via the ANJLL or HLYWD arrivals, your controller may instruct you to start your approach at CLPUR rather than CRCUS or SEAVU.

You may be told in advance to expect direct CLPUR for ILS runway 25L approach.

Then, you will hear something like: "AAL123, after crossing [CRCUS or SEAVU] cleared direct CLPUR, cleared ILS runway 25L approach."

Check, double check and triple check your FMC to be sure you proceed to CLPUR when instructed and then WITZZ, JUDOH and so on until you intercept the localizer at GAATE.

Also double check that you follow the published altitude restrictions.

As noted earlier, do NOT proceed direct HUNDA after SEAVU or CLPUR.



Landing at LAX

Just a few notes here:

  • Remember:
    • LAX_N_TWR handles runways 24L/R on 133.9
    • LAX_S_TWR handles runways 25L/R on 120.95
  • After you land, remain on the tower frequency until specifically instructed to contact ground control.
    • This instruction is noted on the airport diagram!!
    • A common mistake is to switch to ground as soon as you've cleared the runway. That's common at other airports, but NOT at LAX!



Wrapping it All Up

Flying into LAX is great fun! But, with tight airspace and strict requirements, a little planning and practice goes a long way. Remember, we really want everyone to have a fun time with minimal delays. We enjoy controlling, and we enjoy having you as pilots.

As always, it's better to prepare and ask your controller a question rather than to assume and cause delays for yourself. If you can't fly a particular procedure or have a problem, let us know immediately so we can make arrangements for you!

If you have any questions about the event, feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Nick Christopher
ZLA Event Coordinator

Back to Top