CTAF Trial | Starting from 1st March

The VATSIM United States (VATUSA) division will be trialing real world Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) starting March 1st 2024 and lasting up to 6 months. Pilots not under air traffic control will review charts and/or the VATSIM AIP to identify the correct CTAF for their airport.

What is CTAF?

Common Traffic Advisory Frequencies (CTAF) are frequencies that are used at airports without an operating control tower (also called non-towered, uncontrolled, or pilot-controlled airports) which allow pilots to coordinate amongst themselves to ensure appropriate aircraft separation. Pilots will advise other aircraft on CTAF of their position and intentions. When a part-time tower closes, the airport reverts to using CTAF.

More information from PilotInstitute

More information from Thrust Flight

How is CTAF different from UNICOM?

VATSIM has traditionally used the term UNICOM to indicate a common frequency (122.800) that all pilots are expected to utilize to coordinate intentions with other pilots. In the real world, UNICOM frequencies are used to communicate with non-ATC ground stations such as Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) at an airport. The correct terminology for the frequencies used by pilots to coordinate amongst themselves is CTAF.

Does CTAF mean I don’t have to look out for other aircraft?

No! It is important to remember that pilots in a given area will not all be on the same CTAF. It is critical to remain vigilant, use your resources, and keep your head out the window. Proper CTAF use is more important going into larger, busy airports, but it is still important to continue looking for other traffic. CTAF is a tool to coordinate with other pilots, but it does not replace a traffic scan. First priority is always to see and avoid other traffic, followed by using your tools such as ADS-B (on VATSIM this would be a map or your traffic display), third priority is CTAF.

Learn more about “how to use CTAF”, “Which Frequency to use” & “special cases” in Pilot learning Center > FAQ > CTAF Trial or visit vats.im/ctaf-trial.

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Wow, this is really exciting news! When first flying virtually in the USA, I was confused by the mismatch between the VATSIM frequencies and the real life CTAF ones printed in the Terminal Procedures Publication. I think this trial could enhance the educational aspect of VATSIM for learning how ATC radio procedures work.

I’m really looking forward to this! I learned how to find the proper CTAF frequency studying for my part 107 remote pilot certificate and realized we were not using UNICOM realistically on VATSIM in the US.

What frequency should we monitor enroute?


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While enroute, it will still be Unicom 122.800. CTAF is only used when you are in the vicinity of an airport. Read in detail: How to use CTAF

As we all know the unexperienced pilots don’t bother to learn flying from Paso Robles to San Luis Obispo, it rather has to be SFO - LAX… So these people already not communicating on Unicom with a single frequency are supposed to look up frequencies in their charts, and for the sake of more realism (but not too much, because CTAF in LAX is not really a thing) should not use the sector or runway frequency shown in the charts, but go to the Vatsim Website to find out which of these frequencies is THE CTAF frequency for LAX.

May be nice to have for the smaller airports where CTAF is a thing, put please rethink it for the bigger ones.

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im not even unexperienced but am already at a bit of a loss. which freq we gonna use at large airports?


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if i had to guess i would expect just use 122.8 as usual

i hope it is made clear

To continue the discussion. Please revert to this discussion thread.

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Feeling overwhelmed trying to keep up with the latest articles and announcements? Look no further! British Avgeek got you covered with a comprehensive video that breaks down things you need to know about the CTAF Trial.

Full Video: youtube.com/watch?v=t6HhMaGxNbs