With all of the staffing challenges which the San Carlos Air Traffic Control Tower has faced in recent months, there have been and may continue to be periods when the tower is not operational during what should be its normal operating hours.

When the tower is closed, San Carlos becomes a non-towered airport, and the same rules apply as at any other non-towered field. It is critical that all pilots follow the rules and best practices outlined in the AIM, especially including clear and concise radio communication on 119.0 announcing your position at each leg of the pattern, and your intentions as you approach and enter the pattern. You should also make concise announcements on 119.0 about movements on the ground and when you enter or vacate the runway. (There is no “ground frequency” when the tower is closed.) These announcements are crucial to allow other traffic to maintain situational awareness and safely enter and leave the pattern without conflict. Straight-in approaches are strongly discouraged when the pattern is busy.

It is also important that pilots of light piston aircraft do not climb above their 800’ pattern altitude, because there may be much faster turbine aircraft also using the pattern at their altitude, which is 1200’. When there are several aircraft in the pattern, it is courteous to extend downwind to allow traffic which may be waiting to depart to do so.

San Carlos is a busy airport, and all pilots need to be paying even closer attention than usual to using proper procedures when its airspace is uncontrolled. This is how we maintain the high level of safety that we all wish to have.