# When flying a circling approach, is it permitted to begin the visual circling segment prior to the final approach fix?

Lnafziger
• When flying a circling approach, is it permitted to begin the visual circling segment prior to the final approach fix? Lnafziger

If it were a beautiful sunny VFR day and you were cleared for a circling approach, can you begin the circle prior to the final approach fix/circling DH in order to maneuver visually to land?

Here are two examples of situations where it would be very useful, and both are real life clearances that I have gotten multiple times:

# Example 1 - KASE

Clearance:

N1234, Cleared for the VOR/DME-C approach, cleared to land runway 15

If you follow the step downs until the final approach fix (ZIGBU) you will be at 2,983 ft. above the runway (10,820 ft. MSL) with 2.9 miles to go (9.61 degree descent angle). To put this in perspective, on a normal 3 degree descent, you should be at 870 ft. above the runway so are over 2,000 ft. high on less than a 3 mile final.

Could you begin the circle early and descend while visually avoiding any obstacles prior to the step-down fixes? Say cross ALLIX at 11,000 ft. and ZIGBU at 9,000 ft. (assuming that this cleared all obstacles)? Keep in mind that this is a circling approach so we will be operating below the MDA visually at some point on final anyway.

If not, then it would be nearly impossible to land straight-in while flying most jets, and yet I have never seen anyone do a 360 or a similar maneuver while on final here (and who would want to do that in the valley anyway??).

# Example 2 - KTEB

Clearance:

N1234, Cleared for the ILS Runway 6 Circle Runway 1 Approach, cleared to land runway 1

If I fly the ILS (localizer and glideslope) until reaching circling minimums, especially in a category C or D airplane and with this runway layout, it will take a lot of room to turn right for a base leg to runway 1 and then turn back left to intercept final and lose the required altitude.

Could you start the circle a little sooner by making the right turn early (prior to DH, but still within the protected circling area) in order to intercept the extended final for runway 1?

• You cannot legally descend below minimum altitudes. Going to 11,000' before Allix or 9000' before Zigbu is not allowed unless you cancel IFR or are cleared for a visual approach. Sometimes the stepdowns are used to keep you above traffic instead of obstacles. That's the case at Orlando International, for example, where the ILS approach from the north overflies the ILS approach from the east at Orlando Executive.

• Well, some of the things you are talking about are not even permitted for a visual approach :-)

Here's my 2c :

ICAO Doc 8161 7.2.2

After initial visual contact, the basic assumption is that the runway environment should be kept in sight while at minimum descent altitude/height (MDA/H) for circling

The circling approach allows you to fly at/below the MDA around the airport while having (part of) the airport in sight AND while inside the circling approach area (~4.5 miles max for category E). It's not a license to disregard altitude restrictions while descending on the approach. It's also not a license to start flying around the class D airspace at will.

For KASE the highest category allowed for circling is C. The protected area (centered around the runway threshold) for category C is 1.7NM. You cannot begin your circling until 1.2 NM after ZIGBU.

Note that after ZIGBU you can descend to the circling MDA of 10220 and with the airport in sight you can continue to descend all the way to the rwy threshold any time you wish. How are you going to lose 3000' in 2.9 NM I have no idea. But I'm pretty sure a circle to land clearance does not allow you to break that "10820' or above" restriction.

• While researching this subject, I found a few things that shed light on the subject:

# Procedures

FAA ATC Order 4-8-1 Note 1 says:

1. Clearances authorizing instrument approaches are issued on the basis that, if visual contact with the ground is made before the approach is completed, the entire approach procedure will be followed unless the pilot receives approval for a contact approach, is cleared for a visual approach, or cancels their IFR flight plan.

So we have to follow the entire approach, which includes all mandatory altitudes.

# Aspen Approach

c. Straight-in Minimums are shown on the IAP when the final approach course is within 30 degrees of the runway alignment (15 degrees for GPS IAPs) and a normal descent can be made from the IFR altitude shown on the IAP to the runway surface. When either the normal rate of descent or the runway alignment factor of 30 degrees (15 degrees for GPS IAPs) is exceeded, a straight-in minimum is not published and a circling minimum applies. The fact that a straight-in minimum is not published does not preclude pilots from landing straight-in if they have the active runway in sight and have sufficient time to make a normal approach for landing. Under such conditions and when ATC has cleared them for landing on that runway, pilots are not expected to circle even though only circling minimums are published. If they desire to circle, they should advise ATC.

The key part for this discussion is that, for approaches that would be straight-in if it weren't for the high descent rate on final (like the KASE approach), pilots are not expected to circle even though only circling minimums are published. If they desire to circle, they should advise ATC.

Well, in this case we can't land straight-in after making the last crossing restriction, so what can we do?

Combining the two quoted passages, our options are:

• Get approval for a contact approach
• Get approval for a visual approach
• Cancel our IFR flight plan
• Get approval to circle since we can't land straight-in.

The first three are pretty straight-forward and can be used if you pick up the airport visually in time.

If you need to circle, I found a great article called Circle-To-Land Tactics which was written by a former chairman of the ALPA TERPs committee. He suggests overflying the runway and then flying a modified pattern:

# Teterboro Approach

We can't start our circle until we are within the protected circling area. This means that for my category C airplane, I have to wait until 1.7 NM from the runway threshold before I can begin my turn.

We could make a right 90 degree turn followed by a left 90 degree turn to line up on final, but that would eat up about one mile just by turning. Since runway 1 is actually closer to us than 6 at this point, I have even less distance to work with and can't even see the runway during the first turn because we are banking the wrong direction. This would be pretty tight.

In this case, the previous article recommends a circle like this (which would be modified for our actual runway layout):

In good visual conditions, I would just ask for a visual approach so that we can start the turn a little sooner and land "more" straight-in without flying all over the airport.

One last point: Since there is a control tower at both of these airport, make sure that they know what we are going to do!

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• If it were a beautiful sunny VFR day and you were cleared for a circling approach, can you begin the circle prior to the final approach fix/circling DH in order to maneuver visually to land? Here..., and yet I have never seen anyone do a 360 or a similar maneuver while on final here (and who would want to do that in the valley anyway??). Example 2 - KTEB Clearance: N1234, Cleared for the ILS Runway 6 Circle Runway 1 Approach, cleared to land runway 1 If I fly the ILS (localizer and glideslope) until reaching circling minimums, especially in a category C or D airplane

• you're free to fly higher if it's a particularly cold day. But have a look at LOCKI intersection, the final approach fix. That's at 1500 ft, not at-or-above. At -40, this will put you around 1100 ft above ground level. Although I don't see any obstructions that high during this segment of the approach, as far as I know instrument approaches are supposed to guarantee a 500 ft obstacle clearance, do...Non-precision instrument approaches generally have altitude restrictions which get lower when you get closer to the airport. I always figured these restrictions were AMSL using the current altimeter

• I have a question regarding this Missed Approach Procedure Im in my final approach segment and reach DME 1.1 and the runway is not in sight so I start my Missed approach, how should it be executed? Since I have to hold I'd start a tear drop entry turning to heading 125° and then left turn intercepting 275° course inbound. This option sounds viable to me I first do a right 360° as charted (???) and going to the VOR and then starting probably a parallel entry into the hold. This doesn't sound viable to me Textual description is also clear about that 360° If it 1.) why would they chart

• So the answer in my mind is "of course pilots can fly circling approaches at non-towered airports" (seriously, I could swear that I've done it before, but then again I can't think of any specific examples....). That is, until I ran across this little tidbit in the Air Traffic Control Order while researching another question: 4-8-6. CIRCLING APPROACH a. Circling approach instructions may only be given for aircraft landing at airports with operational control towers. So then the question becomes, why do they have circling minimums at non-towered airports?? No tower here. ATC

• miles from WOKOL bearing approximately 320), and I had been cleared to WOKOL for the RNAV 36. I am assuming ATC did not explicitly tell me to do a procedure turn. What am I supposed to do when I get to WOKOL? The plate says NoPT, which is obviously a mistake. Do I still fly the course reversal? Do I whip into a 150 degree left turn over WOKOL as illustrated? Here are some relevant passages from the AIM: AIM 5-4-9: The procedure turn or hold-in-lieu-of-PT is a required maneuver when it is depicted on the approach chart, unless cleared by ATC for a straight-in approach. Additionally

• At least where I fly, most instrument approaches now use a Hold In Lieu of Procedure Turn (HILO). The "full procedure" now consists of a turn in the hold before proceeding inbound. In the example above (click to embiggen), if a pilot is northeast of EYWOK and receives the following clearance from Seattle Approach: Cessna 123AB, proceed direct EYWOK, maintain 3000 until established, cleared for the ILS Yankee approach at Paine Field. Are they required to fly the course reversal, or can they proceed inbound on the final approach course immediately upon reaching EYWOK and fly direct

• Most ILS approaches include localizer minimums that can be used if the glideslope transmitter or receiver fails. For example: In this case, to fly the ILS you would intercept the glideslope just before PRAIZ and fly the 3 degree glideslope down to minimums. If we were cleared for the ILS approach, but we instead wanted to ignore the glideslope and fly the LOC only approach1 (for whatever reason: training, practice, etc.), could we do that without specific ATC approval since it is on the same chart and says "ILS or LOC"? 1 We could fly the LOC only approach by crossing PRAIZ at 2,200

• Let's say that we're directly west of CATLI and have been cleared direct CATLI for the RNAV approach. We load the approach into the GNS430 and proceed direct the fix. After crossing CATLI outbound for the hold-in-lieu-of-procedure-turn, we realize that we want to stay in the hold for a few more turns. How do I tell the 430 that I don't want it to sequence to ZAMGI upon arrival at CATLI?

• the ground so the previous turn won't be able to intercept it. I could either omit the CD part or insert another CR (course to radial) before the CD leg but then I'm not doing what the map says, I improvise. So my question is am I conceiving this wrong, or the IAC is ambiguous in this particular point? ...I am building my own ATC simulator and for that purpose I need to include several instrument procedures. I have a problem with that particular one: My problem is on KEA transition, the leg between

• On this approach plate, the holding pattern shown is depicted for a missed approach: However, in the notes, it says to Descend to 6000 in holding pattern. even though you should only climb to 4700 feet, according to the missed approach procedure: Climb to 3000 via 166° bearing then climbing left turn to 4700 direct DUT NDB/DME and hold. What does the note actually mean (especially since it seems to be implying you would be higher than 6000 on the missed approach procedure)?

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