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:
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??
As I understand 5-4-20 circling minima provide obstacle clearance within a lateral distance of the runway. In certain circumstances it may be necessary to overfly the landing environment to establish winds, etc. This should only be done when patternin VFR conditions.
The way I understand that ATC order is that it is about "circling approach instructions" which is different than "(circling) approach clearance". They cannot tell you to enter a left downwind, do a right 360, or follow some other specific path to the runway. If they clear you to execute a circling approach to a given runway at a non-towered airport, then the path to the runway is for the pilot to determine, as necessary to separate yourself from other aircraft in the terminal area and land safely.
If approaching an uncontrolled field at altitude a pilot can over fly the airport in order to determine wind direction and traffic in the pattern. The pilot can then begin circling while descending to pattern altitude and enter the pattern merging with other traffic. General aviation airports are not usually located where there are obstacles that have to be avoided during the approach unless there are mountains nearby that prevent a straight in final approach.
I've done quite a number of circling approaches at non-towered airports. ATC clears one for the approach by type (VOR 4, VOR-A, GPS 32, etc). There's no mention of how it is executed or terminates (other than missed approach instructions). Want to fly the RNAV/GPS by the LNAV minimums, fine. LPV, sure, go ahead, want to circle from 32 around to 4, they don't know how you're doing it. They just know that the airspace around the airport is clear for you to execute and approach (and go missed). Once you switch to CTAF, you're otherwise on your own. There's nobody to give you a landing clearance either, but that doesn't mean you're not allowed to land! :-)
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
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... actually are (or, as most pilots prefer to think, you're lower than what your altimeter reads) Have a look at this VOR approach into Newark Most altitude restrictions are a minimum level, so... 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
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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...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
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Can an airport not eligible for an FAA tower and controllers choose to fund their own air traffic control tower? Can that airport require pilots to taxi, approach, land, and take off according to their tower's instructions? If so, are there requirements for the controllers in terms of certification, or can they hire anyone they deem suitable for their airport? Do they have to coordinate with the FAA or air traffic control system in some special way?
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