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# Visual Approach & Landing Procedures

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Been simming for sometime but, I mainly stick to ILS landings and when I do visual approaches it's usually to airports I'm familiar will.  I run into problems on visual approaches and landings at airports I'm less familiar with.  Obviously, ATC will guide me to a certain flight level but once the approval is given for landing I'm on my own.  Don't really have problems lining up with the runway but, I always have issues with altitude.

Question; is there a standard way to use the A/P (VNAV) on visual approaches?  Just to help with altitude?  I know about the FPM calculations but is that what your guys/gals do?

Or, do you really just fly it by hand?  If so, do you practice approaches and landings at particular airports you plan to fly to?

If you're truly able to "wing it" what helpful advice can you give?  Is it just practice, practice and more practice?

What works for you?

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On a visual approach, I enter the pattern altitude of the airport/field where I am landing. This information is on the VFR charts for that airport/field.

As a rule of thumb though, I will assume 1,500' AGL as the "pattern altitude." I aim for a descent of 3º from the OM, somewhere between 500 fpm and 700 fpm.

Fr. Bill

AOPA Member: 07141481 AARP Member: 3209010556

Interests: Gauge Programming - 3d Modeling for Milviz

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Most ILS approaches are a 3 degree glideslope, which does not mean much to you if you are flying by visual references as you have no means to determine that without a VASI or PAPI for guidance.The easy way is use a rule of thumb 300' per nautical mile on final.You start 5 miles from the threshold at 1500' above elevation, at 4 miles 1200', 3 miles 900' etc. I was a sim instructor where the type rating applicants were required to demonstrate a no flap visual approach and the examiner would typically fail the ILS and VASI.The descent rate is dependent on your ground speed and can be checked by referencing the profile view section of an ILS approach chart where it lists GS and rate of descent.Once they got the approach stabilized it matched the ILS profile very closely.Sort of a poor man's ILS and a good technique for a dark night approach with no visual or electronic guidance to a runway.

Gary Stewart

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If you have an FMC, the best thing to do would be to use the FIX and runway extension (RX) feature to draw some range rings/distances for you (obviously set this up well ahead of time!)

Otherwise, you can use the stopwatch to judge the downwind leg -- position yourself on downwind and, in a typical jet, be fully configured for landing (gear, flap, Vref, the lot) and start the chrono as you pass abeam the upwind threshold at 1500aal. Time 45 seconds, which will put you around 1.8-2NM out (adjusting the timing for wind as necessary) and as you start the turn to final begin a ~700fpm descent (or -3 degrees FPA if you have a FPV).

Halfway around the turn (i.e. heading around 90 degrees to the final approach course) you should be at 1000aal. You should roll out on final around 2NM from the landing threshold at around 600ft aal.

Obviously you can extend the downwind as necessary, but obviously you'll also need to modify your altitude targets.

Flying a visual circuit/landing in a large jet, whilst not "difficult" per se, is equally not to be taken lightly and you should familiarise yourself with the terrain/obstacles etc first and, in an ideal world, back up your visual with all available aids -- use the FMC to draw stuff on the map for situational awareness as described above, tune the DMEs, even tune the ILS up as a backup if you want.

Simon Kelsey

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Most ILS approaches are a 3 degree glideslope, which does not mean much to you if you are flying by visual references as you have no means to determine that without a VASI or PAPI for guidance.The easy way is use a rule of thumb 300' per nautical mile on final.You start 5 miles from the threshold at 1500' above elevation, at 4 miles 1200', 3 miles 900' etc. I was a sim instructor where the type rating applicants were required to demonstrate a no flap visual approach and the examiner would typically fail the ILS and VASI.The descent rate is dependent on your ground speed and can be checked by referencing the profile view section of an ILS approach chart where it lists GS and rate of descent.Once they got the approach stabilized it matched the ILS profile very closely.Sort of a poor man's ILS and a good technique for a dark night approach with no visual or electronic guidance to a runway.

Ahhh, yes!  I have noticed the reference altitudes on the approach charts.  Been flying ILS so much I haven't even thought about them for visual.  That is very helpful!

Thanks a bunch!

If you have an FMC, the best thing to do would be to use the FIX and runway extension (RX) feature to draw some range rings/distances for you (obviously set this up well ahead of time!)

Otherwise, you can use the stopwatch to judge the downwind leg -- position yourself on downwind and, in a typical jet, be fully configured for landing (gear, flap, Vref, the lot) and start the chrono as you pass abeam the upwind threshold at 1500aal. Time 45 seconds, which will put you around 1.8-2NM out (adjusting the timing for wind as necessary) and as you start the turn to final begin a ~700fpm descent (or -3 degrees FPA if you have a FPV).

Halfway around the turn (i.e. heading around 90 degrees to the final approach course) you should be at 1000aal. You should roll out on final around 2NM from the landing threshold at around 600ft aal.

Obviously you can extend the downwind as necessary, but obviously you'll also need to modify your altitude targets.

Flying a visual circuit/landing in a large jet, whilst not "difficult" per se, is equally not to be taken lightly and you should familiarise yourself with the terrain/obstacles etc first and, in an ideal world, back up your visual with all available aids -- use the FMC to draw stuff on the map for situational awareness as described above, tune the DMEs, even tune the ILS up as a backup if you want.

Hey Skelsey

Very helpful - it's visual terrain obstacles that I'm very aware of with some airports.  Unfortunately, when flying fora VA you don't always get to choose your destination.  Your points are very helpful.  Will work on them...

Thanks

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It all depends what type of aircraft, what airport, itp. If you are a large transport aircraft ATC will guide you quite low, you should watch landing of Virgin Atlantic 747 at KSFO (captain Alan Carter if I recall) - the high quality video is shot from within the cockpit and you will see how pilots handle this approach in pure visual conditions and how they perform the altitude step-downs. I think this video is now available on youtube in pieces, it was once payware only on DVD (the whole flight from London to KSFO). The pilots are vectored and they altitude handled by ATC - pretty much till the interception of the final approach course, so it is real easy for pilots. On the other hand if you are a lowly GA airplane doing VFR to some minor airport - then yeah, you have to do everything on your own.

Michael J.

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Hey Skelsey

Very helpful - it's visual terrain obstacles that I'm very aware of with some airports.  Unfortunately, when flying fora VA you don't always get to choose your destination.  Your points are very helpful.  Will work on them...

Thanks

No problem! When I said "familiarise yourself with the terrain and obstacles", what I really meant was have a good look at the charts (and any other information that might be available) during the flight planning (and then the descent briefing) phase: better to know about a mountain or radio mast at that stage than when you turn up below MSA :wink:. Just as in the real world, a crew might not necessarily have been to the airfield, but they will have briefed themselves on the terrain and other peculiarities in advance.

Another rule of thumb for you -- vertical speed for a 3 degree glide can be estimated with ground speed/2 x 10 (so, for instance, 140kts ground speed /2 = 70 x 10 = 700fpm). It's a quick and dirty approximation, but it's a useful tool to have in your armoury.

Simon Kelsey

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Another rule of thumb for you -- vertical speed for a 3 degree glide can be estimated with ground speed/2 x 10 (so, for instance, 140kts ground speed /2 = 70 x 10 = 700fpm). It's a quick and dirty approximation, but it's a useful tool to have in your armoury.

Ahhhh!  Now that's just what I was looking for!  Thanks lots!!!

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A visual approach is just that. A visual approach. In primary training, an instructor will get on you for using anything but your eyes to fly one.

I've flown into mid-sized airports as a pilot. They are going to expect that you know the area, know the runways, and know the patterns. The most they will usually say is "Nxxxxx enter right base for RWY XX" or if they are landing the opposite way, you may get told to ender the downwind and you'll fly the pattern from there with no further guidance. At some point you'll get cleared for the option.

It all just takes practice. You'll learn the site picture for the plane you are flying and what that gives you to the runway and it becomes second nature. Newer pilots have a tendency to not want to point the nose down far enough and instead drag it in. At really big airports, they aren't going to be flying typical patterns and typically sequence you to final, but it's still the same concept of using your eyes and stabilizing your approach based on what you see. You'll have a PAPI in those cases though.

Typical pattern altitude is 1000AGL at GA airports. At bigger airports it may be upwards of 1500AGL. On a visual approach, you are level on downwind at pattern altitude and starting your descent when you turn base. Continue down so that when you turn for final you are where you need to be.

It's not so important in a simulator, but in the real world it's very important you fly the posted pattern attitude because that's what other pilots will expect you to be at when they are looking for traffic. The scariest place to fly is in a crowded pattern where someone isn't observing the rules.

It may be tempting to fly a really long downwind to end up with a longer final, but remember that one of the points of the pattern is that you are within reach of the runway at your low altitude in the case of an emergency. Unless the tower asks you to extend (and obviously the simulator will never ask that), it's good practice to fly it right.

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A visual approach is just that. A visual approach. In primary training, an instructor will get on you for using anything but your eyes to fly one.

In a C172, I agree with you. Flying a visual circuit in a large, high-inertia, transport-category jet, on the other hand, is a slightly different situation (especially if you have SLF on board) and good airmanship dictates that you really should be using all the tools at your disposal. In your average spamcan, you can look over your shoulder and see the runway behind the wing to judge when to turn base. You can't, generally, do that in a jet transport. Likewise, you'd judge your spacing on downwind by looking at where the runway "cuts" the wing -- again, not really feasible with the limited view available from the flight deck of a airliner. Plus, in a light aircraft you can get away with quite a lot in terms of height or speed errors: if you get too high in a jet a couple of miles out, you have almost no chance of recovering the situation in an acceptable manner.

So with those things in mind -- yes, you should primarily be judging the approach visually, but if you're flying an airliner then a) some rules of thumb are very useful and b) if you've got aids available to back up your visual and enhance your situational awareness then it is good airmanship to use them rather than playing the hero aviator.

If all that sounds a bit harsh then I apologise -- it's not aimed at you, and you have some excellent points about the importance of being at the correct circuit height, knowing the layout and checking the charts and local procedures in your flight planning. But I did feel it was important to point out the differences between a single-engine piston and a transport-category jet when it comes to close-in visual manoeuvring  :smile:.

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Simon Kelsey

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I'm aware of all that. My point was that you need to first understand what a visual approach and pattern is and how to fly one properly before worrying about calculating decent rates on final.

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1500 is the pattern height for a heavy, for GA isn't it 1000?

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Been simming for sometime but, I mainly stick to ILS landings and when I do visual approaches it's usually to airports I'm familiar will.  I run into problems on visual approaches and landings at airports I'm less familiar with.  Obviously, ATC will guide me to a certain flight level but once the approval is given for landing I'm on my own.  Don't really have problems lining up with the runway but, I always have issues with altitude.

Question; is there a standard way to use the A/P (VNAV) on visual approaches?  Just to help with altitude?  I know about the FPM calculations but is that what your guys/gals do?

Or, do you really just fly it by hand?  If so, do you practice approaches and landings at particular airports you plan to fly to?

If you're truly able to "wing it" what helpful advice can you give?  Is it just practice, practice and more practice?

What works for you?

Whether flying a Cessna 150 or a Boeing 777, the easiest way to shoot a visual approach is to find a point on the runway that you want the main landing gear to touch down at. Using the following method makes landing at any airport doing a visual approach so much easier. Because you are starting with a frame of reference for the touchdown point.

Fly the visual approach like you are flying an autopilot coupled ILS approach, but without autopilot and by keeping the point of landing just off the nose of the aircraft.

Try not to exceed a descent rate of 1,000 feet per minute.

Make small corrections. If you aren't use to hand flying and making visual approaches, it won't be uncommon to make large corrections. Just watch for trends and make small corrective actions as needed.

Give yourself time to get set-up for the visual approach.

1.  Start your visual approach approximately 4 to 5 miles straight in to the runway at approximately 1,500' above the airport elevation.

2.  Establish the approach speed of the aircraft you are flying before descending on your visual approach.

3.  At the start of descent point, establish about a 500 to 700 foot per minute rate of decent.

As you are on the visual approach:

If the point of touchdown goes below the nose of the aircraft, pitch slightly down and slowly reduce power to maintain approach airspeed until you see your point on the runway just off the nose of the aircraft.

Once the landing point is re-established, adjust power and pitch as needed to maintain approach speed and 500 to 700 foot per minute rate of decent.

If the point of touchdown goes above the nose of the aircraft, pitch slightly up and increase power slowly to maintain approach airspeed until you have your point on the runway just off the nose of the aircraft.

Once the landing point is re-established, adjust power and pitch as needed to maintain approach speed and 500 to 700 foot per minute rate of decent.

As you are approaching the point of touchdown, reduce power to idle and maintain about 200 to 300 feet per minute until touchdown.

Try to land on the spot you selected on the runway each time using a controlled approach speed and rate of descent.

Practice using this procedure until it becomes second nature to fly visually to a selected landing point on the runway. This works and is used in real world flying.

Like anything, it just takes time to get use to.

Cheers,

Jim

1500 is the pattern height for a heavy, for GA isn't it 1000?

1,500' for turbine powered aircraft and 1,000' for piston powered aircraft.

Jim Wilkerson - Official FAA Certified Chief Lav Cleaner and Soap Dispenser Filler-Upper

A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.  ~ Author unknown

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