Circling approach

Discussion in 'Cleared for the Approach' started by paflyer, Oct 25, 2017.

  1. paflyer

    paflyer Final Approach

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    Say you're flying into a towered airport on an ILS flight plan, and you're /A. You get the ILS to runway X (because that's what you're equipped to fly), but winds dictate the other direction is better.

    What do you ask approach for?

    ILS X to circle to land on X-180?

    If the ceiling is at least TPA +500 do you descend to TPA and fly the pattern, or to the circling mins?

    Will TWR care one way or the other?
     
  2. Cooter

    Cooter Pattern Altitude

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    Circling approaches can be tricky, so I would take an approach to the runway that I intended to land on.

    If Ceilings are 500 above TPA, then I would procede visually to the VFR pattern.

    I wouldn't suggest descending to circling mins unless environmental conditions require you to. He sight picture is very different down there and it's easy to either lose sight of the Rwy, or overshoot final because you're too tight.
     
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  3. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach

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    Request ILS circle to XX. It depends on the layer of clouds. If it’s a scattered layer and I’ll know I won’t be in and out once I get to TPA, then I’ll proceed visually. If there are multiple layers and the field is obscured, I’ll go down to the published MDA.
     
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  4. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    Remember that the "M" in MDA stands for "minimum", not "mandatory". ;)
     
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  5. paflyer

    paflyer Final Approach

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    Right, was wondering what TWR expects implicitly.
     
  6. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    They don't care.
     
  7. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You're on a approach, and cleared to circle. TWR doesn't expect you to fly the traffic pattern altitude. They probably don't even know what circling minimums are.
     
  8. paflyer

    paflyer Final Approach

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    What if there is other traffic in the pattern?
     
  9. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You'd still be able to do the circle. Now Tower could instruct you to follow other traffic if they needed that.
     
  10. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    They will give you instructions if necessary.
     
  11. Cooter

    Cooter Pattern Altitude

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    Is the VFR pattern open or not? If it is, I would expect to join the pattern. If not, I think it would be tough to fly the circling pattern and follow traffic. There isn't a lot of room for adjustment in a true circling approach. If I've got clearance for the approach and it's actual conditions, I'm not expecting to be following VFR traffic.
     
  12. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    All true but if traffic permits I'd allow a circle at circling mins. Actually have done just that a few times but it was a practice circling approach and traffic was adjusted to permit it. IMC of course, no, it's (airspace) all his.
     
  13. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    They generally don't care about the vertical component in the circle vs VFR tower traffic. Even in airspace (TRSA,C &B) that require vertical sep with IFR vs VFR, it's just easier to issue a lateral visual separation sequence than vertical separation.

    The biggest problem with the circle from the ATC end, are the IFR arrivals to the opposite runway that aren't circling. You have to establish a gap in the flow big enough to provide for the appropriate (3,4,5 miles etc) radar separation. You might be circling and going to the tower but you haven't canceled IFR yet so the approach controller still has to have radar sep for the circle vs IFR arrival and have to protect for a possible MA during the circle. The radar sep has to be maintained until visual sep takes over. A lot of military transport aircraft practice circles and it can be a real pain during heavy traffic.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
  14. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man Pattern Altitude

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    The only reason there should be traffic is if the conditions are VFR. If they are VFR why not just cancel when you break through and join the pattern?
     
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  15. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Nothing wrong that either. But tower knows you're coming and what you want to do, and can sequence it in usually.
     
  16. dmspilot

    dmspilot En-Route

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    The ceiling doesn't have to be TPA+500 to use the TPA IFR.
     
  17. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I've done the visual approach into a towered field with the ceiling within a couple hundred feet of TPA a few times. Got surprised by a helo on final to the parallel one of those times at EFD. Controller was like 'oh, yeah, there's an Apache on final, he's VFR...' Another time at FTG there was a crop duster working VFR and I was at MVA just below the ceiling so had to stay IFR. Twr and Approach about had a cow when I requested landing 8 instead of 35. Approach is rather jealous of their precious Bravo when ya get near DEN and Twr was concerned about the crop duster. Me? I just wanted to land into the wind and not have to drive from I-70 to the airport...

    Anyway, if the ceiling is TPA + 500 and pthe field is in sight just request the visual and fly a normalish pattern. There might be a little delay in getting approved for the visual if you're talking to tower or it might be instant approval if yer talkin' to approach. This is definitely one area where us spam can drivers have the advantage. You jet drivers have to get things done so much faster that maybe you can't change the plan on the fly quite as easily.
     
  18. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    I’m with those who, in the real world, would expect a visual approach, or at least to mix with the normal traffic pattern when the ceilings are well above pattern altitude.
     
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  19. aterpster

    aterpster Pattern Altitude

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    If the airport is VFR, IFR traffic has no priority nor is there any separation from VFR airplanes in the pattern. That's why Class B airspace exists at major airline airports, to not have these limitations. It got ugly in the days before Class B (TCAs).
     
  20. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    Of course, although I've heard many people claim otherwise.
     
  21. Ravioli

    Ravioli Final Approach

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    When I've done practice approaches to the only ILS and the flow was to the opposite end they ALWAYS asked how the approach would terminate and I'd say "low approach only" or "circle to land." They'd tell me which side of the RW to circle on. Then occasionally they'd ask me to start the circling early for departing traffic.
     
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  22. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Class D, yes but class B,C and TRSA towers do separate IFR vs VFR in their airspace.

    For instance, a class C must have either visual, 500 ft vertical or target resolution (no primary touch). In order to provide visual, another approved separation (500/target resolution) must exist prior to the application of visual sep. Furthermore, there is airborne radar wake turbulence separation that B,C and TRSA towers must ensure that cannot be reduced through visual sep.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
  23. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    I don't believe there's truly enough information to answer this question.

    If the ceilings are above mins and high enough that there's VFR traffic in the pattern, then I would plan to fly in the traffic pattern mixed with the VFR traffic. Tower should sequence the VFR traffic such that you won't need to be at a different altitude from them. So in that situation, I would fly it at normal traffic pattern altitude and leave it at that, and that's what tower would probably be expecting you to do, although I would not expect them to care. I've rarely had a tower comment on my altitude in the pattern (VFR or IFR), but if they have, it's usually been because of some special situation with that airport.

    To the bigger question of circling approaches, I really try to avoid them unless I have good reason to believe that I can actually do one at normal traffic pattern elevation. The circling mins that I see at some airports aren't a very good idea to fly in many cases. But that's up to the individual pilot. Personally, I try to steer my students away from doing them in real flying unless the conditions are really very good and you just need the approach to get down through a cloud layer (i.e. MVA is higher than the ceiling).
     
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  24. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    We were prohibited from flying circling approaches at the airline out on the line. Except for in the sim, there we did them.
     
  25. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Same at the 135 op I flew for.
     
  26. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    In my experience, most pilots who fly jets struggle with visual approaches. The incompetence level for circling is higher yet.
     
  27. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Circling approaches as an IFR procedure aren't necessarily about incompetence.

    If you're circling at circling mins at a lot of airports you're going to be at 500 AGL. I found one approach where the mins are 400 AGL. That's pretty low to the ground if you're circling at mins. Add to that poor visibility or a cloud layer that may be at 400 AGL, but then has little bits of cloud sticking down that you may end up flying through. Lose sight of the airport, get disoriented... end up banking too much low to the ground to make your tight turn.

    You can call it incompetence, but it's a maneuver that can easily be pretty dangerous. There's a reason why under 135 we weren't allowed to do them. Part 91 gives you a lot of rope to hang yourself with. Sure, there are times when I'll do a circling approach, but if it's low I'll take the tailwind on landing or go somewhere else.
     
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  28. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    When pilots who are trained and tested on the maneuver can't hit a runway in real life out of a CTL, regardless of weather, it's incompetence.

    While I agree that it's not as safe as a straight-in ILS, it's certainly safe enough when properly planned and executed. The problem seems to be that pilots execute them without planning, find themselves in a position where they can't land, and continue to make a bad situation worse rather than execute the missed approach (which, of course, the overwhelming majority of pilots haven't planned for, either).

    The other problem is disuse...since they're seen as "unsafe", pilots avoid them until they're put into a corner where they need to do it. Because they're so rusty, the danger becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
     
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  29. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    There are really a lot of variables. In some cases it's not just about something being safe enough if performed correctly, it's just about setting yourself up for success and minimizing risk. It's like shutting down both engines before doing a gear up landing when your gear malfunctioned. Can you execute it safely if done right? Sure. But it's an increased risk for limited benefit.

    I can circle at minimums or land straight in with a 15 kt tailwind on a 6000 ft runway in the 414. Why on earth would I do the circle? Straight in is much safer in the situation.

    I can execute a circling approach at minimums just fine. Doesn't mean I choose to do so. Also doesn't mean I tell my students that they should choose that option vs. other options that might be safer. You can disagree and say it's incompetence, and maybe the people who died doing circling approaches weren't at the top of their game. I'd rather see them alive than dead, though.
     
  30. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    Good for you...in most jets of the jets I'm familiar with, that downwind landing would exceed AFM limitations, and therefore be illegal.

    You can speculate on dead people all you want. I'm only referring to pilots who are, as far as I know, still alive. These are pilots who obviously can't execute a circling approach at minimums just fine. And I've run across a LOT of them.
     
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  31. Ken Ibold

    Ken Ibold Final Approach

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    I recall doing a circling approach at night one time and landed uneventfully. Walked into the FBO and a local pilot said, "You did a circle to land? Come back when it's light out. You'll never do that again."

    I did. He was right. I didn't do that again.
     
  32. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach

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    Well, if you stayed within the appropriate radius for your approach category, you've got a minimum of 300 ft obstruction clearance at MDA. I wouldn't think it would be too difficult, even at night to maintain that altitude until final.
     
  33. Fearless Tower

    Fearless Tower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    300’ isn’t much fudge factor, particularly at night.


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  34. Fearless Tower

    Fearless Tower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    That’s a pretty strong statement and not one I would concur with based on my experience with the jet pilots I fly with.


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  35. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

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    What airport and approach?
     
  36. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    I'm glad your experience doesn't match mine on this.
     
  37. aterpster

    aterpster Pattern Altitude

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    Ah, say it isn't so. ;)
     
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  38. jordane93

    jordane93 Final Approach

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    I know I did when I first started flying at my airline. I just couldn’t plan when I needed to configure, slow down, turn base, etc. In the sim world it was a perfect situation every time. 200 on downwind, 180 on base, ref 2-3 from FAF. In the real world, I quickly learned this is not the case.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  39. Fearless Tower

    Fearless Tower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Personally, I've flown many visual approaches in the jet. Have only done a jet circle at mins in the sim.

    I've done one real life circle close to mins in the Beech 18. It was daytime, and while I didn't feel unsafe doing it, I gained enough appreciation for the maneuver to understand why many operators prohibit night CTLs. Personally, I won't take one.
     
  40. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    I think it's called "personal minimums" (or in this case, "organizational minimums"). It's only in non-professional GA where folks think anyone who doesn't choose to do everything the FAR allow isn't a competent instrument pilot.
     
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