Opposite-direction visual approach clearance

Discussion in 'Change to my Frequency...' started by iamtheari, Dec 18, 2017.

  1. iamtheari

    iamtheari Cleared for Takeoff

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    This has come up a couple times for me. My most frequent repeated flight is to KBIS, whose main runway is 13-31. The direct course is 110 degrees. So when I get there, I come in slightly on the southwest side of the runway. If the winds are out of the northwest and the tower were closed, it would be an easy set-up for left downwind for runway 31.

    But when I file IFR and the winds are out of the northwest, it seems typical to be cleared for the visual approach, handed off to tower, and cleared to land on runway 31, all while I am still pointed southeast. I asked tower if they want me to make left downwind for 31 before accepting the landing clearance, and they were fine with that.

    But I want to ask: What is ATC actually expecting a pilot to do when he is cleared for a visual approach to and landing on a runway for which he is currently in a roughly opposite position? I can think of numerous ways to get to the approach end of the runway from there, but if nobody says anything and I don't ask for clarification, what are they going to expect from me?
     
  2. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Absent instructions to the contrary, you manouver yourself to the runway keeping the runway in sight at all times. If there are other aircraft on visual approaches, the tower needs to vector them into sequence on roughly straight-in courses. If there is VFR traffic, the tower will likely give you further restrictions. Don't forget you still need clearance to land. At 110 degrees heading for 31, I'd probably fly pretty much a left downwind-base-final. Gives me best view of the runway.
     
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  3. iamtheari

    iamtheari Cleared for Takeoff

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    Thanks. That's exactly what I did, after checking with Tower (who had cleared me to land without any further instructions). Next time, I won't tie up the airwaves asking. :)
     
  4. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Cleared for Takeoff

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    From an ATC standpoint, this is what we are expecting (from the AIM):

    5−5−11. Visual Approach
    a. Pilot.
    1. If a visual approach is not desired, advises
    ATC.
    2. Complies with controller’s instructions for
    vectors toward the airport of intended landing or to a
    visual position behind a preceding aircraft.
    3. The pilot must, at all times, have either the
    airport or the preceding aircraft in sight. After being
    cleared for a visual approach, proceed to the airport
    in a normal manner or follow the preceding aircraft.

    Remain clear of clouds while conducting a visual
    approach.
    4. If the pilot accepts a visual approach
    clearance to visually follow a preceding aircraft, you
    are required to establish a safe landing interval behind
    the aircraft you were instructed to follow. You are
    responsible for wake turbulence separation.
    5. Advise ATC immediately if the pilot is unable
    to continue following the preceding aircraft, cannot
    remain clear of clouds, needs to climb, or loses sight
    of the airport.
    6. Be aware that radar service is automatically
    terminated, without being advised by ATC, when the
    pilot is instructed to change to advisory frequency.
    7. Be aware that there may be other traffic in the
    traffic pattern and the landing sequence may differ
    from the traffic sequence assigned by approach
    control or ARTCC.

    If in your example you are coming in basically opposite direction, as the TRACON controller all I need is you to have the runway or preceding traffic in sight. Once you do, I clear you for the approach and switch you to tower (usually) 5-7 miles out. Then I don't care how you maneuver to land, providing it's in a normal manner (i.e. you can make left or right traffic...it can be tight or wide). As the tower controller, if you check on and I want you to do something particular, I will instruct you. If I simply say cleared to land then you can make either left or right traffic, tight or wide...if I cared, I would have told you something else. Do your thing. :)
     
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  5. iamtheari

    iamtheari Cleared for Takeoff

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    Thank you. Next time, I'll buzz the tower followed by a half Cuban eight to final. Or should I ask you for a change of call sign to Maverick first?

    I know, I know. You bolded and underlined the "normal manner" language from the AIM for that very reason.
     
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  6. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Cleared for Takeoff

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    When I worked in towers, I would have loved that! The closest I came to the tower was in the back of an F16 and the pilot knowing the controllers I worked with were in the tower gave them and me a nice show. Too bad it was before Iphones and go-pro's or I'd have a sweet video to show.

    The two best tower buzz jobs I got was from an FAA "flight check" king air and a P51 working at FLD during the airshow. They were both crazy close.
     
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  7. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route

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    Enter the pattern and land. If there is a tower, get instrutions from the tower. ATC isnt supposed to dump you into the pattern without coordinating with the tower. If you suspect they are, ask ATC "have you coordinated my arrival with tower?"

    If there is no tower, I'd try and avoid entering a downwind going the opposite direction. Work that out with ATC.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  8. iamtheari

    iamtheari Cleared for Takeoff

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    In this case, here's roughly how it went:

    Me: Field in sight.
    Approach: Cleared visual runway 31, contact tower.
    Me: Cleared visual runway 31, over to tower, good day. *click* Tower, Bugsmasher 45 bravo, visual runway 31.
    Tower: Bugsmasher 45 bravo, cleared to land runway 31.

    So I checked with Tower to be sure my left downwind pattern entry was acceptable. But apparently that check was unnecessary. I try to omit needless words on the radio, otherwise I would just keep asking if this happens in the future (which is very likely given my experience).
     
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  9. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I don't think there's a need nor reason to suspect the handoff to tower hasn't been coordinated. It's all covered in ATC op procedures, which are governed by the FAA 7110.65 controller handbook, LOAs, and local procedures. Controllers will issue you where to enter the pattern as Radar Contact indicated in post 4 above. or approve your request if able to do so. I worked a lot of towers and never had a coordinating problem w/ approach control.
     
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  10. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Cleared for Takeoff

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    The tower doesn't need to give you instructions on a visual approach if there is no conflicting traffic. Some do but that is generally thought of as over-controlling and usually frowned upon. We don't have to coordinate anything verbally with the towers. If you were direct the airport and aimed directly at the departure end of the active runway you can fly whatever pattern you want if not otherwise directed for something else. If you asked me, "have you coordinated my arrival with tower?", I would ask you if you want me to tell you when to lower your flaps, what speed to use on final and what bank angle to use while turning base. Obviously I'm being tongue-in-cheek and wouldn't say that (I would simply say "nope, contact tower") but I'm guessing you get the point. I wouldn't try to tell a controller how to do their job anymore than I would want one to tell me how to fly the plane. Please don't confuse this with questioning a controller if you are unsure or you think safety is jeopardized (in which case you should).
     
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  11. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

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    Approach or Center always coordinates IFR Approaches with the Tower. Sometimes verbally, sometimes silently if the Tower has Radar and procedures are laid out for it. Yeah, the ball gets dropped every now and then. If you get pretty close to the airport and still with approach/center and obviously past a point when you should have been 'shipped' to the Tower then yeah, give them a nudge. Something like "Tower for N12345." Or "Advisory freq for N12345" if it's an uncontrolled airport.
     
  12. Shawn

    Shawn En-Route

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    While on FF and especially on IFR, that is explicitly the controller's job to coordinate. If you get a handoff to tower and get a "who are you?...that is on them...not you.
     
  13. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Avoiding needless words may be OK if you are sure of what you have been cleared to do, but when you're uncertain, don't hesitate to request clarification, because that's actually required in 91.123(a):

    "..When a pilot is uncertain of an ATC clearance, that pilot shall immediately request clarification from ATC."
     
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  14. Larry in TN

    Larry in TN Line Up and Wait

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    14 CFR 129 specifies what you must do.

    14 CFR 129 -- Operations in Class D airspace.
    (a) General. Unless otherwise authorized or required by the ATC facility having jurisdiction over the Class D airspace area, each person operating an aircraft in Class D airspace must comply with the applicable provisions of this section. In addition, each person must comply with §§91.126 and 91.127. For the purpose of this section, the primary airport is the airport for which the Class D airspace area is designated. A satellite airport is any other airport within the Class D airspace area.

    (f) Approaches. Except when conducting a circling approach under part 97 of this chapter or unless otherwise required by ATC, each pilot must—
    (1) Circle the airport to the left, if operating an airplane

    If ATC wants anything different, such as right-traffic, or needs to restrict you in any way then they have to include that in your clearance. Similarly, if you would prefer to do something different, different runway, pattern direction, etc., then you must request it and receive an amended clearance.
     
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  15. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    On one flight, I was headed to KCMA on V485, which is roughly perpendicular to the runway. The MEA is about 5000 feet above airport elevation due to terrain surrounding the valley that the airport is located in. While still at the MEA, I saw the airport and was cleared for a visual approach. What would be considered a normal manner to proceed to the airport from that location? (This was at night after the tower had closed.)

    https://skyvector.com/?ll=34.213327922921216,-119.09431084024483&chart=403&zoom=2
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  16. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Throw the anchor out!

    Just maneuver to land, considering terrain of course. Depends on your position. Are you downwind? If so make a normal pattern, get the plane dirtied up if you're high, and land. That high above the airport you might have to widen out the pattern to lose that altitude, but keep the terrain in mind if you do so.

    Myself I'd have the ILS or an approach up, terrain or no terrain. Know what the MSA is around that airport! That will be within 25 of the airport.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
  17. Larry in TN

    Larry in TN Line Up and Wait

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    You are not bound by 7110.65. Without an operating control tower, you would comply with the requirements of 14 CFR 91.126 and 91.127, as applicable.
     
  18. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It's hard to be that specific from 5000 AGL, but I was probably closer to the upwind when I received the visual approach clearance.

    The terrain was definitely an issue, since there are mountains to the south, east, and west of the airport, and I couldn't see them at night. If I had flown a downwind, base, and final that were wide enough to lose the needed altitude, there's no guarantee that I would have survived the attempt. Consequently, I spiraled down over the airport until I got to pattern altitude. That resulted in being given a phone number to call when I canceled IFR on the ground. I explained the safety issue involved, but it was evident that he was surprised by my flight path, so this would have been a case where letting the controller how I was planning to get to the airport would have been a good idea.

    Yes, that would have been a good idea.

    I was already below the MSA when I received the approach clearance.
     
  19. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    He was quoting from the AIM, not the 7110.65. I recognize that the AIM is advisory in character, but I'm trying to make sure that I understand the advice.
     
  20. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

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    How late at night? Were you with LA Center or Mugu Approach?
     
  21. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    With that terrain I would have continued with ATC for vectors to the ILS or whatever instrument approach. I always was extremely careful at night with airports like ROA, AVL, TRI, and CRW, airports with mountainous terrain around them. I'm not saying you couldn't fly a visual approach into the airport, but personally I have to be very familiar with the airport.

    And you say you were below MSA when being vectored. ATC has a MVA (minimum vectoring altitude) chart they use for altitude assignment in specific sectors of their airspace. Unfortunately pilots do not have access to it that I know of. Anyway, that's why they had you lower than the MSA. In that case I would have continued w/ the vectors, even if you report the airport in sight you can still request vectors, just ask.
     
  22. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Mugu.

    This was probably 15 or 20 years ago, by the way.
     
  23. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach

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    You said he was 'surprised' by your flight path. Did he tell you what he was expecting? Anyway, like you said, having said something like "I'll be doing a couple 360's over the airport" would have been a nice touch
     
  24. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I agree that flying a published approach is a good option at night. In this case, I had been there enough times to know that spiraling down overhead with the airport in sight was safe, whereas flying a long downwind would have involved pointing myself at terrain that I couldn't see.

    I wasn't being vectored, I was on the airway at the MEA.
     
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  25. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    No, and I've been kicking myself ever since for not thinking to ask him that!

    By the way, I don't think the "proceed to the airport in a normal manner" was in the AIM when this happened.

    Probably more than a couple, but I figure that "I'll be spiraling down over the airport" would have done the trick.

    I'm guessing that he may have been concerned about possible conflicts with traffic on final to Oxnard.
     
  26. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I would much rather have ATC vector me or fly the whole approach than spiral down numerous 360s, good way to get spatial disorientation, even if you are familiar with the airport. Just saying. ;)
     
  27. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Cleared for Takeoff

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    If you were VFR and all flight following in the world was suspended and you ended up in the same VMC spot what would you do? That is your answer for reporting the airport in sight and accepting a visual approach clearance. I personally, at night with an unfamiliar terrain, fly an instrument approach. If I know the area well then I do that pilot stuff and land. :)