IFR Fix: 'To avoid confusion'

July 26, 2013

The twin was 300 feet above minimums, descending, when ATC called with new missed approach instructions.

“Advise ready to copy.”

The pilot flying was undergoing a checkride for an air-taxi operator. The check pilot responded to the radio call.

“I said that it was a really bad time, but go ahead,” recounted the check pilot in a complaint to the Aviation Safety Reporting System, noting great displeasure at having to copy alternate missed approach instructions at such a high-workload stage.

The pilot had another beef: “The only part of that alternate missed approach that is published on the approach plate is the hold at CANBY. The directions to get there are not.”

Hard to argue that having to copy a detailed set of alternate missed approach instructions (runway heading to 1,000 feet, left turn to 110 degrees, intercept the 175-degree radial to CANBY, and hold at 4,000 feet) at 300 feet above minimums was highly disruptive.

However, it turns out that the route to alternate missed approach fixes is left vague by design.

Before any approach, instrument pilots brief on the missed approach procedure; that’s when instructions to fly the published missed approach greatly simplify matters. The “published miss” appears in both narrative and graphic form on approach plates.

In some cases an alternate missed-approach fix is also published—but without a route from the missed approach point.

Explanation?

“Some locations may have a preplanned alternate missed approach procedure for use in the event the primary navaid used for the missed approach procedure is unavailable,” explains the Aeronautical Information Manual.”To avoid confusion, the alternate missed approach instructions are not published on the chart. However, the alternate missed approach holding pattern will be depicted on the instrument approach chart for pilot situational awareness and to assist ATC by not having to issue detailed holding instructions.” The alternate missed approach also may use navaids not part of the approach or the primary missed approach.

Still, not something you’d want dropped in your lap by ATC in the last seconds of a descent to minimums, especially alone in your aircraft and in IMC.

During your next IFR flight’s pre-flight planning, make it a point to spread out the charts and locate any published alternate missed approach fix, giving yourself a general idea about “the directions to get there.”