Mentor Matters: Expanded circling protection in effect

More room to maneuver coming to a circling approach near you

June 1, 2013

New terminal instrument procedures with expanded circling areas are identified on FAA AeroNav charts with a “C” in a black box.

For years, circling approaches in the United States have been more difficult to execute while providing less safety margin, relative to those in most of the rest of the world. After years of deliberation, the FAA is finally bringing some needed changes to the protection afforded to circling aircraft.

The terminal instrument procedures (TERPS) guidance that the FAA uses to create approaches has previously protected a much smaller circle-to-land maneuvering area than that created by the “procedures for air navigation services—aircraft operations” (PANS-OPS) guidance used in most of the world. Consider, for example, a light jet with a final approach speed of 101 KIAS at maximum landing weight. The landing speed of 101 KIAS places the aircraft squarely in category B using both TERPS and PANS-OPS guidance. However, because of the increased stall speed caused by banking maneuvers, the manufacturer specifies that circling procedures are to be flown at 130 KIAS until established on final to the landing runway.

Under TERPS, an aircraft can maneuver only up to 120 KIAS and still use Category B minimums, so for circling approaches this jet must use the next category up. Using Category C, the aircraft can maneuver to a maximum speed of 140 KIAS, and until recently would be protected from terrain at minimum descent altitude (MDA) while circling within a bubble that extends 1.7 nm from all runways on the airport.

Contrast this with PANS-OPS, where a Category B aircraft is permitted to operate up to 135 KIAS while circling. Even as our light jet is allowed to operate in a slower approach category, it is afforded a larger radius for maneuvering—2.66 nm. The new TERPS guidance for circling approaches enlarges the circling area for all aircraft, aligning it more closely with PANS-OPS. Category C aircraft will see the bubble radius increase from 1.7 nm to a minimum of 2.7 nm at sea level, and to a maximum of 3.3 nm for a high-altitude MDA.

The increase in maneuvering radius with altitude is caused by the effect of increased altitude on true airspeed and turn radius. Consider our light jet conducting circling approaches into Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Aspen, Colorado. At Portsmouth’s 560-foot-msl MDA, 130 KIAS will give 130 KTAS, and a turn diameter of 1.1 nm. At Aspen, with a nosebleed MDA of 10,220 feet msl, the same indicated speed will have the airplane flying 156 KTAS, and the turn diameter will increase to 1.5 nm.

For a while, procedures that were designed under the old TERPS will co-exist with those complying with the new TERPS. Pilots using FAA AeroNav charts will be able to identify the new TERPS procedures with an expanded circling area by the presence of a “C” in a black box (see image, previous page) in the circling minimums section. If you see the “C,” you will need to consult a chart in the front of the terminal procedures booklet to look up the circling radius, as it varies with the msl value of the MDA. The FAA has said that anytime an airport has an approach amended after June 2013, all the approaches at the airport will be reevaluated with the new circling radii. Expect to see circling minimums increase, in some cases dramatically, as obstacles that were previously outside the maneuvering area now drive MDAs up.

Neil Singer is a Master CFI with more than 7,200 hours in 15 years of flying.


Cessna holding entry-level jet lines

User fees are cited as a contributing cause

Cessna Aircraft Co. will pause its entry-level jet production lines to await a stronger demand, a move that has caused parent company Textron to reduce its forecast for earnings per share in 2013. Aircraft already in production will be built to a point where they can be quickly completed when demand for the jets increases.

Cessna lost $8 million in the first quarter, compared to a $6 million loss in the first quarter of 2012. The company delivered 32 jets in the quarter, down from 38 jets in the first three months of 2012. Textron and Cessna officials had expected a better year than 2012, but a delay in purchase decisions by customers for the Citation CJ2, -3, and -4—and the Mustang—had created an unacceptable demand for lower prices. Those are the aircraft that will be paused.

One of the reasons for delays in purchases, said Textron Chairman and CEO Scott C. Donnelly, is the threat of user fees. Donnelly said that despite his opinion that user fees won’t be passed by Congress, there is still concern among buyers of “getting whacked by fees of $100 per flight.”

The last of the older Sovereign models have been sold, but upgraded ones will not be available for delivery until the third quarter. For that reason, Donnelly predicted Cessna will be in the red for the second quarter as well. Revenues at Cessna increased by $39 million, primarily because of sales of used aircraft. There was still an $8 million loss overall. The Cessna backlog at the end of the first quarter was $1.03 billion, down $28 million from the end of 2012.

Textron officials based their lower earning prediction solely on the soft demand for business jets. Cessna offered a voluntary workforce reduction program which also will keep profits low.

Email alton.marsh@aopa.org.


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