February 18, 2014
By Dan Namowitz
The round of reader comments about the instrument-approach scenario presented in the Feb. 3 IFR Fix: ‘Confusion reigned’ helped a pilot studying for the instrument-rating knowledge test achieve a basic insight about IFR flying.
That new insight could deliver big points on the test. More important, it raised the curtain on the many decisions required to complete an IFR flight.
After having a question answered during the discussion of how to fly the VOR RWY 16 approach at Daytona Beach International Airport, the future IFR pilot wrote, "I didn't realize that a published approach, even though it always specifies a runway, can be cleared to a landing on a different runway by ATC." Readers helped explain that often you can fly an approach to one runway but circle to another for landing. (Are there exceptions? Yes.)
A broader insight is that the titles of published instrument approach procedure don’t reveal how many decisions may await you at the end of a long IFR flight—even at an airport with limited approaches.
Until GPS approaches recently became available at the Central Maine Airport of Norridgewock, only the VOR/DME RWY 3 approach served the airport. Its apparent simplicity belies enough nuance to be worth analyzing as a ground exercise for a proficiency check.
Stay alert during the level-flight 18-nautical-mile leg from the VOR to DOPEE intersection, because afterward there is a 5.5-nm descending leg to fly. Mind the altitude stepdown at 21 DME.
Strategic hints: If a straight-in RWY 3 approach uses the 010-degree radial for an approach course, how straight-in is it? With a strong west wind blowing, where in the windscreen will you find the field? Take a bow, NextGen: The newer GPS RWY 3 approach is truly straight-in.
Approaching an airport some distance from its approach navaid suggests restrictions. In this case, the approach is unavailable at night. Also note the airport weather station’s designation: AWOS-AV. What are its capabilities?
This is a "NoPT" procedure when flown from the VOR, but a holding pattern procedure turn track is published for arrivals from other directions, and for missed-approach holding.
Of particular interest to the pilot who was studying for the knowledge test is a current notam assuring that IFR arrivals will be flying circling approaches for the time being: "RWY 3/21 CLSD. 27 JAN 21:28 2014 UNTIL 03 MAR 23:59 2014 ESTIMATED."
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
Spot quiz: What is the METAR/TAF code for smoke?
In the satellite age, it’s still true that the less precision exists for navigation, the more precise the flying must be.
Raw-data aviation remains relevant in one respect: No one ever said that pilots flying raw-data approaches had sacrificed their airmanship on the altar of technology.
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