IFR Fix: 11 degrees of separation

July 28, 2014

It’s an 8-nautical-mile leg from the Coeur d’Alene VOR to the localizer course for the ILS or LOC/DME RWY 22R approach at Felts Field in Spokane, Washington. That’s a quick transition, so slow down early, because the 51-degree intercept of the final approach will go fast.

The instructor administering your instrument proficiency check has told you to expect a missed approach, followed by the published holding pattern and a full VOR RWY 4L approach to a landing. (Fly those procedures well and you may not see him again for 12 months, unless you bring him back here for the fourth AOPA Regional Fly-in of 2014 on Aug. 16.)

The arcing dashed arrow that ushers in the missed approach lends a deceptively simple appearance to the procedure, but there’s more here than greets the eye. First, climb straight ahead to 3,200 feet. Next, turn left to a heading of 200 degrees to intercept the 073-degree radial from the Spokane VOR while continuing your climb to 5,000 feet. Remember that you will be flying this radial TO the VOR, so be sure to select the inbound (reciprocal) course: 253 degrees.

Tracking the 073-degree radial inbound to the VOR, prepare to hold on R-208—it’s given in the separate holding-pattern diagram—by visualizing the most efficient entry. At station passage, rotate the OBS to 028 degrees (to track the inbound holding course).

Feeling saturated? It will come as a mixture of relief and dismay to hear that you will skip the holding and immediately commence the VOR approach, but without DME. That means you must use your aircraft’s old fixed-card ADF to identify LOWAL, the FAF.

By what method?

Try this: After passing the VOR headed toward LOWAL, locate 357 degrees on your heading indicator, and watch for the ADF pointer to reach the identical position on the ADF card. That’s easier than calculating relative bearings during the 7.5-nm leg.

It’s unlikely that you will have to hold this time, but during preflight prep you noted an easy-to-miss detail about this approach’s holding pattern: the holding radial is slightly south of the approach course (it’s the same holding radial published for the ILS approach and other local-area IAPs.

There are just 11 degrees of separation between the holding pattern and approach-course, but being prepared for the change marks the difference between a proficient instrument pilot, and everyone else.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.