IFR Fix: Briefing for the Brickyard

May 12, 2014

Leveling off at 200 feet above the runway, the pilot flying advances the throttle and pitches to a climb attitude to commence the missed approach. "Fly runway heading, maintain three thousand," he recites to his safety pilot, who nods in affirmation while savoring the view down below of a regional jet taxiing for takeoff.

The tower hands the flight off to departure control, who confirms radar contact and asks, "What approach would you like next?"

The two pilots exchange glances and shrugs, until one of them finally presses the press-to-talk button and requests the familiar local VOR approach.

Departure—back to being approach control again—assigns an initial heading and altitude.

How would you rate this kind of practice on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent)?

Meanwhile, 50 miles to the southwest, an inbound aircraft is preparing to fly the same approach. Descending in moderate turbulence through multiple cloud decks, the two pilots, who are unfamiliar with the destination airport and the local approach architecture, are all business in their preparations.

They too are flying a light single, but that’s not readily apparent from their sterile cockpit adherence. The pilot flying confirms the title of the instrument approach procedure, then reads aloud the navaid frequency, approach course, and runway information from the “pilot briefing” found at the top of the approach plate.

The Instrument Flying Handbook explains that the pilot briefing "provides the pilot with information required to complete the published approach procedure."

But it’s not the only need-to-know information, so the plate is being re-scoured for details before arrival in the terminal area.

On your next proficiency flight, make it a point to practice covering those necessary bases.

If flying, without DME, the VOR RWY 34 approach to Indiana's Indianapolis Regional Airport, (site of the AOPA Regional Fly-In on May 31) how would you identify MOLLN intersection?

Correct if you said you’d identify it using the 097-degree radial from the Brickyard VOR. Is the signal from Brickyard usable? Unless you are a Morse code ace, finding out could mean rummaging for that discarded en route chart.

Is a procedure turn required? Not if inbound to Shelbyville on V12, or from the southwest on V221. What if you arrive on V221 from the northeast?

Are there restrictions on using the visual descent point?

All that, and memorizing the beginning of the missed approach, is part of briefing the approach. In a sterile cockpit, of course.

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.