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IFR Fix: A miss that’s as good as a mileIFR Fix: A miss that’s as good as a mile

IFR fix

“Show me the missed approach point on this instrument approach,” the designated pilot examiner inquires.

The applicant’s finger lands on the place where the solid line ends and the upward-curving dotted arrow begins on the approach’s profile view.

It couldn’t be the wrong answer; the profile appears alongside the familiar airport diagram with the table indicating “FAF to MAP 4.2 NM.” Clearly, that’s the missed approach point (MAP).

The examiner asks, “Is that the only possible missed approach point on this approach?”


Misses can begin anywhere along an approach—and they often do, as several hundred pilots who responded to the poll question accompanying the Oct. 28 “ IFR Fix: A bad vector” reported.

Here’s the difference: When starting a miss from a point other than the published MAP, you can’t just check your chart and know exactly what to do. Suppose your miss occurs beyond the MAP, or after you descended visually below minimums. What if you are circling to land when you must call it off? What if it happens late in a contact approach?

By then, your radar service probably has been terminated, or you are below coverage. Now what?

There is guidance for such circumstances, but it acknowledges that you may be basically on your own.

First task: Stay safe.

“In the event a balked (rejected) landing occurs at a position other than the published missed approach point, the pilot should contact ATC as soon as possible to obtain an amended clearance. If unable to contact ATC for any reason, the pilot should attempt to re-intercept a published segment of the missed approach and comply with route and altitude instructions,” says Section 5-4-21 of the Aeronautical Information Manual.

The AIM acknowledges that this is a supremely speculative scenario. “If unable to contact ATC, and in the pilot's judgment it is no longer appropriate to fly the published missed approach procedure, then consider either maintaining visual conditions if practicable and reattempt a landing, or a circle-climb over the airport.”

Not the typical conclusion to a nice orderly IFR trip. So before your next flight, review FAR 91:175(e). It covers missed approaches. Next, when reviewing your destination’s approaches, give the miss—and lifesaving details like minimum altitudes for turns—more than just the usual passing glance.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.

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