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IFR Fix: 'Because it's legal now'

A Cirrus SR22 is certified in aircraft approach category A (less than 91 knots) but is flying an instrument approach at 100 knots, a Category B approach speed. Do Category A minimums or Category B minimums apply to the operation?

Photo by Chris Rose.

Forget yesterday’s answer. Times are changing, and pilots have gained added flexibility for making critical decisions on instrument approaches. But does added flexibility always beat the basics?

Different decisions produce different risk profiles—something pilots should remember now that a procedural change that first appeared in the Aeronautical Information Manual in January is gaining traction.

The revision of AIM section 5-4-7 introduced in January says that “if it is necessary to operate at a speed in excess of the upper limit of the speed range for an aircraft’s category, the minimums for the higher category should be used.”

“Should” be used, not “must be used.”

The discussion goes on to recommend that “a pilot who chooses an alternative method when it is necessary to maneuver at a speed that exceeds the category speed limit (for example, where higher category minimums are not published) consider” four factors “that can significantly affect the actual ground track flown,” possibly taking your aircraft out of a circling-approach’s protected area.

That’s the “added flexibility” part: You can fly the approach at one category’s speeds but apply the lower minimum visibility of a slower category for landing. Higher speed combined with lower visibility—is that a safe recipe?

Flight instructor Paul D’Auria of New Jersey asked a pilot to fly an approach at a Category B airspeed in a single-engine Cessna certified in Category A as preparation for operating under IFR at busy airports where a pilot might be required to keep speed high on final. When he asked the pilot to say which minimums would apply, the individual, who was aware of the rule change, responded with Category A minimums.

Correct, and it’s good to see a pilot who is informed about AIM updates. But D’Auria, who also provides standardization training in Cirrus airplanes, has heard some pilots say that they will fly approaches in the SR22 at the manufacturer’s recommended 100 knots (in Category B), “but still use category A minimums ‘because it’s legal now.’” He hopes the move toward added flexibility won’t tempt pilots to push safety on approaches rather than fly a missed, or divert.

“I don’t like the kind of thinking it leads to,” he said.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
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 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: ATC, Training and Safety, Advanced Training

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