Overhead Approach Maneuver


  • The overhead approach maneuver is a 180° energy depleting turn used to slow the aircraft in the landing pattern developed at airports where aircraft have an operational need to conduct the maneuver (military, formation flight recovery, etc.)
  • Available to pilots operating with an Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) flight plan in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC)

Overhead Approach Maneuver

  • An overhead is not an Instrument Approach Procedure (IAP)
  • An aircraft conducting an overhead is considered VFR and the IFR plan canceled when at the initial approach portion of the maneuver
  • Aircraft operating to an airport without a functioning control tower must initiate cancellation of an IFR flight plan prior to executing the overhead maneuver
    • Cancellation of the IFR flight plan must be accomplished after crossing the landing threshold on the initial portion of the maneuver of after landing

Overhead Approach Maneuver
Figure 1: Overhead Approach Maneuver


  • Controllers may authorize an overhead maneuver and issue the following clearance:
  • Pattern altitude and direction of traffic, if either are non-standard
    • "Pattern altitude [Altitude]. Right turns"
  • Request for a report on an initial
    • "Report initial"
  • "Break" information and request for a pilot to report the break
    • The "Break Point" will be specified if nonstandard
    • Pilots may be requested to report "break" if required for traffic or other reasons
    • "Break at [Specified Point]"
    • "Report break"


  • Performed by adhering to the 1% rule:
    • 350 KCAS = 3.5G
    • 300 KCAS = 3.0G
    • Etc...
  • Vary AoB and G to arrive at the appropriate abeam distance
  • Never descend in a break until wings level on downwind


  • If the maneuver cannot be accommodated, the pilot must be available to fly the conventional rectangular pattern
  • To learn more about instrument procedures, be sure to check out the Instrument Procedures Handbook online or on paperback