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Practice Instrument Approaches

Introduction:

  • A practice approach is an instrument approach where there is no landing intended
  • Various air traffic incidents have indicated the necessity for adoption of measures to achieve more organized and controlled operations where practice instrument approaches are conducted
  • Practice instrument approaches are considered to be instrument approaches made by either a VFR aircraft not on an IFR flight plan or an aircraft on an IFR flight plan
  • Performed for instruction or proficiency, keeping in mind the requirements of FAR 61.57

Practice Approaches:

  • It is Air Traffic’s policy to provide for separation of such operations at locations where approach control facilities are located and, as resources permit, at certain other locations served by ARTCCs or parent approach control facilities
    • Pilot requests are subject to ATC traffic and workload conditions once requested
    • Pilots should anticipate that in some instances the controller may find it necessary to deny approval or withdraw previous approval when traffic conditions warrant
    • A minimum delay to itinerant traffic may be appropriate to allow an aircraft practicing an approach to complete that approach
    • In addition to the normal IFR separation minimums (which includes visual separation) during VFR conditions, 500 feet vertical separation may be applied between VFR aircraft and between a VFR aircraft and the IFR aircraft. Pilots not on IFR flight plans desiring practice instrument approaches should always state ‘practice’ when making requests to ATC. Controllers will instruct VFR aircraft requesting an instrument approach to maintain VFR. This is to preclude misunderstandings between the pilot and controller as to the status of the aircraft. If pilots wish to proceed in accordance with instrument flight rules, they must specifically request and obtain, an IFR clearance.
  • Remember, if you are VFR, you must comply with basic weather minimums
    • It must be clearly understood, however, that even though the controller may be providing separation, pilots on VFR flight plans are required to comply with basic VFR weather minimums (FAR 91.155)
    • Application of ATC procedures or any action taken by the controller to avoid traffic conflictions does not relieve IFR and VFR pilots of their responsibility to see−and−avoid other traffic while operating in VFR conditions (14 CFR Section 91.113) - ATC should require you acknowledge to maintain VFR
    • In addition to the normal IFR separation minimums (which includes visual separation) during VFR conditions, 500 feet vertical separation may be applied between VFR aircraft and between a VFR aircraft and the IFR aircraft
  • Pilots not on IFR flight plans desiring practice instrument approaches should always state "practice" when making requests to ATC
  • If pilots wish to proceed in accordance with instrument flight rules, they must specifically request and obtain, an IFR clearance
    • You: "[Facility], [Callsign] request"
    • ATC: "[Callsign], [Facility] go ahead with your request"
    • You: "[Facility], [Callsign] request [Approach] followed by [Approaches], [Intention when Complete]"
  • Pilots on an IFR flight plan, who have made a series of instrument approaches to full stop landings should inform ATC when they make their final landing
    • The controller will control flights practicing instrument approaches so as to ensure that they do not disrupt the flow of arriving and departing itinerant IFR or VFR aircraft
    • The priority afforded itinerant aircraft over practice instrument approaches is not intended to be so rigidly applied that it causes grossly inefficient application of services
    • A minimum delay to itinerant traffic may be appropriate to allow an aircraft practicing an approach to complete that approach
  • Before practicing an instrument approach, pilots should inform the approach control facility or the tower of the type of practice approach they desire to make and how they intend to terminate it
    • You may request a full stop landing, low approach, an option or to depart
    • This information may befurnished progressively when conducting a series of approaches
  • Whenever a full approach cannot be approved, the pilot is expected to execute the final portion of the approach
  • If separation cannot be provided, such as by tower, then the pilot will be advised
  • The controller will control flights practicing instrument approaches so as to ensure that they do not disrupt the flow of arriving and departing itinerant IFR or VFR aircraft
  • Always remain particularly on the alert for other aircraft operating in the local pattern or in proximity to the airport
  • You may log an instrument approach as an actual instrument approach any time the weather is below 1,000' and 3 SM (qualifying as IFR conditions)
  • At airports without a tower, pilots wishing to make practice instrument approaches should notify the facility having control jurisdiction of the desired approach as indicated on the approach chart
    • All approach control facilities and ARTCCs are required to publish a Letter to Airmen depicting those airports where they provide standard separation to both VFR and IFR aircraft conducting practice instrument approaches
  • The controller will provide approved separation between both VFR and IFR aircraft when authorization is granted to make practice approaches to airports where an approach control facility is located and to certain other airports served by approach control or an ARTCC
    • Controller responsibility for separation of VFR aircraft begins at the point where the approach clearance becomes effective, or when the aircraft enters Class B or Class C airspace, or a TRSA, whichever comes first
  • VFR aircraft practicing instrument approaches are not automatically authorized to execute the missed approach procedure
    • Authorization must be specifically requested by the pilot and approved by the controller
    • Separation will not be provided unless the missed approach has been approved by ATC
  • Except in an emergency, aircraft cleared to practice instrument approaches must not deviate from the approved procedure until cleared to do so by the controller
  • At radar approach control locations when a full approach procedure (procedure turn, etc.,) cannot be approved, pilots should expect to be vectored to a final approach course for a practice instrument approach which is compatible with the general direction of traffic at that airport
  • When granting approval for a practice instrument approach, the controller will usually ask the pilot to report to the tower prior to or over the final approach fix inbound (non-precision approaches) or over the outer marker or fix used in lieu of the outer marker inbound (precision approaches)
  • When authorization is granted to conduct practice instrument approaches to an airport with a tower, but where approved standard separation is not provided to aircraft conducting practice instrument approaches, the tower will approve the practice approach, instruct the aircraft to maintain VFR and issue traffic information, as required
  • When an aircraft notifies a FSS providing Local Airport Advisory to the airport concerned of the intent to conduct a practice instrument approach and whether or not separation is to be provided, the pilot will be instructed to contact the appropriate facility on a specified frequency prior to initiating the approach
    • At airports where separation is not provided, the FSS will acknowledge the message and issue known traffic information but will neither approve or disapprove the approach
  • Pilots conducting practice instrument approaches should be particularly alert for other aircraft operating in the local traffic pattern or in proximity to the airport

Conclusion:

  • A clearance to land means that appropriate separation on the landing runway will be ensured. A landing clearance does not relieve the pilot from compliance with any previously issued restriction
  • To learn more about instrument procedures, be sure to check out the Instrument Procedures Handbook online or on paperback

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