Approach Briefing


  • Airports can have multiple approaches to multiple runways which makes memorizing approach procedures both unrealistic and unsafe
  • Therefore, it is through the approach briefing you familiarize yourself and your crew for the approach to be flown
  • Briefed as the pilot sees fit, an approach briefing sets expectations for the pilot and/or crew which keeps the aircrew ahead of the aircraft

Briefing Contents:

  • Instrument Flying Handbook, Instrument Approach Chart
    Instrument Flying Handbook,
    Instrument Approach Chart
  • Approach plates are logically sequenced to allow for the flow of an approach briefing [Figure 1]
  • Starting with the pilot briefing and procedure notes, the pilot covers administrative information such as:
    • Approach name, airport, and page number (as required)
    • Runway information, elevation
    • Approach notes
    • Approach lighting expected
    • Terminal area frequencies such as ATIS/AWOS, approach, and tower
      • Weather information provided allows for calculating crosswind components and expected performance parameters
  • Notes:
    • It is not critical to read off each number or word verbatim as it appears
    • Brief what applies (i.e., don't brief clearance frequencies unless you expect to talk to them) and abbreviate as appropriate (i.e., ground will be on 0.4)
  • The plan view doesn't give you a whole lot to discuss, but this section does provide you with the spatial awareness of the points and courses listed in the profile view
  • The profile view provides detailed information which covers:
  • This information feeds into the final portion of the approach where the pilot needs to be aware of the minimums
  • In the minimums section, you can determine
    • Category
    • Weather minimums
    • Speeds
    • Decision Height (DH) or MDA
  • Lastly, the airport diagram provides increased spatial awareness to the orientation of the aircraft upon breaking out of the weather
  • Be sure to focus on items that are unusual or otherwise noteworthy
    • These items can be from the plate (notable terrain) or restrictions provided by Air Traffic Control

Approach Briefing Example:

  • "We will be flying the VOR runway 16 approach into Daytona Beach International on page 22 of the Florida plates. Weather minimums required are 800 and 1. NAVAIDs are (are being) tuned and set to 112.6 and 73x. We will fly to the IAF and turn outbound 336 down to 1600. Procedure turn back in on 156 until the FAF, where we will start the time and begin a descent to our MDA of 760. Our missed approach point will be 7.4 DME from the VORTAC. Missed approach instructions are climbing straight out at 2000 on the 161 radial to SMYRA to hold. We are on approach, set tower (as appropriate)"

Common Pitfalls:

  • Ensure you are referencing the correct approach plate for not only the correct approach type but also for the correct runway
  • Not reviewing the symbology on an approach plate (i.e., mistaking a no lower than for a no higher than)
  • Using the wrong frequency to contact a specific agency
  • Not preparing for the next phase of flight, including post-landing taxi


  • It is not necessary to go into such detail as to read each frequency but rather to discuss flow
  • Pilots must balance the requirement to brief essential elements while aviating, navigating, and communicating
  • Although not required by regulations for general aviation (part 91), they are a great idea to do regardless of experience level to make sure you plan correctly
  • The completeness and clarity of the approach brief is an indicator of how well you are about to fly the approach
  • The briefing is for you, so tailor it however you want
    • Over time your experiences may change leading to constant re-development of your approach brief
    • Practice even when flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) so you can be proficient when you need it operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)
  • To learn more about instrument procedures, be sure to check out the Instrument Procedures Handbook online or in paperback
  • Pilots can visit the FAA's Instrument Flight Procedures Information Gateway to review and submit questions related to the how and why certain procedures are as they are
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