Low Approach


  • A low approach sometimes referred to as a low pass, is essentially a go-around maneuver following an approach
  • Instead of touching down, a pilot may wish to go-around without touching down in order to expedite a particular operation
  • Typically performed in conjunction with a practice approach where you want to maximize fuel to shoot as many approaches as possible
  • Unless authorized, the low approach should be made straight ahead, with no turns or climb made until the pilot has made a thorough visual check for other aircraft in the area


  • Tower or Flight Service are the authority on performing this maneuver
    • FSS only if tower is not in operation or not available

Towered Operations:

  • When operating within a Class B, Class C, and Class D surface area, a pilot intending to make a low approach should contact the tower for approval
    • This request should be made prior to starting the final approach
  • The aircraft will be treated as an arriving aircraft until touchdown or crossing the landing threshold
    • Thereafter, the aircraft will be considered a departing aircraft
  • The aircraft will be issued appropriate departure instructions following the completion of the approach
    • Climb-out instructions must include a specific heading or a route of flight and altitude, except when the aircraft will maintain VFR and contact the tower
  • ATC: "After completing low approach, climb and maintain six thousand Turn right, heading three six zero"
  • ATC: "Maintain VFR, contact tower"
    • Climb-out instructions may be omitted after the first approach if instructions remain the same

Non-Towered Operations:

  • When operating to an airport, not within a Class B, Class C, and Class D surface area, a pilot intending to make a low approach should, prior to leaving the final approach fix inbound (non-precision approach) or the outer marker or fix used in lieu of the outer marker inbound (precision approach), so advise the FSS, UNICOM, or make a broadcast as appropriate


  • 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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