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Practice Instrument Approaches

Introduction:

  • A practice approach is an instrument approach where there is no landing intended
  • Upon request, pilots and controllers will establish a criteria under which the practice approches will be conducted
  • Various air traffic incidents have indicated the necessity for the adoption of measures to achieve more organized and controlled operations where practice instrument approaches are conducted
  • Performed for instruction or proficiency, keeping in mind the requirements of FAR 61.57

Practice Approach Purpose:

  • Practice approaches serve practical and regulatory needs
  • Practically, they give pilots confidence to fly different approaches into different airfields and in the case of regular routes, allow practice under visual conditions for when they may have to fly an approach under instrument conditions
  • Recency regulations require practice approaches be flown and logged to demonstrate instrument currency compliance

Practice Approach Criteria:

  • Practice instrument approaches may be requested by aircraft flying under both Visual Flight Rules (VFR) or Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)
    • The subsequent handling by ATC will then depend upon which flight rules are to be observed
    • For example:
      • If an aircraft flying under VFR requests practice approaches, ATC will include the requirement for the pilot to maintain VFR
      • If an aircraft flying under IFR requests practice approaches, ATC will handle you as if you're in instrument meteorological conditions
  • Since practice approaches are additive to a controller's workload, they will only be accepted if the controller can manage their current workload and no safety hazard exists

Practice Approach Requests:

  • 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 (to a cardinal direction, to another airport, etc.)
    • This information may be furnished progressively when conducting a series of approaches, but be prepared for controllers to ask for all approaches requested upon initial call
  • 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
  • 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

Practice Approach Responsibilities:

  • 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
  • Pilots conducting practice instrument approaches should be particularly alert for other aircraft operating in the local traffic pattern or in proximity to the airport
  • 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
      • This is to preclude misunderstandings between the pilot and controller as to the status of the aircraft

Non-Towered Airport Operations:

  • Pilots conducting practice instrument approaches should be particularly alert for other aircraft that may be departing in the opposite direction
  • When conducting any practice approach, regardless of its direction relative to other airport operations, pilots should make announcements on the CTAF as follows:
    • Departing the final approach fix, inbound (nonprecision approach) or departing the outer marker or fix used in lieu of the outer marker, inbound (precision approach);
    • Established on the final approach segment or immediately upon being released by ATC;
    • Upon completion or termination of the approach; and
    • Upon executing the missed approach procedure

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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