Monday, July 17, 2006

Visual Approach: A Hypothetical

A hypothetical for your consideration:

You are flying into a busy Class Bravo airport on an IFR flight plan. You are given a series of headings to fly, but no altitude changes since you were assigned "maintain 3000." Approach controls then clears you for the visual approach to runway XX.

Are you now free to descend at pilot's discretion?

Citations to appropriate sections of the AIM that support your answer would be appreciated.

(It is duly noted that this question equally applies to an airport in any type of airspace, but we had to give the hypothetical some flavah for your consideration, sort of like going back to law school with the Socratic Method...)

6 comments:

John said...

Yes, you are free to descend unless the controller has given you crossing restrictions. You are responsible for wake turbulence avoidance and remaining clear of clouds.

http://www.faa.gov/atpubs/AIM/Chap5/aim0505.html#5-5-11

http://www.faa.gov/atpubs/ATC/Chp7/atc0704.html#7-4-1

Flying into Oakland I often got this clearance:

"Barnburner 123, cross Oakland 6 DME at or above 2000, cleared visual approach runway 29"

So what happened to you that you would ask this question?

Anonymous said...

Actually, MS is the genesis of this question. I flew to KPHL last Saturday on an Angel Flight. I was last given an assigned altitude of 3000. I was given a heading that vectored me away from the airport (towards downtown), then another vector on a 45 degree angle to R26 (60ft MSL) and "cleared for the visual approach." I kept my assigned altitude until I was "cleared to land" but by the I was too high to make the runway. I probably should have asked for clarification as to whether I could have descended when cleared for the approach, but the tower controller was extremely busy. In the end, I had to go around and try it again.

Jade said...

"Cleared for the Visual" clears you to manuver at will inorder to prepare to land. Normally you would join the appropriate leg of the circute for the runway you've been cleared to. Altitudes, headings and speeds are at your discretion. Terminal or tower, whoever gives you the clearance, expects you to know other traffic in the airspace and manuver accordingly, usually they like if you can make it to the runway in timely fashion. They will however be sure to clearly give you an altitude to hold if the wish, but you will be reading that back in the clearance therefore you should clearly understand that you received a restriction along with the visual clearance.
Anyways, sorry if that was a little too long and drawn out, hopefully you understand it all. And I have nothing to show from the AIM, it's something I've learnt along the way. Have fun.

Jade said...

RAC 9.6.2 - Visual Approach

There's something.

B said...

AIM Pilot/Controller Glossary:

VISUAL APPROACH- An approach conducted on an instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan which [b] authorizes the pilot to proceed visually and clear of clouds to the airport. [/b]

You can do whatever you need to get there within the cloud clearance requirements. The only thing is to make sure you're generally headed to the runway of intended landing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. I guess it just being my first time into an airport that busy, i was doing my best not to get in any trouble and follow the controller's instructions precisely -- perhaps too precisely!!

Thanks for the help,
MS