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Sun, Jun 11, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (06.11.06): Altitude, Distance, Missed

Aero-Tips!

A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.") It's part of what makes aviation so exciting for all of us... just when you think you've seen it all, along comes a scenario you've never imagined.

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators, and as representatives of the flying community. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

It is our unabashed goal that "Aero-Tips" will help our readers become better, safer pilots -- as well as introducing our ground-bound readers to the concepts and principles that keep those strange aluminum-and-composite contraptions in the air... and allow them to soar magnificently through it.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network. Suggestions for future Aero-Tips are always welcome, as are additions or discussion of each day's tips. Remember... when it comes to being better pilots, we're all in this together.

Aero-Tips 06.11.06

There's a host of things a pilot needs to review before flying an instrument approach procedure.  Once you're flying inbound from the Final Approach fix (FAF), however, your attention should be focused on the gauges (and scans outside for the runway environment) until you transition to visual flight or need to climb for the missed approach. In a single-pilot operation you do not have the luxury of reading from the instrument approach plate as you're inbound and converging with the ground.

Yet there are a few things you need to know in the approach segment between the FAF and the Missed Approach Point (MAP). I teach the mnemonic A-D-M:

A--Altitude. What is the Decision Height (DH)/Decision Altitude (DA) or the Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA)? Are there any stepdowns?

D--Distance. How far can I fly? What defines the MAP (GPS, DME distance, cross radials, time). If there are stepdowns, what defines the stepdown points?

M--What is the first portion of the Missed Approach procedure? Do I climb straight ahead or turn? If aiming for a NAVAID or a VOR radial, what is the approximate initial heading? Are there altitudes that define specific actions on the missed?

Cheating

No, I do not mean deviating from the published approach procedure. I do propose you create a simple visual reminder of the critical ADM items for an instrument approach—a "cheat card", if you will—so in the inevitable instance you want to check the information while inbound from the FAF you don't need to try to find it on a cluttered approach plate in a dark, bumpy cockpit. Look at the figure (below) for a typical nonprecision approach.

Inbound from the FAF you need to know:

  • Altitude. Descend to 2140 MSL until RACOS intersection, then to the MDA (1860 MSL, assuming an approach flown at Category A speeds).
  • Distance. RACOS is at 19.6 DME (from the VOR) and the MAP is at 17.3 DME. Each may be supplemented by time (versus groundspeed) and/or approach-certified GPS depictions.
  • Missed. Climbing right turn to 3000 feet to intercept the reciprocal of the inbound radial; approximately 110° intercept heading.

That still a lot of data. Similar to an aerobatic pilot's Aresti diagram, you might sketch this out on a clear spot of a kneeboard. I like to use a "sticky note" for my ADM sketch so I can stick it on the panel so it's in my instrument scan. An example for the VOR-A approach at KAAO might appear like this:

I find the process itself of making an A-D-M card helps me memorize the vital FAF-inbound information of an instrument approach.

Aero-tip of the day: Know A-D-M: the Altitude, Distance and Missed information before passing the FAF inbound on an approach.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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