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Tue, Oct 03, 2006

ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (10.03.06): Final Approach Point

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.")

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. 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.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network.

Aero-Tips 10.03.06

There are many actions an instrument pilot needs to take upon passing the Final Approach Fix (FAF) inbound on an instrument approach procedure (IAP). The FAF is the point when it's safe to descend to Decision Height (DH) or the Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA).

Note: some approaches have step-downs inside the FAF.

The FAF is depicted with a Maltese cross on the IAP chart's profile view, and is usually defined with a NAVAID, a crossing radial, or some other readily identifiable fix.

But many nonprecision IAPs begin and end at a NAVAID located right on the airport. These approaches do not have a precisely defined FAF; by definition approaches based on a beacon located on the airport usually do not have a final approach fix at all.

Then when is the pilot supposed to perform all the usual FAF actions and descend to the MDH?

Final Approach Point

Instead of a FAF, these approaches have a Final Approach Point (FAP). The FAP applies only to nonprecision approaches based on an on-airport navigational facility. The procedure for these approaches is for the pilot to overfly the beacon (using it as an initial approach fix, or IAF), then fly outbound on the published approach course to perform a procedure turn. As soon as the pilot completes his/her procedure turn and is established inbound on the final approach course, he/she is considered to be at the FAP and it's correct and necessary to descend to MDA. The FAP serves as the FAF on these approaches, and indicates the beginning of the final approach segment.

Since technique used for the procedure turn is optional and the pilot has a choice (within reason) of how far from the airport to fly before turning around, the precise location of the FAP will differ for different pilots and even the same pilot on different times "shooting" the approach. The FAP is always, however, the point where the airplane is established inbound on the final approach course.

Aero-tip of the day: Know when it's time to descend to MDA on all types of nonprecision approaches.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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