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"there are no old, bold pilots.")
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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
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
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
Aero-tip of the day: Know when it's time to
descend to MDA on all types of nonprecision approaches.