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
A question that often comes up when training pilots about
circling approaches is, "when is it required to miss the approach
during the circling portion of the maneuver?" Let's open the
Writ of Common Wisdom... er, the Federal Air
FAR 91.175(e) tells us:
"... immediately execute an appropriate missed approach
procedure when... an identifiable part of the airport is not
distinctly visible to the pilot during a circling maneuver at or
above MDA, unless the inability to see an identifiable part of the
airport results only from a normal bank of the aircraft during the
There are two important points contained in this regulation:
- "... identifiable part of the airport...": Despite significant
conventional wisdom to the contrary, you do not need to
keep the runway itself or the runway environment in sight in order
to continue a circling maneuver. If you can see an adjacent runway
or taxiway, the parking ramp, some hangars, the perimeter fence, or
grassy areas that you know to be on airport
property in sight you can continue to circle even if your
target runway disappears momentarily in the mist.
- "... unless... from a normal bank...": If your wing or an
engine cowling blocks that view during a "normal" bank turn, you
may continue to circle as long as you remain in visual contact with
the ground (a handy qualification for pilots of high-wing
If otherwise you lose sight of the airport at
any time during the circle you are required to miss. The Aeronautical Information
Remain within the protected distance from runway endpoints
appropriate to the approach category for the speed you're flying
(see figure). This assures that you'll have obstacle clearance at
circling Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA) with the turn radius
brought on by your speed.
Aero-tip of the day: You need to maintain
visual reference with the airport, not necessarily the
runway, during the visual portion of a circling approach.