Advanced Instrument Flight
These lessons prepare the Altair pilot for flying less common instrument procedures and provide in-depth coverage of subject matter previously introduced in the introductory IFR lessons. Material found in this series helps the Altair First Officer prepare for the Captain's exam and checkride.
In the simulation world, most pilots learn the ILS approach as the most common procedure for landing. We covered traffic patterns under the VFR lesson series and it is interesting to note that a "visual approach" is the most common approach procedure under IFR in the real world. Why is this so? Most commercial traffic routinely files and flies IFR for the extra protection it provides even if conditions are VFR, or because they will be flying in Class A airspace. When IFR traffic is approaching an airfield and conditions are VMC, it is common for air traffic control to ask the pilot to call the "field in sight" or preceding traffic in sight, then clear the aircraft for the "visual approach runway XX" (if preceding traffic, "follow the aircraft and maintain visual separation").
This is an IFR procedure performed under VMC. When so cleared, pilots must maintain visual contact with the airport (or preceding traffic directed to follow) or inform ATC immediately when visual contact is lost. At this point the pilot would essentially fly a modifed traffic pattern from the point of clearance and land using visual cues. Navaids such as ILS or GPS can and should be used in addition to visual cues for approach guidance. ATC and pilots prefer the visual approach when conditions permit because it reduces workload and increases the volume of traffic that can safely land.
The ILS procedure is so common in the sim world because it is a precision approach which makes it easier to land than non-precision approaches, and we tend to use the major airports which are equipped with localizer and glideslope transmitters. In terms of numbers, the vast majority of airports are much smaller and it is rare to find an ILS at these smaller fields where the majority of general aviation pilots fly. Why doesn't every airport have ILS? Mainly because it costs about US $25 million to plan, design, site and install one. This gets us to the non-precision approaches which are the main content of this series. They are fun to learn and fun to practice.
We will also cover holding---a somewhat common procedure when flying online---and get into some details on procedure turns, circling and missed approaches. We pay scant attention to the missed approach in the sim world, but the correct technique for flying an instrument approach is to plan and expect it to end in a missed approach. If the runway happens to be visible near the end of the approach, well, this is a fortunate deviation from plan and you go ahead and land.
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