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Altitude bust - my NASA report from today

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Great to tie the the procedure turn discussion in as well...

very similar type of situation...

Best regards,

-a-

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On 7/8/2019 at 6:09 PM, Hank said:

I've never been cleared for an approach that far out . . . But VFR is a whole 'nother world--I was once headed SE towards a Class D with radar, 12 miles from the field and was cleared to land on 30 . . . .

I have been cleared by Indy Center into PBX many time from as far out as 25 miles from the IAF and not hear another transmission until I'm inbound, yes its that quiet at times.  The first time I got a clearance this far out was a few years ago back when RNAV27 was still a T shaped approach and I was cleared to one of the IAF on one of the side arms with "N201TF is 25NM from COFTA and cleared for the RNAV 27 approach, maintain at or above 4,700 until established, report inbound at OBSEW."  I was kinda shocked they would clear me that far out, but later I found this to be commonplace into this airport.  By no means am I an expert, and as Paul I think it was pointed out I was newly minted and unsure so I asked for lower when I reported inbound and all I got back was "N201TF you are cleared for the approach."  Afterwards I discussed with my instructor and now I understand what cleared means, in other words if there are no other restrictions such as a crossing altitude then I am cleared to do what the approach plate says.  Now we have the HILPT format and now I usually get the clearance with maintain at or above 4,700 and have even been given 5,000 until crossing OBSEW which is now the IF/IAF.

OP, with my understanding I would remain at 3,000 until established or given instruction for lower.  I have been bailed out by nice controllers like this one as well. Thank you for posting it and I learned from this thread.

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On 7/12/2019 at 3:51 AM, carusoam said:

Great to tie the the procedure turn discussion in as well...

very similar type of situation...

Best regards,

-a-

Just the suggestion of a procedure turn in this thread got me feeling uptight again, and so I went back to review.  John and Martha King taught me this for the test, but then we get vectors to final so often that this basic info has gotten fuzzy for me. After reviewing, I think  key bullet points are as follows:

-Fly the PT if it is charted, UNLESS cleared straight in.

-Don't fly a PT if "No PT" is on the initial segment flown or when receiving radar vectors to final.

-The altitude labeled on the procedure turn is maintained until established on the inbound leg.

-Ask ATC if still confused!

There I feel better.  Maybe someone else does too.  This knowledge lapses fast...

 

 

 

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This actually brings up a question to a similar scenario I ran into last week which I asked the controller for clarification on.  I was headed to an airport over some small mountains in upstate NY and I was IFR but good VMC. I was on an assigned altitude but high and then cleared for the visual approach.  He didn’t say descend/altitude at pilots discretion.  Can I legally descend at that point?  I asked For clarification and was issued a descent.  

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5 minutes ago, 81X said:

This actually brings up a question to a similar scenario I ran into last week which I asked the controller for clarification on.  I was headed to an airport over some small mountains in upstate NY and I was IFR but good VMC. I was on an assigned altitude but high and then cleared for the visual approach.  He didn’t say descend/altitude at pilots discretion.  Can I legally descend at that point?  I asked For clarification and was issued a descent.  

 I think being cleared for the visual gives you wide discretion on altitude and maneuvering here, as long as you maintain airport or aircraft ahead in site in VMC.

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8 hours ago, 81X said:

This actually brings up a question to a similar scenario I ran into last week which I asked the controller for clarification on.  I was headed to an airport over some small mountains in upstate NY and I was IFR but good VMC. I was on an assigned altitude but high and then cleared for the visual approach.  He didn’t say descend/altitude at pilots discretion.  Can I legally descend at that point?  I asked For clarification and was issued a descent.  

 

From the AIM Pilot/Controller Responsibilities 

5-5-11. Visual Approach

a. Pilot.

1.If a visual approach is not desired, advises ATC.

2.Complies with controller’s instructions for vectors toward the airport of intended landing or to a visual position behind a preceding aircraft.

3.The pilot must, at all times, have either the airport or the preceding aircraft in sight. After being cleared for a visual approach, proceed to the airport in a normal manner or follow the preceding aircraft. Remain clear of clouds while conducting a visual approach.

4.If the pilot accepts a visual approach clearance to visually follow a preceding aircraft, you are required to establish a safe landing interval behind the aircraft you were instructed to follow. You are responsible for wake turbulence separation.

5.Advise ATC immediately if the pilot is unable to continue following the preceding aircraft, cannot remain clear of clouds, needs to climb, or loses sight of the airport.

6.Be aware that radar service is automatically terminated, without being advised by ATC, when the pilot is instructed to change to advisory frequency.

7.Be aware that there may be other traffic in the traffic pattern and the landing sequence may differ from the traffic sequence assigned by approach control or ARTCC.

 

b. Controller.

1.Do not clear an aircraft for a visual approach unless reported weather at the airport is ceiling at or above 1,000 feet and visibility is 3 miles or greater. When weather is not available for the destination airport, inform the pilot and do not initiate a visual approach to that airport unless there is reasonable assurance that descent and flight to the airport can be made visually.

2.Issue visual approach clearance when the pilot reports sighting either the airport or a preceding aircraft which is to be followed.

3.Provide separation except when visual separation is being applied by the pilot.

4.Continue flight following and traffic in- formation until the aircraft has landed or has been instructed to change to advisory frequency.

5.Inform the pilot when the preceding aircraft is a heavy.

6.When weather is available for the destination airport, do not initiate a vector for a visual approach unless the reported ceiling at the airport is 500 feet or more above the MVA and visibility is 3 miles or more. If vectoring weather minima are not available but weather at the airport is ceiling at or above 1,000 feet and visibility of 3 miles or greater, visual approaches may still be conducted.

7.Informs the pilot conducting the visual approach of the aircraft class when pertinent traffic is known to be a heavy aircraft.

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8 hours ago, 81X said:

This actually brings up a question to a similar scenario I ran into last week which I asked the controller for clarification on.  I was headed to an airport over some small mountains in upstate NY and I was IFR but good VMC. I was on an assigned altitude but high and then cleared for the visual approach.  He didn’t say descend/altitude at pilots discretion.  Can I legally descend at that point?  I asked For clarification and was issued a descent.  

The quoted language answers your question. "Cleared visual" = "proceed normally to landing".  To fill it out a bit more, at towered airports that visual approach might be accompanied by other instructions ("make right base...") instructions from  Approach or Tower.

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2 minutes ago, kpaul said:

 

From the AIM Pilot/Controller Responsibilities 

5-5-11. Visual Approach

a. Pilot.

1.If a visual approach is not desired, advises ATC.

2.Complies with controller’s instructions for vectors toward the airport of intended landing or to a visual position behind a preceding aircraft.

3.The pilot must, at all times, have either the airport or the preceding aircraft in sight. After being cleared for a visual approach, proceed to the airport in a normal manner or follow the preceding aircraft. Remain clear of clouds while conducting a visual approach.

4.If the pilot accepts a visual approach clearance to visually follow a preceding aircraft, you are required to establish a safe landing interval behind the aircraft you were instructed to follow. You are responsible for wake turbulence separation.

5.Advise ATC immediately if the pilot is unable to continue following the preceding aircraft, cannot remain clear of clouds, needs to climb, or loses sight of the airport.

6.Be aware that radar service is automatically terminated, without being advised by ATC, when the pilot is instructed to change to advisory frequency.

7.Be aware that there may be other traffic in the traffic pattern and the landing sequence may differ from the traffic sequence assigned by approach control or ARTCC.

 

b. Controller.

1.Do not clear an aircraft for a visual approach unless reported weather at the airport is ceiling at or above 1,000 feet and visibility is 3 miles or greater. When weather is not available for the destination airport, inform the pilot and do not initiate a visual approach to that airport unless there is reasonable assurance that descent and flight to the airport can be made visually.

2.Issue visual approach clearance when the pilot reports sighting either the airport or a preceding aircraft which is to be followed.

3.Provide separation except when visual separation is being applied by the pilot.

4.Continue flight following and traffic in- formation until the aircraft has landed or has been instructed to change to advisory frequency.

5.Inform the pilot when the preceding aircraft is a heavy.

6.When weather is available for the destination airport, do not initiate a vector for a visual approach unless the reported ceiling at the airport is 500 feet or more above the MVA and visibility is 3 miles or more. If vectoring weather minima are not available but weather at the airport is ceiling at or above 1,000 feet and visibility of 3 miles or greater, visual approaches may still be conducted.

7.Informs the pilot conducting the visual approach of the aircraft class when pertinent traffic is known to be a heavy aircraft.

Right, but it’s arguable whether “proceed to the airport in a normal manner” means laterally only or laterally and vertically, especially if on a previously assigned altitude.

I think the spirit of it (unless there is another definition somewhere) means lateral and vertical since an “instrument approach” has lateral and vertical descent components, so one would think that “visual approach” would as well but it’s an arguable point since you’re not usually on a charted visual procedure at that point and still active IFR.  Adding ambiguity to this situation is that visual approach language specifically calls out needing ATC authorization to climb, but makes no mention of descent.

 

IMO, ATC could clarify by canceling the altitude restriction or issuing descent at pilots discretion during the visual approach clearance issuance.  This or having the regs define the visual approach better.

 

This is the crap lawyers make money on and is one reason why I typically over communicate with ATC.  The other reason is the most important- for noise abatement (Mooney hitting something and making a loud noise).

 

 

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1 hour ago, 81X said:

but it’s arguable whether “proceed to the airport in a normal manner” means laterally only or laterally and vertically, especially if on a previously assigned altitude.

A visual clearance when given is under an IFR flight plan and as such ATC retains control. It allows you to proceed visually to the airport and land. You provide your own separation. There are two restrictions: must have airport and/or aircraft you’re following always in sight, i.e. cannot reenter clouds, and cannot go missed without a new clearance. If you cannot maintain visual or need to go missed speak up and ATC will provide hdg and alt. This clears you to enter IMC again.

A visual approach clearance is a “clearance” authorization. When “cleared” for the visual you are still on your IFR flight plan but your previously assigned alt clearance is superseded by the visual clearance. 

I hope this clarifies it.

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3 minutes ago, 81X said:

Right, but it’s arguable whether “proceed to the airport in a normal manner” means laterally only or laterally and vertically, especially if on a previously assigned altitude.

I think the spirit of it (unless there is another definition somewhere) means lateral and vertical since an “instrument approach” has lateral and vertical descent components, so one would think that “visual approach” would as well but it’s an arguable point since you’re not usually on a charted visual procedure at that point and still active IFR.  Adding ambiguity to this situation is that visual approach language specifically calls out needing ATC authorization to climb, but makes no mention of descent.

 

IMO, ATC could clarify by canceling the altitude restriction or issuing descent at pilots discretion during the visual approach clearance issuance.  This or having the regs define the visual approach better.

 

This is the crap lawyers make money on and is one reason why I typically over communicate with ATC.  The other reason is the most important- for noise abatement (Mooney hitting something and making a loud noise).

 

 

How can you proceed to an airport for landing without descending?  That would not be normal.  Also if you happen to be following another aircraft, its your job to follow and keep separation.  If that other aircraft happens to be flying the ILS they are in a descent, therefore if you are following you would also be in a descent.  Yes you are still IFR, but in VMC conditions, it is not an instrument approach and has no missed approach point or procedure.  If you can't/don't land you must contact ATC to get direction before entering IMC.  If you are at an uncontrolled airfield you can actually fly a downwind or overfly to check the pattern, I would recommend you cancel IFR if this is your plan and it makes sense to cancel.  At a towered field the tower will of course be directive. 

Even airports that have published visuals (KDCA for example) have recommended altitudes but not required altitudes.  

You may be overthinking this compared to the previous example where he was flying a published instrument approach.  The visual does not guarantee any obstacle clearance since you have to be able to visually identify the airport or proceeding aircraft and therefor should be able to visually avoid obstacles.  It is basically the same as a Pilot Discretion Descent.  You can descend at any time once cleared, you can level off at any point, you just can't climb back up again without clearance.  The reason is once you vacate an altitude ATC may vector someone over you using that vacated altitude.

 

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37 minutes ago, 81X said:

This is the crap lawyers make money on and is one reason why I typically over communicate with ATC.  The other reason is the most important- for noise abatement (Mooney hitting something and making a loud noise).

 

 

A pilot's lack of understanding of procedures has nothing to do with lawyers.

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On 7/14/2019 at 6:03 AM, PTK said:

A visual clearance when given is under an IFR flight plan and as such ATC retains control. It allows you to proceed visually to the airport and land. You provide your own separation. There are two restrictions: must have airport and/or aircraft you’re following always in sight, i.e. cannot reenter clouds, and cannot go missed without a new clearance. If you cannot maintain visual or need to go missed speak up and ATC will provide hdg and alt. This clears you to enter IMC again.

A visual approach clearance is a “clearance” authorization. When “cleared” for the visual you are still on your IFR flight plan but your previously assigned alt clearance is superseded by the visual clearance. 

 I hope this clarifies it.

+1

How you get to your landing when cleared for a visual approach is up to you as long as you do it in a safe manner while complying with regulations/restrictions  and any ATC/ tower instructions.  Pilots start getting  into trouble when they provide their own interpretations of how things should be done rather than deferring to the FAR/AIM or asking ATC when in doubt. 

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On 7/14/2019 at 8:04 AM, kpaul said:

Even airports that have published visuals (KDCA for example) have recommended altitudes but not required altitudes.  

Good reminder that these exist.  I've never encountered one in the wild, just in the didactic environment.  

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