Approaches (Part Twenty-One)

Intermediate Approach Segment

The intermediate segment is designed primarily to position the aircraft for the final descent to the airport. Like the feeder route and initial approach segment, the chart depiction of the intermediate segment provides course, distance, and minimum altitude information.


The intermediate segment, normally aligned within 30° of the final approach course, begins at the IF, or intermediate point, and ends at the beginning of the final approach segment. In some cases, an IF is not shown on an approach chart. In this situation, the intermediate segment begins at a point where you are proceeding inbound to the FAF, are properly aligned with the final approach course, and are located within the prescribed distance prior to the FAF. An instrument approach that incorporates a procedure turn is the most common example of an approach that may not have a charted IF. The intermediate segment in this example begins when you intercept the inbound course after completing the procedure turn. [Figure 4-34]

Figure 4-34. Approach without a designated IF.

Figure 4-34. Approach without a designated IF. [click image to enlarge]

Final Approach Segment

The final approach segment for an approach with vertical guidance or a precision approach begins where the glideslope/glidepath intercepts the minimum glideslope/ glidepath intercept altitude shown on the approach chart. If ATC authorizes a lower intercept altitude, the final approach segment begins upon glideslope/glidepath interception at that altitude. For a non-precision approach, the final approach segment begins either at a designated FAF, which is depicted as a cross on the profile view, or at the point where the aircraft is established inbound on the final approach course. When a FAF is not designated, such as on an approach that incorporates an on-airport VOR or NDB, this point is typically where the procedure turn intersects the final approach course inbound. This point is referred to as the final approach point (FAP). The final approach segment ends at either the designated MAP or upon landing.


There are three types of procedures based on the final approach course guidance:

  • Precision approach (PA)—an instrument approach based on a navigation system that provides course and glidepath deviation information meeting precision standards of ICAO Annex 10. For example, PAR, ILS, and GLS are precision approaches.
  • Approach with vertical guidance (APV) —an instrument approach based on a navigation system that is not required to meet the precision approach standards of ICAO Annex 10, but provides course and glidepath deviation information. For example, Baro-VNAV, LDA with glidepath, LNAV/VNAV and LPV are APV approaches.
  • Non-precision approach (NPA)—an instrument approach based on a navigation system that provides course deviation information but no glidepath deviation information. For example, VOR, TACAN, LNAV, NDB, LOC, and ASR approaches are examples of NPA procedures.

Missed Approach Segment

The missed approach segment begins at the MAP and ends at a point or fix where an initial or en route segment begins. The actual location of the MAP depends upon the type of approach you are flying. For example, during a precision or an APV approach, the MAP occurs at the DA or DH on the glideslope/glidepath. For non-precision approaches, the MAP is either a fix, NAVAID, or after a specified period of time has elapsed after crossing the FAF.

Approach Clearance

According to FAA Order 7110.65, ATC clearances authorizing instrument approaches are issued on the basis that if visual contact with the ground is made before the approach is completed, the entire approach procedure is followed unless the pilot receives approval for a contact approach, is cleared for a visual approach, or cancels the IFR flight plan.

Approach clearances are issued based on known traffic. The receipt of an approach clearance does not relieve the pilot of his or her responsibility to comply with applicable parts of the CFRs and notations on instrument approach charts, which impose on the pilot the responsibility to comply with or act on an instruction, such as “procedure not authorized at night.” The name of the approach, as published, is used to identify the approach. Approach name items within parentheses are not included in approach clearance phraseology.


Vectors To Final Approach Course

The approach gate is an imaginary point used within ATC as a basis for vectoring aircraft to the final approach course. The gate is established along the final approach course one mile from the FAF on the side away from the airport and is no closer than 5 NM from the landing threshold. Controllers are also required to ensure the assigned altitude conforms to the following:

  • For a precision approach, at an altitude not above the glideslope/glidepath or below the minimum glideslope/glidepath intercept altitude specified on the approach procedure chart.
  • For a non-precision approach, at an altitude that allows descent in accordance with the published procedure. Further, controllers must assign headings that intercept the final approach course no closer than the following table:

A typical vector to the final approach course and associated approach clearance is as follows:

“…four miles from LIMAA, turn right heading three four zero, maintain two thousand until established on the localizer, cleared ILS runway three six approach.”

Other clearance formats may be used to fit individual circumstances, but the controller should always assign an altitude to maintain until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or IAP. The altitude assigned must guarantee IFR obstruction clearance from the point at which the approach clearance is issued until the aircraft is established on a published route. 14 CFR Part 91, § 91.175 (j) prohibits a pilot from making a procedure turn when vectored to a FAF or course, when conducting a timed approach, or when the procedure specifies “NO PT.”

When vectoring aircraft to the final approach course, controllers are required to ensure the intercept is at least 2 NM outside the approach gate. Exceptions include the following situations, but do not apply to RNAV aircraft being vectored for a GPS or RNAV approach:

  • When the reported ceiling is at least 500 feet above the MVA/MIA and the visibility is at least 3 SM (maybe a pilot report (PIREP) if no weather is reported for the airport), aircraft may be vectored to interceptthe final approach course closer than 2 NM outsidethe approach gate but no closer than the approach gate.
  • If specifically requested by the pilot, aircraft maybe vectored to intercept the final approach courseinside the approach gate but no closer than the FAF.