Present Position Direct
In addition to using high and low altitude en route charts as resources for arrivals, area charts can be helpful as a planning aid for SA. Many pilots find the area chart helpful in locating a depicted fix after ATC clears them to proceed to a fix and hold, especially at unfamiliar airports.
Looking at Figures 3-19 and 3-20 assume the pilot is on V295 northbound en route to Palm Beach International Airport. The pilot is en route on the airway when the controller clears him present position direct to the ZISUR (IAF) and for the ILS approach. There is no transition authorized or charted between his present position and the approach facility. There is no minimum altitude published for the route the pilot is about to travel.In Figure 3-20, the pilot is just north of HEATT Intersection at 5,000 feet when the approach controller states, “Citation 9724J, two miles from HEATT, cleared present position direct ZISUR, cleared for the Palm Beach ILS Runway 10L Approach, contact Palm Beach Tower on 119.1 established inbound.”With no minimum altitude published from that point to the ZISUR intersection, the pilot should maintain the last assigned altitude until he reaches the IAF. In Figure 3-19, after passing ZISUR intersection outbound, commence the descent to 2,000 feet for the course reversal. The ILS procedure relies heavily on the controller’s recognition of the restriction upon the pilot to maintain the last assigned altitude until “established” on a published segment of the approach. Prior to issuing a clearance for the approach, the controller usually assigns the pilot an altitude to maintain until established on the final approach course , compatible with glideslope intercept.
Radar Vectors to Final Approach Course
Arriving aircraft usually are vectored to intercept the final approach course, except with vectors for a visual approach, at least 2 NM outside the approach gate unless one of the following exists:
- When the reported ceiling is at least 500 feet above the minimum vectoring altitude or minimum IFR altitude and the visibility is at least 3 NM (report may be a pilot report if no weather is reported for the airport), aircraft may be vectored to intercept the final approach course closer than 2 NM outside the approach gate but no closer than the approach gate.
- If specifically requested by a pilot, ATC may vector aircraft to intercept the final approach course inside the approach gate but no closer than the final approach fix (FAF).
For a precision approach, aircraft are vectored at an altitude that is not above the glideslope/glidepath or below the minimum glideslope/glidepath intercept altitude specified on the approach procedure chart. For a non-precision approach, aircraft are vectored at an altitude that allows descent in accordance with the published procedure.
When a vector takes the aircraft across the final approach course, pilots are informed by ATC and the reason for the action is stated. In the event that ATC is not able to inform the aircraft, the pilot is not expected to turn inbound on the final approach course unless an approach clearance has been issued. An example of ATC phraseology in this case is, “… expect vectors across final for spacing.”
The following ATC arrival instructions are issued to an IFR aircraft before it reaches the approach gate:
- Position relative to a fix on the final approach course. If none is portrayed on the controller’s radar display or if none is prescribed in the instrument approach procedure, ATC issues position information relative to the airport or relative to the NAVAID that provides final approach guidance.
- Vector to intercept the final approach course if required.
- Approach clearance except when conducting a radar approach. ATC issues the approach clearance only after the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or instrument approach procedure, or in the following examples as depicted in Figure 3-21.
Aircraft 1 was vectored to the final approach course but clearance was withheld. It is now at 4,000 feet and established on a segment of the instrument approach procedure. “Seven miles from X-RAY. Cleared ILS runway three six approach.”
Aircraft 2 is being vectored to a published segment of the final approach course, 4 NM from LIMA at 2,000 feet. The minimum vectoring altitude for this area is 2,000 feet. “Four miles from LIMA. Turn right heading three four zero. Maintain two thousand until established on the localizer. Cleared ILS runway three six approach.”
Aircraft 3: There are many times when it is desirable to position an aircraft onto the final approach course prior to a published, charted segment of an instrument approach procedure (IAP).
Sometimes IAPs have no initial segment and require vectors. “RADAR REQUIRED” is charted in the plan view. Sometimes a route intersects an extended final approach course making a long intercept desirable.
When ATC issues a vector or clearance to the final approach course beyond the published segment, controllers assign an altitude to maintain until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or IAP. This ensures that both the pilot and controller know precisely what altitude is to be flown and precisely where descent to appropriate minimum altitudes or step-down altitudes can begin.
Most aircraft are vectored onto a localizer or final approach course between an intermediate fix and the approach gate. These aircraft normally are told to maintain an altitude until established on a segment of the approach.
When an aircraft is assigned a route that is not a published segment of an approach, the controller must issue an altitude to maintain until the aircraft is established on a published segment of the approach. [Figure 3-21] Assume the aircraft is established on the final approach course beyond the approach segments, 8 NM from Alpha at 6,000 feet. The minimum vectoring altitude for this area is 4,000 feet. “Eight miles from Alpha. Cross Alpha at or above four thousand. Cleared ILS runway three six approach.”
If an aircraft is not established on a segment of a published approach and is not conducting a radar approach, ATC assigns an altitude to maintain until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or instrument approach procedure. [Figure 3-22]
The aircraft is being vectored to a published segment of the ILS final approach course, 3 NM from Alpha at 4,000 feet. The minimum vectoring altitude for this area is 4,000 feet. “Three miles from Alpha. Turn left heading two one zero. Maintain four thousand until established on the localizer. Cleared ILS runway one eight approach.”
The ATC assigned altitude ensures IFR obstruction clearance from the point at which the approach clearance is issued until established on a segment of a published route or instrument approach procedure.
ATC tries to make frequency changes prior to passing the FAF, although when radar is used to establish the FAF, ATC informs the pilot to contact the tower on the local control frequency after being advised that the aircraft is over the fix. For example, “Three miles from final approach fix. Turn left heading zero one zero. Maintain two thousand until established on the localizer. Cleared ILS runway three six approach. I will advise when over the fix.”
“Over final approach fix. Contact tower one-one eight point one.”
Special Airport Qualification
It is important to note an example of additional resources that are helpful for arrivals, especially into unfamiliar airports requiring special pilot or navigation qualifications. The operating rules governing domestic and flag air carriers require pilots in command to be qualified over the routes and into airports where scheduled operations are conducted, including areas, routes, and airports in which special pilot qualifications or special navigation qualifications are needed. For Part 119 certificate holders who conduct operations under 14 CFR Part 121, § 121.443, there are provisions in OpSpecs under which operators can comply with this regulation. Figure 3-27 provides some examples of special airports in the United States along with associated comments.