Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cleared For The Visual

I read my IFR Refresher publication from cover to cover this morning. There are multiple articles on the ‘visual approach’. All good reading for those ‘what if’ situations to make you review what you do when winding down on your IFR flights. What decisions drive your request or acceptance of the visual, what are your concerns?

Admit it, the approach controller advising "you are cleared for the visual approach" is a welcome sound on most flights. We normally would think conditions are VFR, we’re pretty much home free, no approach to minimums, less stress.  Things can and do go wrong, what do we do to evaluate our individual situations?

For controllers, a visual approach speeds up the flow and reduces their workload.  On the visual we pilots now take on the responsibility of maintaining separation and terrain avoidance.

We all understand the ‘get-there-itis’. Think about it, we could take a deep breath, a sigh of relief and even a brief lack of focus especially if just dropping out of the clag after an intense cross country.  At the end of the flight we need to fly it to the tie downs, keep the focus, terrain or towers are unforgiving.

Now if it’s severe clear VFR to the non-towered airport I’ll make my calls and enter the pattern, keeping my head on a swivel for traffic.  At a towered airport I’ll contact the tower, advise on the visual for the specific runway. You ask yourself why in the world did Gary type that last towered statement, because people brain fart and land without talking.  We need to know what the situation and airport calls for. Remember that brief lack of focus.

The folks I fly with have instilled a few things in this tiny brain. Take advantage of the equipment on board. When cleared for the visual I chug and plug the vectors to final (VTF) and also note one of the following; DA, MDA and at the very least pattern altitude.

Proper preflight planning helps us understand the destination airport terrain, local obstructions and allows for that ‘walk through’ of approaches. I like to read each plate, visualize my entry to the airport environment and review low enroute charts for potential hold fixes.  I also like to note special reporting points that show up on the VFR charts.

I guess I am rambling on but I really enjoyed this month’s IFR Refresher.  Good things to ponder for safe flight operations.

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