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"The Airport's In Sight, For What It's Worth"...?  
User currently offlineMr Spaceman From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 2787 posts, RR: 9
Posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 1 day ago) and read 5554 times:

Hi guys.

I have a few questions about ATC Arrival procedures.

Quite often while listening to pilots talking to Toronto's arrival controllers, I'll hear the pilots say ..... "we have the runway in sight, if that helps any", or "the airport's insight, for what it's worth", etc.

My question regarding this is: Once these pilots inform ATC that they can fly their approach visually .... what changes?

Does this mean that the pilots (if cleared for a visual approach), are automatically flying under VFR rules, and as such, must "see and be seen" because ATC is no longer following their flight, regarding radar coverage and traffic separation?

Does this mean that the flight crew's IFR flight plan is automatically cancelled?

If a flight crew is cleared for a visual, does this simply mean that the controller is relieved of some of his workload regarding that particular flight because he knows the pilots can see what's around them?

Does this mean any of the above happens?

Does this question make any sense??? Big grin


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Chris  Smile






"Just a minute while I re-invent myself"
15 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineERFly From United States of America, joined Aug 2002, 164 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 1 day ago) and read 5519 times:

One of the criteria for a visual approach is to have the airport (if #1) or the preceding traffic in sight. When the airport is in sight, the controller can clear the aircraft for a visual approach. This could be the crew's way of trying to get in quicker.

User currently offlineScootertrash From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 569 posts, RR: 9
Reply 2, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 1 day ago) and read 5516 times:

I'll try to answer your questions in order:

Q: My question regarding this is: Once these pilots inform ATC that they can fly their approach visually .... what changes?

A: The pilots are informing ATC that they have the runway in sight. At this point nothing has changed and the pilots are obligated to fly their previous clearence. They are attempting to talk the controller into a visual approach, which saves time. As long as the crew has the airport or the preceding traffic in sight, or both, they can be cleared for a visual approach if the controller so chooses.

Q: Does this mean that the pilots (if cleared for a visual approach), are automatically flying under VFR rules, and as such, must "see and be seen" because ATC is no longer following their flight, regarding radar coverage and traffic separation?

A: The aircraft doing a visual approach are still IFR. A visual approach is one made under IFR in VFR conditions. The requirement is for the crew to keep the airport or preceding traffic in sight. They are still in radar contact, but when following traffic, the crew retains the responsibility for keeping the proper seperation between airplanes. This includes seperation with regards to wake turbulence.

Q: Does this mean that the flight crew's IFR flight plan is automatically cancelled?

A: No. At controlled airports, the IFR flight plan in closed by ATC on arrival.

Q: If a flight crew is cleared for a visual, does this simply mean that the controller is relieved of some of his workload regarding that particular flight because he knows the pilots can see what's around them?

A: Yes, it does, for a couple reasons. First, the pilots are given the responsibility for their own seperation, so the controller can reduce the in-trail spacing. This allows a higher arrival rate to be maintained at the airport. Second, there are fairly stringent requirements placed upon an air traffic controller in regards to the vectors he gives an aircraft intercepting an instrument approach (in the U.S. that is... I think Canada is the same). For instance, he may not give the aircraft a greater than 30 degree intercept to the final and the aircraft must intercept the glide slope from below (on an ILS). In addtion, the controller must seperate aircraft with regards to wake turbulence as well. So, as you can see, a pilot given a visual approach can save a controller time and energy.

Hope this gets you started on an understanding!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy






User currently offlineJcxp15 From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 997 posts, RR: 5
Reply 3, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 1 day ago) and read 5507 times:

The controller is never relieved of his/her duty. A visual approach is used when conditions are above a minimum, 90% of the time under VFR conditions (although it does not mean the pilot is flying under VFR conditions).

As far as your first two quotes go. If the planes were on a visual approach, they would probably say something like "runway or airport in sight". The "for what it's worth part" is what gets me. Could be the controller asking the pilot about visibilty from a certain point or about traffic.

As far as the controller goes. The controller is still in charge of every aircraft flying in his/her area. In fact, on many visuals, controllers usually don't even get the aircraft until it is on finals (or close to finals). Take LGA for instance. They use the Expressway Visual RWY31 approach a lot. Once the aircraft has acknoledged the airport or runway in sight (usually before making the turn onto the Expressway or just on the Expressway), that plane will be handed over to the LGA Tower (at least this is what I'm fairly confident happens). Then the tower will issue any further speed or heading instructions, traffic information, and clearance to land.

Visual Approaches are usually in place either for better noise abatement, or for better, easier traffic patters. I also tend to think they use them to make a pilot's job more fun (anything is more fun than flying an ILS approach on a sunny day with no wind), but I don't know about that for sure.


User currently offlineSkyguy11 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 5375 times:

OK I have a subquestion... The controller can assign a visual approach... but the pilot must request a contact approach (I believe). How do these differ??? And in case you are wondering, I am just starting my instrument training. Thanks - Ed

User currently offlineMr Spaceman From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 2787 posts, RR: 9
Reply 5, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 5259 times:

Hello gentlemen.

> Scootertrash, Yes Sir, your information was very clear and understandable. Now I have a better understanding as to why a pilot flying in the system will inform ATC that he can shoot a visual approach. As mentioned by yourself and ERFly, I have got the feeling (when listening to the arrivals), that many of the pilots who inform ATC that they have the runway in sight are either trying to help out the controller or speed up their clearance for their approach, or both. If a pilot can save a controller time and energy, and help himself to arrive on schedule...well, that's great teamwork.

> Jcxp15, Thanks for your thoughts. I understand that a controller is never relieved from his/her duty .... but it's been made very clear to me that pilots can help reduce the pressure of some of their responsibilities.

Guys I have to go, I'll be right back..........

Chris  Smile



"Just a minute while I re-invent myself"
User currently offlineMr Spaceman From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 2787 posts, RR: 9
Reply 6, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 5250 times:

Hi guys.

I'm back...sorry about that. I had a friend knock at my door who needed to borrow a battery charger for his car (it's cold here in Toronto).

OK, Jcxp15, I just wanted to tell you that on many occasions I've heard the exact same pilot (no doubt about his voice), on the same flight, at the same arrival time use those words "the airport's in sight, for what it's worth". It's his style.

Regarding your comments about how those words could be for the purpose of telling a controller how the visibility is from a certain point, well, that makes perfect sense to me, but, it's hard to tell when you can only hear the pilots side of the communications.  Sad

PS, yesterday, while listening to pilots checking in with the ATIS information Xray, I heard one pilot say at the end of his initial contact with arrival that he was "X Rated". I thought his style was pretty neat!

Chris  Smile



"Just a minute while I re-invent myself"
User currently offlineShaun3000 From United States of America, joined Mar 2002, 445 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (11 years 7 months 4 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 5178 times:

Alot of times it's done just to make the controller's job easier. They won't have to keep vectoring, can clear for a visual, or what not. Often flying under VFR when being vectored to final, letting them know you have the airport makes their life easier. Instead of having to continue vectoring you onto final they can tell you to enter XX leg of the traffic pattern and to contact tower.

User currently offlineScootertrash From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 569 posts, RR: 9
Reply 8, posted (11 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 5143 times:

Wow... it has been a long time since I asked for a contact approach... without consulting the AIM, lets see if i remember the details!

You are correct that a controller can assign a visual approach but not a contact approach. A contact approach is characterized by the pilot having ground contact, being able to maintain clear of clouds and being aware enough of his position to navigate without aid from ATC to the airport. There is no requirement to have the airport in sight. I have used this only a few times in nearly 10 years of flying, and all of them were in the GA world, as my airline operations specifications do not allow for it. In each case, i used the clearence to essentially intercept the final approach course inside or very close to the Final Approach Fix... an abbreviated instrument approach, if you will.

With all that said, I personally consider contact approaches the same way I do night circling approaches at minimums: Legal, but inherently unsafe. Any time you are not VFR, or even if you have MVFR conditions, and you leave the guidance of a published approach you are playing with fire. The GA accident record bears this out... look at the large number of controlled flight into terrain accidents that are within 5 miles of an airport and within 30 degrees of the runway centerline.


User currently offlineAAR90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 3474 posts, RR: 46
Reply 9, posted (11 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 5134 times:

My question regarding this is: Once these pilots inform ATC that they can fly their approach visually .... what changes?

Nothing has changed. Depending upon the tone of voice, other half of the conversation, what else was being said by others on the frequency, their statements could have various meanings.

Does this mean that the pilots (if cleared for a visual approach), are automatically flying under VFR rules, and as such, must "see and be seen" because ATC is no longer following their flight, regarding radar coverage and traffic separation? Does this mean that the flight crew's IFR flight plan is automatically cancelled?

Do not confuse VFR/IFR (Rules) with VMC/IMC (weather conditions).

If a flight crew is cleared for a visual, does this simply mean that the controller is relieved of some of his workload regarding that particular flight because he knows the pilots can see what's around them?

Yes (and no). A visual approach clearance means the pilots assume primary responsibility for traffic and weather separation. If there is a mishap the ATC controller(s) is not automatically "off the hook" (just "probably").




*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
User currently offlineSkyguy11 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (11 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 5124 times:

Thanks for the info... I am studying for the instrument rating and today I looked it up: for a contact approach the weather must be at least 1sm reported visibility and the pilot must announce that he/she has the airport in sight. The pilot must keep the airport in sight while setting up for a landing, and the only real reason to use a contact approach is when you are flying a full procedure, see the airport, and do not want to shoot the approach.

For a visual; the weather minimums are 1000' and 3 mi vis (VFR minimums), and the pilot must have either the airport or the preceeding traffic in sight, or both. Seperation is the pilot's responsibility (as always in VFR conditions), although the flight is still considered IFR.

Hope this refreshes your memories  Smile


User currently offlineScootertrash From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 569 posts, RR: 9
Reply 11, posted (11 years 7 months 3 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 5123 times:

Thanks skyguy... that does knock some of my rust off and may just be a catalyst to send me back to the AIM! You know, just when you think you know it all....

User currently offlineContact_tower From Norway, joined Sep 2001, 536 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (11 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 4906 times:

"The "for what it's worth part" is what gets me"

It's not as easy as: Visual Approach makes things easy for the controller.
During times of high work load, visual approach is actually more demanding, because it takes more work capacity to vector aircraft to get airport and preceeding in sight. Traffic information to make the pilots find airport/preceeding takes much longer than just vectoring for ILS.

You can say that visual approach is more comfortable up to a point!  Smile
Then the blinds close........

Anders
ATCO


User currently offlineJetguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (11 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 4887 times:

From a pilot's point of view, you need to be careful about just how and when you tell the ATC folks that you have the field in sight. On more than one occasion I've been in conditions where we had the field in sight, but due to prevailing conditions, it was doubtful that we would have been able to keep it in sight. ATC will assume that if you tell them that you've got the field or the traffic that you're following you'll be able to keep it (them) in sight. Don't tell them that unless you are comfortable and prepared for a visual approach clearance. Several years ago, I was IMC, being vectored to the airport when approach asked me if I could see the airport. Like a dummy, I could see it through a break the clouds so I told him that. His response, "Cleared for a visual approach, radar services terminated, frequency change approved, advise cancellation on this frequency or via flight service. Talk to you guys later." Not a good thing! It may have been possible to get a contact approach to work out under those conditions, but no way would a visual have worked. It was my fault and I should have known better.

Jetguy

[Edited 2003-02-07 17:04:20]

User currently offlineMr Spaceman From Canada, joined Mar 2001, 2787 posts, RR: 9
Reply 14, posted (11 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 4842 times:

Hello gentlemen.

Thank You for your replies (I'm sorry it took a while to Thank You ... I was on the road).

Your explanations were great regarding how the controllers and pilots work together when the airport's in sight (hopefully untill touchdown). The legal requirements involved in order to receive a "visual" or "contact" clearance was good to learn.

Just to hear how the ATC system works while airliners are approaching an airport (from a pilots point of view, and others who know), is excellent information for me ... and the rest of the members, I'm sure.

I understand that both the pilots and controllers are very busy, regardless of whether or not a pilot's approach is in IMC or VFR conditions, or under VFR or IFR flight rules.

Large airports are very busy places indeed. All you need is the ability to hear the "Dance" that's going on between the pilots and controllers to have even "more respect" for them.

Very nice work guys.

Chris  Smile



"Just a minute while I re-invent myself"
User currently offlineJhooper From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 6204 posts, RR: 12
Reply 15, posted (11 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 4839 times:

Does this mean that the pilots (if cleared for a visual approach), are automatically flying under VFR rules, and as such, must "see and be seen" because ATC is no longer following their flight, regarding radar coverage and traffic separation?

Does this mean that the flight crew's IFR flight plan is automatically cancelled?


Pilots must "see and be seen" at all times regardless of type of flight plan when weather conditions permit. In other words, if you're in VMC but on an IFR flight plan, you are still responsible for avoiding collisions. Granted, the controller has some responsibility with regards to separating you from other IFR traffic, but don't assume he has all the Piper Cubs out there on radar. In addition, you could easily be below the area of radar coverage if you're flying into more remote airports. Besides, you're the one who dies if the controller messes up. Never let someone else assume the responsibilities of collison avoidance for you. They are there to help, but it's still the PIC's responsibility. The IFR flight plan is not cancelled until the pilot cancels it or lands at a tower controlled airport under IFR.



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