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Are pilots a little nervous when required to do a close in turning approach?

Posted: Thu Jul 29, 2021 5:14 pm
by convair880mfan
I live in Albuquerque, and wind conditions often require pilots to do close in turns before lining up on the east-west runway when landing to the west. This is because there are some pretty steep mountains immediately east of the airfield.

Airliners coming from the southeast [Dallas, Houston] have to stay high coming over the mountain, then lose altitude quickly flying to the north and then execute a turn very close to the runway in order to land towards the west.

I often wondered whether this made pilots a bit nervous. I realize pilots are seasoned professionals and have much knowledge and experience with all kinds of flying. Do pilots prefer long straight-in approaches to the kind I have described?

I know coming into Albuquerque is not like landing at the old Kai Tak Airport, but just curious.

Re: Are pilots a little nervous when required to do a close in turning approach?

Posted: Sat Jul 31, 2021 5:00 pm
by Avgeek21
Not nervous but ‘thrilled and excited’. I know I can do it of as long as I tick all the boxes before we get there. I can fly the aircraft just fine. So can the guy/girl next to me. We know the ‘box’ we are allowed to work in. Now I work backwards at the planning stage. How will I fly it? What is my backup plan? What if it doesn’t work? Can I justify to my boss what I’m about to do and still keep my job? Commercial flying is very rigid and confined. Everything is in a manual. So are close in turns or circling approaches. You can’t do any approach if not all signs are green. From there it’s just stick and rudder. That’s where the fun starts.

Re: Are pilots a little nervous when required to do a close in turning approach?

Posted: Sat Jul 31, 2021 7:40 pm
by Snuffaluffagus
Not at all. I'll just click off the A/P, maybe the autothrust, and fly the airplane as if I was in a big Cessna 172. Nothing to be nervous about and if they are, they shouldn't be flying professionally.

Re: Are pilots a little nervous when required to do a close in turning approach?

Posted: Sun Aug 01, 2021 6:21 pm
by e38
convair880mfan wrote:
Wind conditions often require pilots to do close in turns before lining up on the east-west runway when landing to the west. This is because there are some pretty steep mountains immediately east of the airfield.

I often wondered whether this made pilots a bit nervous. I realize pilots are seasoned professionals and have much knowledge and experience with all kinds of flying. Do pilots prefer long straight-in approaches to the kind I have described?


convair880mfan, in aviation, as in many other professions, a person's confidence in their ability to perform certain tasks; in the case you described, a close in turn due to high terrain near the airfield, is a function of training, experience, and preparation.

At the company at which I work, we have a simulator lesson in our training syllabus during which we are required to complete a maneuver called "High Energy Approach Procedure." During the lesson, we accomplish an approach to an airport from a higher-than-normal altitude to train the exact situation you described. The lesson requires us to use various combinations of drag--flaps, landing gear, speed brakes--along with airspeed management and descent rate control--to put the aircraft in a position to make a safe landing. Moreover, we need to demonstrate "stabilized approach" criteria, which, at my carrier is: at 1000 feet AFE be aligned with the intended landing runway (unless otherwise specified by procedure or as dictated by terrain and airspace), fully configured, and a rate of descent not to exceed 1000 feet per minute; and at 500 feet be stabilized at approach airspeed and engines spooled up so as to maintain that airspeed (not idle).

At many airports where terrain is an issue we have videos we can watch to familiarize ourselves with local procedures and there are often special procedures published in the flight operations airport guide that we are required to reference prior to flying into those airport.

If the airline serves the station regularly, i.e., Southwest at Albuquerque, it is likely a new first officer will see the procedure demonstrated by a captain.

Sometimes neither pilot has previously been to that specific airport, but the simulator training, videos, and operations procedures, plus previous experience at other airports, provide the pilots the competency and confidence to successfully fly the approach.

The bottom line is that we have training and resources available such that when confronted with a situation you described, the approach is somewhat "expected" and routine.

e38

Re: Are pilots a little nervous when required to do a close in turning approach?

Posted: Mon Aug 02, 2021 7:21 am
by spacecadet
Those close-in turning approaches are what most pilots train on before anything else. That's what a standard traffic pattern is, and if you don't come from a military background, chances are you spend the first several hundred hours (at least) of your piloting life doing them. They become second nature.

If a pilot gets nervous about that kind of approach, he'd probably better get back in a bug smasher and take some remedial lessons.