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What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sat Oct 09, 2021 3:30 am
by convair880mfan
There is a lot of conflicting information out there on the internet. Is there some kind of "official" definition? A commercial pilot told me that the airlines prefer long straight-in approaches. Is a short final sort of the antithesis of this?

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sat Oct 09, 2021 3:47 am
by N1120A
Short final is when the airplane is close to the threshold of the runway of intended landing, established on the extended centerline. That will vary based on the type of airplane. What the pilot told you is that the airlines prefer to be established on that extended centerline much farther out than a typical traffic pattern.

Most larger airports tend to have STARs that link up with the final approach course well before the final approach fix. That said, many airports, even larger ones, require being vectored onto final, due to traffic and geography, which can result in a little more fuel burn, time and the need to make steeper banked turns. A bunch of the newer RNP AR approaches were developed with this in mind and the airlines frequently request those if they are going to be set up for a more typical traffic pattern, as they are designed with efficiency in mind.

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sat Oct 09, 2021 11:15 am
by LimaFoxTango
In flight school, I was taught "short final" is called at 4nm from the runway, while "long final" is called 8nm from the runway.

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sat Oct 09, 2021 2:43 pm
by atcdan
As an ATC I consider short final to be within 1 mile of the runway generally, when I’m issuing traffic.

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sat Oct 09, 2021 4:59 pm
by GalaxyFlyer
LimaFoxTango wrote:
In flight school, I was taught "short final" is called at 4nm from the runway, while "long final" is called 8nm from the runway.


Holy smokes, those are B-52 patterns and that’s a complement. Normal stabilized final is at 3-4 miles (IMC), 2 miles (VMC). I’d say anything inside 1-2 miles

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sat Oct 09, 2021 5:22 pm
by N1120A
GalaxyFlyer wrote:
LimaFoxTango wrote:
In flight school, I was taught "short final" is called at 4nm from the runway, while "long final" is called 8nm from the runway.


Holy smokes, those are B-52 patterns and that’s a complement. Normal stabilized final is at 3-4 miles (IMC), 2 miles (VMC). I’d say anything inside 1-2 miles


Yeah, those 747 patterns have definitely crept in.

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2021 1:36 pm
by IAHFLYR
atcdan wrote:
As an ATC I consider short final to be within 1 mile of the runway generally, when I’m issuing traffic.


As a retired ATC'r I will go with that Dan wrote. Heck a four or five mile final I'd get one maybe two airliners out on departure before the arrival crosses the threshold.....small planes even more departures.

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2021 1:47 pm
by Woodreau
I consider short final less than 500ft AGL along the extended centerline of the runway.

4 miles is right on the edge of towers airspace and definitely not in any sort of traffic pattern. 8 miles you’re not anywhere near the airport.

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2021 3:20 pm
by IAHFLYR
="Woodreau"4 miles is right on the edge of towers airspace and definitely not in any sort of traffic pattern. 8 miles you’re not anywhere near the airport.


While referring to Class D airspace you are spot on, however at larger airports such as Class B the actual "tower airspace" is different depending on letter of agreements with the TRACON. IAH Tower airspace as example, is the surface area of the Class B airspace which is 8 NM from the center of the airport and up to 4,000' MSL.

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2021 6:39 pm
by zeke
convair880mfan wrote:
There is a lot of conflicting information out there on the internet. Is there some kind of "official" definition? A commercial pilot told me that the airlines prefer long straight-in approaches. Is a short final sort of the antithesis of this?


It’s not really a term I hear much these days. Back when more airports had procedural control rather than radar control, and more approaches were non precision compared to today’s ILS/GPS we used to report to the tower our position with altitude, bearing, and distance from the VOR. We would also report outbound in the approach and the established final on the approach (teardrop VOR from overhead). Short final was back then when you were within a minute of needing a landing clearance, so if the approach minimum was 600ft that would be around 1500 ft, on a visual approach it would be more like 850 ft, ILS 1000 ft.

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 4:28 am
by bigb
Usually I consider anything 2 NM or less from the runway on the extended centerline is short final in a airliner.

GA I usually say it’s about 1 NM or less.

Re: What exactly is a "short final"?

Posted: Sun Oct 17, 2021 4:31 am
by Canuck600
I don't know if it's a correct use but I've heard helicopters use it as they make their final turn as they approach their destination. That's in British Columbia Canada btw.