Roy asked in Cars & TransportationAircraft · 1 decade ago

Do commercial service airports use VFR approaches?

I fly United Airlines quite a lot, and the feature I like the best about their airline is you can listen to ATC conversations. Being computer flight simulator enthusiast I always enjoying listening to such conversations. A couple of days ago I flew on United 736 from KSFO to KIAD, and I noticed that the ATC assigned the flight to land on run way 1L using visual approach. My questions are:

1) KIAD is a pretty busy class B airport, how do the ATC determine either instrumental or visual approach is gonna be used? Is it solely based on the weather / clouds / visibility?

2) During a visual approach, do pilots take advantage of the ILS instruments i.e. follow the vertical guidance when they are entering the base leg and final turn?

Thanks in advance.

6 Answers

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    Cleared for a visual approach to one left means that you are no longer flying under instrument flight rules. Meaning you no longer must follow an assigned course and altitude. You are now operating under visual flight rules and providing you can maintain the required distance from clouds you are on your own. This expedites the flow of traffic when the weather is good. For instance, if you were being vectored on downwind at Dulles, your example airport, if you were to remain IFR, the controller would have to take you out beyond five miles before he could turn you back onto base and final. But if he clears you for the visual approach, you can turn when you want and land. You're on your own. You also now have the responsibility to see and avoid other aircraft. The pilot does not have to accept the clearance however. And typically, the pilot will continue to take advantage of ILS approach information. It's good information.

  • 1 decade ago

    1) How do the ATC determine either instrumental or visual approach is gonna be used?

    Based on the ATIS. (It is controlling as it's the reported weather.)

    If the weather is basic VFR or better, than visuals will probably be in use.

    1a) Is it solely based on the weather / clouds / visibility?

    Mostly, however the pilot needs to also have either the airport of the preceding aircraft IN SIGHT to be cleared for the visual. Sometimes the sun or haze makes that very difficult even when the weather is reported as VFR, so you will be on the ILS to the airport even in VFR conditions.

    2) During a visual approach, do pilots take advantage of the ILS instruments i.e. follow the vertical guidance when they are entering the base leg and final turn?

    Yes.

    My airline requires that we use all available resources to back up visual approaches. When on base & final I stay at or above the glideslope and use the localizer to back up my final. This is especially helpful so as to not overshoot the final course when traffic is landing on the parallel runway.

    Source(s): My career experience
  • 1 decade ago

    Yes, commercial flights use visual approaches. It is a common practice. The issuance of a visual approach clearance DOES NOT cancel an IFR flight plan. The requirements for a visual approach are:

    Ceiling of 1000 ft or higher

    Visibility of 3 statue miles or higher

    Airport OR aircraft you are to be following in sight

    If you lose sight of the airport or preceding aircraft, you must advise ATC.

    If the runway you are landing on has an instrument approach, we typically will use the instrument approach as a back-up to the visual approach.

    The benfit of the visual approach is that it speeds up the arrivals into that airport. As mentioned previously, ATC doesn't have to vector you out as far.

    Source(s): Airline Pilot
  • 1 decade ago

    Yes - commercial airports do use VFR approaches.

    1) Primarily weather dictates IFR -vs- VFR approaches, plus various other considerations including traffic density etc.

    2) Visual approaches can be double checked/fine tuned by a quick reference to the available aids.

    Source(s): none
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  • 1 decade ago

    Also at some smaller airports they will only have nav aids on their main runway because of cost. The secondary runway usually smaller in length would be VFR only.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I am a student pilot so I don't know too much about the details but VFR is preferred over IFR but I use my instruments to line up and check elevation before I use VFR to actually make the landing.

    The answer to your first question is yes. Weather is usually the main reason to use IFR.

    No matter which type of navigation is used five miles of visibility is required even under IFR landings.

    Source(s): As for your orginal question commercial airports depend greatly on IFR for glideslopes, airspeed, attitude and altitude but nothing can replace good old VFR.
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