Hey guys! I'm new here..and I've got a ?

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Traumahawk

Hey everyone...just wanted to say hi first. This site has come a long way since the first time I saw it a while back.

I do have a question. I go to Jacksonville University and there's quite a few of us majoring in Aviation here, we fly with Comair Aviation Academy. Usually everything is great, but once in a while some wrong information starts getting passed along.

The thing is, I haven't found one person who could actually tell me what a contact approach is. The FARs just seem to tell you what you need to do it, but what exactly is the pilot's action and procedure(s) for performing one? Lots of people seem to think its when you follow the preceeding aircraft in to the runway. Thats a condition for a visual. From what I gathered, its almost like a very vague way of a SVFR clearance for pilots on IFR flight plans wishing to get to the airport in their own way when theres a mile of flight vis and they can remain clear of clouds..all while not having to cancel IFR. Or at least something along those lines.

Anyone actually request and perform a contact approach before? Does it help? I'm a CFI-I and I still can't figure this out! Hah.
Thanks all.
--Philip
 

FL000

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AIM 5-4-22

Contact approach may be used on an IFR flight plan to get you to an airport that has a published instrument approach. In other words, the rule is not to be abused by using it to reach an airport which does not have instrument approaches. Visibility on the field and in flight must be at least one mile, and reasonably expected to stay at least that good.

You would use this to expedite a landing at an airport with which you are familiar. For example, you know that the airport is five miles west of the city adjacent to the interstate. As you overfly the city and get the highway in sight, you could request a contact approach knowing that you will reach the airport by following the road. You don't HAVE to be familiar with the area. That's just my personal limitation.
 

Buschpilot

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Here's another example:

The navaid is on the field, and as you overfly the navaid to turn outbound on the procedure, you have full view of the airport (from an overhead position). You could then ask for a contact approach and make normal maneuvers for a visual downwind entry.

This saves you a few minutes on your flight (very nice when your customers ask why you are going away from the airport). Also, I'd be rich if I had a nickel for every time the weather was reported less than basic VFR, but flight visibility was better than 3.

In my own opinion, I just don't think its a good idea to do a contact approach. You, as the pilot, are taking on alot of liability and responsibility. Like FL000 said, you HAVE to have personal limits if you are going to do that maneuver.

As a side note, many Ops Specs do not allow contact approaches.

Take care all!

B
 

MTOP_set

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Expanding on the above: (from the pilot/controller glossary)

"Contact Approach" An approach wherin an aircraft on an IFR flight plan, having an air traffic control authorization, operating clear of clouds with at least 1 mile flight visibility and a reasonable expectation of continuing to the destination airport in those conditions, may deviate from the instrument approach procedure and proceed to the destination airport by reference to the surface. The approach will only be authorized when requested by the pilot and the reported ground visibility at the destination airport is at least 1 statute mile.

So, when would you use a contact approach? Let's say the destination is reporting at least 1 mile and is served by an instrument approach. (maybe it is hazy or foggy or your view of the airport is obstructed by clouds or terrain) To do the instrument procedure it may require quite a bit of additional time. You might be arriving from the opposite direction and a lot of manuevering or extensive vectors involved) As stated above you may know that the airport is just up "that road" or around the hill or ridgeline etc. You can't actually "SEE" the airport so you can't request a "VISUAL" approach. This is when you may pull the contact approach from your bag of collective wisdom. You don't hear them issued much because it must be requested by the pilot. Still, a valuable asset when used in the correct context.
 

avbug

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Something else not mentioned yet, and perhaps the greatest value of the contact approach, is that it allows you to descend below standard IFR altitudes, to the minimum altitudes specified in 91. 119. This doesn't mean the minimum IFR altitude, or minimum safe altitude as commonly believed, but the minimum altitude period (refers to minimum altitudes above obstacles, congested areas, or at any time).

In cases where a pilot needs lower, but the controller cannot take the pilot below MVA, the pilot may request a contact approach, if the previously mentioned conditions are met (1 mile visibility and an approved instrument approach proceedure). This enables the controller to clear the pilot down to the minimum safe altitudes specified in 91.119 (which aren't the same as MSA). The controller can't do this without the pilot requesting it, and terrain and obstacle clearance becomes the pilot's responsibility.
 
T

Traumahawk

Thanks

Thanks a lot guys...definately helped getting some things straight around here.
-Phil
 

cessna_driver2

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So it sound just like a special vfr clearence only for an IFR flight plan? Is my thinking correct?
 

avbug

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No, it's not at all the same. The only similiarity is that they both require a mile visibility. Otherwise, a special VFR clearance is a VFR clearance, while a contact approach is an IFR clearance.

A contact approach is a proceedure which allows a pilot to place a great deal of flexibility back into a very rigid system. Considering that a contact approach may be assigned far from a field in order to get the pilot down below the MEA/MVA early on, long before reaching the airport, it has some interesting implications, and applications...especially considering it's an IFR proceedure.

Special VFR, on the other hand, is a stretching of the regulation to it's near breaking point, adding in most cases a big opportunity for unnecessary abuse, in situations that would be best handled under IFR. There are particular applications, but for the most part, it's taking already liberal VFR regulation too far.
 

MTOP_set

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Although 1 mile visibility is the minimun requirement don't get the idea this is only used in marginal weather. Imagine that you are at 9000 feet and the MVA is 8000. You are headed into an airport that lies in a large valley at sea level. The reason the MVA where you are is 8000 is because of those big mountains. It is clear except for a layer of clouds that extends out to a point about 8 miles from the airport. The airport might even be calling 10 miles vis and 4000 overcast. You know that you could safely descend now, providing your own terrain avoidance, and be manuever under the overcast and it would take a lot less time than going all the way out for the IAP. If you could actually see the airport or an aircraft on the visual approach you could call the airport or preceding aircraft in sight for the visual but you can't so you can ask for the contact approach.
 
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