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IFR Question (approach clnc limits)

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Well-known member
Feb 26, 2002
Please do not respond without FAR/AIM citiations.

What is the clearance limit when...

"Cleared for the approach."


"Cleared for the visual."

If you want FAR/AIM citations, look it up yourself. I'd be happy to give you what I know though......

The answer to your question will vary with the circumstances. When receiving your initial clearance, you will generally be either cleared to your destination, or in certain circumstances, to a specific local fix. In the case of a local fix, this constitutes your clearance limit, and you will be further cleared in flight. However, when given an initial clearance to your destination, the destination represents the clearance limit until ammended.

See FAA Order 7110-65M, Section 8, Paragraph 4-8-2.

(4-8-2 Clearance Limit: Issue approach or other clearances, as required, specifying the destination airport as the clearance limit if airport traffic control service is not provided even though this is a repetition of the initial clearance.).

When cleared for an approach, the destination for which the approach is designated, is your clearance limit. (AIM 5-2-3(c)). In the event you are unable to complete this approach and must execute the missed approach proceedure, the full missed approach proceedure constitutes the clearance limit. The exception to this is a practice instrument approach, in which the missed approach proceedure is specifically excluded unless otherwise authorized, as specified in AIM 4-3-21(e).

Upon execution of the missed approach proceedure, the pilot bears the responsibility of determining the next course of action, and advising ATC of his or her intentions. See AIM 5-4-19(e). It's best to make this request when announcing the missed approach at or just after the MAP.

Your question specifically asks about the clearance "Cleared Approach," or as you stated, "Cleared for the approach." The latter phraseology does not represent a valid clearance, and would require identification of a specific approach in which the full missed approach proceedure is appended. However, when simply "Cleared Approach," the flight is directed to fly any of the available approaches for that airport. In such a case, the airport remains the clearance limit until a missed approach is initiated, and the ending fix of the specific missed approach proceedure flown will constitute the clearance limit.

You asked about a visual approach. A visual approach does not include a missed approach proceedure, and accordingly, the destination field where the visual approach is conducted constitutes the clearance limit, unless otherwise specified in the clearance. See AIM 5-4-20(e) for clarification.

Bear in mind that a specific clearance my identify other potential clearance limits, ammended missed approach proceedures, alternate instructions, etc.
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Read ur AIM part 5-4-6, 5-4-7, 5-4-20, 5-5-4 and 5-5-11
hope this will help......
i have already read and re-read the appropriate sections, i just needed some new perspective. (not being rude) I am not concerned w/ what you think you know, i am concerned w/ what you can prove. we all have flown next to people who are just like "Cliff Clavin" from the Cheers t.v. show. that's why i wanted citations. basically for people to be able to back up the words they preach as gospel. but thanks anyway.

thank you for your perspective. i had poured over the sections that you and ipilot had referenced to no avail. i just couldn't seem to find what i wanted. In the course of re-initiating my search due to the inputs of you and ipilot, i found a new piece that puts the question to rest in my mind. it is
5-4-3 b. 1. (e)
(After passing the FAF...expected to complete the approach...)

thanks for your input. those items had previously left me unsatisfied but in re-re-reading those i found the above section.

thanks again
Anyone can read the AIM, what do you do when you are cleared for the visual to follow another aircraft and by George you loose him in the haze???? What do you do? How do you miss out of a visual???
You push the power up and hope you beat him to the runway.

Seriously, when a pilot accepts a visual approach, he or she accepts it based on the ability to either see the runway, or the preceeding aircraft. He or she also accepts responsibility for maintaining separation physically, and for wake turbulence.

If a pilot has the airport in sight, but not the other aircraft, ATC may clear the pilot for the approach, but must retain separation responsibility. If the pilot "loses" the other airplane, then he must notify ATC, who will then either authorize the flgiht to continue with responsibility for separation assumed by ATC, or will assign alternate instructions with respect to vectors, or a breakout.

Pilots flying a visual approach in lieu of an IAP will still do well to tune in the guidance for that runway (if available) and be prepared to execute the approach, or follow along. Last week at PHX, I was landing to the west and was cleared for the visual following another aircraft. In the setting sun, I lost both the other aircraft, and the airport. I had the localizer, and turned onto that while notifying ATC that I had lost the aircraft and airport.

ATC immediately cleared me for the ILS. Joining and flying the ILS was a simple affair, as we were prepared and briefed for it. (and in the sun, it became necessary, too). Alternately, ATC was prepare to break us out and re-sequence us.

Cornbread, AIM 5-4-3(b)(1)(e) doesn't speak to clearance limits, but dictates what is expected of a pilot flying an approach under radar control (read the entire section). It also doesn't address the origional question, as to what constitutes the clearance limit. As previously stated, the clearance limit will vary with the specific circumstances, but when cleared to the airport, the airport becomes the clearance limit. If a missed approach is initiated, the final fix in the missed approach proceedure is the clearance limit, as it represents the final point to which the aircraft is cleared. The exceptions are the visual approach, and the practice instrument approach, as neither have a missed approach unless specifically authorized or provided.
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