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Instrument Question

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Active member
Jan 4, 2002
1. What decision would you make outside the FAF and weather is below mins?
2. You are outside the OM and vis. goes below mins, what would you do?
3. What does the "A" mean in VOR-A?

If wx goes below mins while outside the FAF and I'm flying part 91 I would still continue the approach (but, be very ready for a missed). The weather could be hovering around mins and could go back up again or the tower's vis might be worse than the approaches. If wx has been below mins all day I might not fly the approach. If fuel was a concern I might not fly the approach and head to an alternate while I still have plenty of fuel. When I'm flying under 121 regs I'm not allowed to fly the approach.

The A could mean a couple of things. The runway is not aligned within 30 degrees of the approach course or that a higher than normal descent rate is needed to fly the approach and therefore only circling and not straight in mins are published.
In addition to the explaination provided by Mickey in regards to the A in VOR-A indicating a circle approach. It also designates that it is the first approach of that type associated with that particular navaid. So if there was multiple circling approaches associated with that VOR (to the same, or different airport) it would be designated VOR-B...VOR-C etc.
Shooting the approach

Assuming Part 91, I'd shoot the approach to minima and hope that I break out and/or have one of the required runway environment items in sight. If I don't, welllll.....the rules are usually right, so I'd take a miss. Of course, I've followed the 1-2-3 rule and have enough fuel to go to my alternate.

Some people would try the approach again. It's easy to make a blanket statement sitting here and typing whether you should or should not. I won't. The best response to that is, well, it all depends on what the weather was doing the first time. Don't forget about all the stories about people who go below IFR fuel reserves repeating the approach and hoping the weather will lift. As a rule of thumb, figure on consuming 15 minutes of fuel shooting an approach.
In addition to everyones great comments so far, I just wanted to add that under part 91 you can shoot an approach regardless of what the weather is - even if it is reported 0/0.

As an instrument instructor I used to take my students to where the weather was 0/0 (or close to it) to shoot approaches just so they could experience it. This was nice, because the airports with the weather below published mins were always dead and you could do pretty much anything you liked since the 121 and 135 guys couldn't even attempt an approach. Just make sure there is an airport you can make it into with the fuel you have on board. ALWAYS HAVE AN OUT!
I tell my students that they can try a second approach after the intial missed, fuel permitting. After that, unless there is a VERY good reason to believe that there will be improved conditions, the second missed leads to flying to the alternate, ASAP. Otherwise, there is a desire to "duck under" the mins and "take a peek", which is not only illegal, but dangerous.
The best advice? Fly as though you are 135/121 until you have a good amount of "actual" experience following your instrument checkride.
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I just thought I'd address directly what other posters have hinted at... How you handle any situation depends a great deal on your experience, the equipment you're flying and many many other factors. I may not handle the situations you describe the same way every time. If you're fairly inexperienced, in the clouds alone, feeling overworked, it's a bumpy ride and they report that the vis is 0 in blowing snow, I say screw the approach and take your alternate. It is unlikely that you'll ever see the runway, but the chances of screwing up on the landing or the missed under these conditions is pretty high.

If it's a nice calm ride, you feel caught up, you've shot the approach a million times, the weather is reported right at mins or slightly below... Sure as heck I'm going to go down and have a look.

Bottom Line, always be aware of your whole situation, and make the best decision for your current situation. And when in doubt, start at the hearing and work backwards!

Thanks everyone for the responses, so let me get this straight, Part 91 is for General Aviation (Private Pilot, instruction, etc.), Part 135 is for Chartering, and Part 121 is Commercial Aviation (United Airlines, etc)?
To all you cowboys out there that would shoot the approach just because you're legal under Part 91, would you also carry hazardous materials which is also legal under part 91? I think you'd be better off saving your fuel and going to an alternate or hold for conditions to improve rather than attempting an approach when conditions are reported to be below minimums regardless of what regs you're flying under.

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