Why The Early Descent?

EuroWheenie

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Having recently flown into IAD on a transatlantic flight, and into a number of other airports on domestic and international flights, what is the reason for the seemingly excessively early descents into US airports? I've flown into US airports as pax only, and on each occasion observed that we've been descended early and then truckin' around at lowish altitude for extended periods of time. I do appreciate that US airspace is busy, but have rarely experienced this in the most densely trafficed airports in Europe. Sure, I've tried hummin' along at low altitude coming in to LHR and FRA, but not as a general rule. Yet, on every single approach into US airports (have only tried MIA, LAX, JFK, IAD and ATL, and do appreciate they rank amongst the busiest) approach control seem to descent you very early.

This is not a "bash US ATC thread", rather a genuine question as to why there seems to be a fundamentally different philisophy between US and European descent procedures.
 

GravityHater

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how fast are you going? I notice the slow movers get sent down early.
You are familiar with "P.D." too, I'm sure.
 

VVJM265

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That is one of the first things I noticed back in Jan when I started flying back in the states after flying overseas for five years. Kinda wondered myself, even London tended to keep you high inside the "3 x alt" distance.
 

Rough67

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Iad

EuroWheenie said:
Having recently flown into IAD on a transatlantic flight, and into a number of other airports on domestic and international flights, what is the reason for the seemingly excessively early descents into US airports? .
Washington Dulles has Baltimore and Regan (washington DC) airports to the East, combined with a lot of IAD departures off of runway 30 which they climb everyone Northbound then overhead the Hyper1 arrival .. pretty close by. If you are comming in on the HYPER1 arrival
http://www.myairplane.com/databases/approach/pdfs/05100HYPER.PDF
which is probably the case with european inbounds, they bring you down pretty early because of those departures
http://www.myairplane.com/databases/approach/pdfs/05100CAPITAL.PDF
(I think), and KDCA (if you are landing 01L or 01R at IAD)
http://www.myairplane.com/databases/approach/pdfs/00443BUCKO.PDF
 

typhoonpilot

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EuroWheenie said:
Having recently flown into IAD on a transatlantic flight, and into a number of other airports on domestic and international flights, what is the reason for the seemingly excessively early descents into US airports? I've flown into US airports as pax only, and on each occasion observed that we've been descended early and then truckin' around at lowish altitude for extended periods of time. I do appreciate that US airspace is busy, but have rarely experienced this in the most densely trafficed airports in Europe. Sure, I've tried hummin' along at low altitude coming in to LHR and FRA, but not as a general rule. Yet, on every single approach into US airports (have only tried MIA, LAX, JFK, IAD and ATL, and do appreciate they rank amongst the busiest) approach control seem to descent you very early.

This is not a "bash US ATC thread", rather a genuine question as to why there seems to be a fundamentally different philisophy between US and European descent procedures.

You can't compare U.S. and European airspace. The airspace on the U.S. east coast is the busiest airspace in the world. In Europe ATC really only has to worry about the airlines. There is practically no G.A. traffic to worry about. Quite different in the States with numerous corporate and other G.A. traffic as well as a much higher volume of airliners. The Sids and Stars are designed to separate inbound and outbound traffic and sometimes that means early descents. As mentioned above, there are often times so many airports in close proximity that this is a very difficult task to accomplish.


TP
 

HawkerF/O

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I like to use the 3:1 decent profile and 2000 ft/Min. If they start you down earlier, ask if you can have PD. Lots of times they wil say that is fine, but there are mandatory Alts they need you at sometimes. Also, if they start you down early, no problem, if they didnt give you a Xing restriction, increase to max speed (whatever wont set the horn off) and give them a 500 foot/min decent. They'll tell you if they need you to descend faster, but 500 ft/min is more than acceptable. If you still don't like it, through 180 cancel with them. I have never done that and would not reccomend doing that, but you need to do what you need to do. Believe us, we all have gripes about the ATC system here, but for the most part it works and operates well and for the most part it is acceptable. It could be a lot worse.
 
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pilotmiketx

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Some places get you down early and launch departures with a 10,000 initial altitude. Some places slam dunk you and give you 2000' on departure. Just depends on how you fit into the puzzle. Just take plenty-o-gas when going to one of the "140nm out @ 13K" places.
 

FN FAL

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It's because the bureaucracy that runs ATC can't operate like a business.

We get 50 knot tailwinds coming from the north, it saves the company some money and it shortens our time in the cockpit. MKE then descends us rotely at some fix into a magnum headwind down low and then wonders why we can't get the hell onto the airport soon enough.

I have seen this for 5 years...and it don't make any sense to me other than that the ATC system cannot allow for varying conditions like winds aloft.

Did I mention that I sent a check to the Treasury Department more than 6 months ago and am still awaiting my approved form to make a short barreled shotgun with the cancelled and affixed tax stamp? I think we should federalize everything, that way things will take as long as the "stay paid" mo fo's want it to.

By the way, the DEA is winning the war on drugs, street prices for drugs haven't risen since the last decade and are available as they ever were.

Oh, where were we...bitatching about bureaucracy?
 

Vector4fun

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Part of the reason, when you get the kind of traffic that an IAD or ATL gets, while it would be nice to let the jets descend PD, there's so much difference in operating characteristics and pilot technique, it's just simply much easier to have everybody at around 10,000 and 250 kts at 30 miles. If you don't, then you get situations where you need to descend and slow the jet, and they can't do it. They'll wind up 2K above the GS 5 miles out. Some crews/types take 10-15 miles of level flight to slow to 250 at 10K, others can do it while descending and you hardly see them level.

I'm not carping at pilots either, there's simply differences between aircraft and company/crew SOP. A B757 goes up like a fighter and comes down like a glider. A box-haulin 20 series Lear or B727 can come down like a manhole cover on edge, but the B727 climbs like a pig.

Also, the Center would much rather the Tracons get the departures above the arrival streams before handoff whenever possible. So we wind up with an SOP written between facilities that can accomodate 98% of the traffic and types, but is seldom efficient for 90% of them either. <shrug>
 

JimG

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I can't comment about the airports/space you're asking about but as far as U.S. airspace in general, I've noticed the opposite since I started flying a turbo charged piston twin in the high teens/low 20's.

I'm constantly having to request lower and keep requesting lower altitudes as I get closer everywhere I go into, so that I can manage power settings and cool downs.

It's like they think I'm burning kerosene and can just pull the throttles back like most of you guys in this thread can.
 
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