Circling Approach


Gain the skills associated with performing with performing a circling approach procedure.


This is the required reading for this lesson. Numbers in [brackets] indicate the starting and ending page in the referenced reading material. Read all the pages and sections referenced.


The notes below highlight the important parts in the referenced material. Reading the notes without having read the actual referenced material is generally not sufficient to pass the written exam!

  • Circling only approaches are identified by the navigational system providing final approach guidance and a letter (e.g., VOR A).
  • The circling minimums published on the instrument approach chart provide a minimum of 300 feet of obstacle clearance in the circling area.
  • During a circling approach, the pilot should maintain visual contact with the runway of intended landing and fly no lower than the circling minimums until positioned to make a final descent for a landing.
    • It is important to remember that circling minimums are only minimums.
    • Circling minimums are often below the pattern altitude.
    • If the ceiling allows it, fly at an altitude that more nearly approximates VFR traffic pattern altitude.
    • If the MDA is above the traffic pattern altitude, it is permissable to descend to pattern altitude on the downwind leg as long as the runway is in sights
  • The recommended radius of the circle during the transition to the runway, the radius varies depending on the aircraft type:
  • The criteria for determining the circling pattern to be flown are based on personal flying capabilities and knowledge of the performance characteristics of the aircraft.
  • If visual reference is lost while circling-to-land from an instrument approach, the missed approach specified for that particular procedure must be followed (unless an alternate missed approach procedure is specified by ATC).

Tomas Hansson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Chief Flight Instructor, VATSTAR
DISCLAIMER: all information contained herein is for flight simulation purposes only.
March 2021

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