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AVIA 240 GPS Navigation

Published : 26-Aug,2021  |  Views : 10


Write about any topic related to some aspect of instrument /ifr flying or flight. 



Aviation sector is an important sector that is related with operation of an aircraft and flying. This assignment highlights one the essential approaches in flying called the circling approach. The circling approach is defined as a maneuver that is initiated by the pilot, in order to along the aircraft with the runway, such that the landing could be done in a smooth way.

The Circling approach  

The circling approach is an important approach that is followed by the pilot, in order to experience a smooth landing of the aircraft (George, 2014). When an aircraft intends to land on the runway, the commonly followed approach is the circling approach. This approach provides visual circling of the aircraft prior to landing. This approach is generally followed; however, it is not appropriate for the straight in approach.

Circling basics  

The process of circling starts with the aircraft, intending to land, is getting a clearance of cloud, as it approaches the circling area. After the clearance of cloud is received, the pilot decides the manoeuvre of the aircraft and its landing position (Geyer et al., 2014). This might include one round, or several turns, and might be compared to a normal visual circuit. Each of the circling approaches is different from each other, and are dependent on a variety of factors. These factors include aligning with the instrument approach, the runway, the location of the runway, the height of the surrounding terrains and the weather of the landing area. However, there are some airports, where circling approach is not permitted (Hamaguchi, 2015). The process of circling is usually done by instrument pilots. This approach however is a visual process. The visual contacts with the runway need to be maintained and the range of visibility needs to be equal to the minimum or greater than as mentioned on the instrument manual. However, if visual clarity is lost at any phase, or if the one approach is missed, the pilot is forced to start again at the minimum safety altitude. The pilot might also be instructed to divert to the nearest airport.

Circling area

Circling of an aircraft is possible in a specified area only. He specified area by the airpot authorities are termed as circling areas. The dimensions of circling are depended on the type of aircraft, as shown in the figure1. The circling area is based on the arcs that are centred on the threshold of the useable runway, where the aircraft intends to land (George, 2014).       

Circling descent and altitude 

The process of circling begins a range at or above the minimum decent altitude (MDA). This MDA is specified on the Instrument approach procedure chart. MDAs might be of two types. These are circle to land MDA and straight in landing MDA. The straight in landing approach is applicable if the runway on which the aircraft is landing, is centreline aligned with the final approach segment, as mentioned in the instrument approach (George, 2014). Descending below the circling MDA might be permitted during daylight hours, along with continuous visual reference with the threshold of the runway. Moreover, descending below the MDA could be maintained such that the aircraft is in a position to a landing, on the specified runway, using normal manoeuvres and to the touchdown zones (Weber et al., 2014). Moreover, if the aircraft is below the MDA, the aircraft needs to be within the circling area. During night, if the aircraft is below the MDA, additional requirement of the pilot is needed, which includes, continuous sight of the approach light or aerodrome lighting.

Two basic approaches

The two most popular and widely used approaches of circling include ICAO PANS-OPS and US TERPS. The Aerodrome operating minima are calculated based on the supply of information by the Airport authorities (Park, 2016). The ICAO procedures are the International standards that are used worldwide. The US TERPS are used mainly is USA. The pilots need to be aware of the obstacle clearance criteria among the two approaches especially during the use of circling approaches.

Auto flight   

The use of auto flight, while the process of circling, would optimize the process of monitoring by both the pilots (Mueller et al., 2016). Disengagement of the auto flight system occurs only when the descending below the MDA.  Clearance of all obstacles in a minimum 400 feet during circling is essential. However, if the visibility is limited, the cloud height is near the circling maneuver. The knowledge of the terrain of the runway and the surroundings is also essential (Sacle, Coulmeau & Charles, 2015).

Circling patterns

There are a wide variety of circling pattern that might be followed by the pilots. If there re no local rules for the particular area, regarding the side of the down leg of the circling maneuver, with respect to the landing runway, then it might be recommended to the pilot to adhere to the downwind side (Roth & Mavin, 2015). Once the direction of the pattern is determined, the next stage is to plan a route for the downwind position for the process of landing. The target track might be at 45 degree, or 90 degree.  

Bank Angle and impact of altitudes

In case of a typical circling approach, the aircraft is placed on a tight downwind. In the TERPS approach, a category D aircraft is placed only 0.6-nm straight segment, following maneuvering (Seah et al., 2015).  An aircraft of category D that is circling at the maximum approach speed at the sea level would have a turn radius of 0.85nm. This highlights the fact the minimum visibility of 1.74nm. If the 0.6-nm is missed, the pilot is left with only 1.1nm. In order to maneuver in such a tight measurement, a 37 degree of bank is needed (Wischmeyer & Ward, 2015).

The impact of wind

The impact of wind plays an important role in the circling approach. Measuring the impact of the cross wind is essential during the circling approach. The wind heading in a particular direction and the aircraft heading in a different direction is changing constantly. If it is considered that the aircraft is flying at a perfect 360 degree circle, then, various conclusions regarding the circling approach could be drawn.    

Situational awareness

In order to be a successful pilot, awareness needs to be incorporated in order to avoid accidents. These include the following:

  1. The amount of fuel that is available in the aircraft needs to be checked before circling.
  2. The weather condition near the landing airport needs to be considered.
  3. The location and the surrounding terrain have to be considered.
  4. The airspace might be potential obstacle for the pilot.
  5. Emergency situations need to be handled with the efficiency of the pilot.   

Gaining Situational awareness

In order to gain situational awareness, the pilot needs to be experienced. The visual sense of the pilot needs to be made aware such that he might take prompt action in order to avoid accidents. The other senses need to be awakened such that smells of fuel or smoke could be detected easily. Experiences could be gained from pervious incident, and precautionary measures need to be taken by the pilot.     


The circling approach is an important technique for safe landing of the aircrafts. The circling process includes the circling basics, where the pilot needs to ensure that the required height for the circling is maintained along with the visibility clearance and the technique of landing. The essentials of circling approach have been highlighted in details, in this assignment. The pilot needs to be efficient enough, such that the emergency situations could be handled, thus minimizing the chances of accidents.    


George, F. (2014). IFR circling approaches: they're legal, but are they safe?. Business and commercial aviation, 110(1).

Geyer, M., Soares, M., Barnes, S., Hoff, A., & Mackey, S. (2014). RNAV (GPS) Total System Error Models for Use in Wake Encounter Risk Analysis of Dependent Paired Approaches to Closely-Spaced Parallel Runways (No. DOT?VNTSC?FAA?14?05).

Hamaguchi, K. (2015). An approach to resilient wireless communication systems research for massive disasters. In SPIE OPTO (pp. 93870L-93870L). International Society for Optics and Photonics.

Mueller, S. T., Perelman, B. S., & Veinott, E. S. (2016). An optimization approach for mapping and measuring the divergence and correspondence between paths. Behavior research methods, 48(1), 53-71.  

Park, S. (2016). Circling over a Target with Relative Side Bearing. Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, 1454-1458.

Roth, W. M., & Mavin, T. J. (2015). Peer assessment of aviation performance: Inconsistent for good reasons. Cognitive science, 39(2), 405-433.

Sacle, J., Coulmeau, F., & Charles, L. (2015). U.S. Patent No. 9,114,889. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Seah, K. A., Siniff, A. E., Beccario, M. J., Barber, S., Jacobson, R. H., & Grosvenor, S. A. (2015). U.S. Patent No. 9,002,544. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Weber, D. E., Roth, W. M., Mavin, T. J., & Dekker, S. W. (2014). Should we pursue inter-rater reliability or diversity? An empirical study of pilot perfor-mance assessment. Aviation in Focus-Journal of Aeronautical Sciences, 4(2), 34-58.

Wischmeyer, C. E., & Ward, J. T. (2015). U.S. Patent Application No. 14/724,951.

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