Instrument approaches


The student should be able to apply previous lessons about approach components to an instrument approach chart, and be prepared to fly an approach in the aircraft.


  • review approach concepts

    • tracking navaids
    • working with ATC
    • approach briefing
    • procedure turn
    • DME arc
    • holding
  • minimum altitudes: MDA & DA
  • visual maneuvering: straight-in & circling
  • missed approach
  • approach types

    • VOR, VOR/DME
    • LOC
    • ILS
    • GPS, GPS/LPV
    • NDB
  • approach techniques


Instructor actions

  • Briefly review and, if necessary, teach the combined elements of an instrument approach
  • As appropriate, discuss specific approach types and their characteristics
  • Illustrate techniques using Tim's simulator
  • Review each system before moving on to the next
  • Evaluate student knowledge with questions emphasizing understanding rather than rote

    • Have the student solve multiple scenarios
  • Conclude with an oral quiz, identifying and correcting errors

Student actions

  • Arrive with completed homework assignment
  • Maintain active involvement by responding to questions and taking notes
  • Plot several different instrument approaches of the same type on the board, chair-flying their training aircraft through the procedure
  • Complete an oral quiz and demonstration of the concepts

Completion Standards

The lesson will be complete when the student can describe the procedures required to fly a given type of instrument approach with minimal instructor guidance.

Teaching outline

Review of approach concepts

Intercepting & tracking navigational aids

Interacting with ATC in the approach environment

Briefing the approach

Flying a procedure turn

Flying a DME arc

Visual maneuvering: straight-in & circling

Refer to visual maneuvering lesson plan


Minimum approach altitudes: MDA & DA

  • All approaches have some kind of minimum altitude
  • Precision approaches use a decision altitude, measured in MSL.

    • At the DA, the decision is made to land or begin the missed approach segment.
    • Also referred to as DH (decision height), measured AGL from the touchdown zone (TDZE).
  • Non-precision approaches have a minimum descent altitude, which is the absolute floor of the approach.

    • The MDA must be maintained until either a landing is possible (ceiling, visibility, and environment in sight), the missed approach point is reached, or any other time that a missed approach is begun.
    • MDAs, especially when circling, must be considered minimums only, not mandatory. Often current conditions or personal minimums dictate higher approach minimums.

Missed approach procedures

Instrument approach procedures






approach techniques

The ILS is a precision approach, providing both lateral and vertical guidance down a predetermined flight path.

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