Visual maneuvering


The student should gain an understanding of straight-in and circling approaches and be able to apply that knowledge to several landing scenarios.


  • Definitions
  • Circling to land
  • Straight-in
  • Minimums


  • pen and paper
  • Instrument Flying Handbook
  • Instrument Flying
  • laptop with flight simulator
  • enroute chart and approach plates

Instructor actions

  • Discuss how we're going to land following the instrument approach
  • Describe circling and straight-in minimums and procedures
  • 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
  • Complete an oral quiz and demonstration of the concepts

Completion Standards

The lesson will be complete when the student can describe proper instrument landing procedures with minimal instructor guidance.

Teaching outline

  • When shooting an approach, we have to transition from instruments to visual references
  • With approach paths 30° or less from the runway heading, we can use a straight-in transition; more than 30°, we have to circle
  • As the DH or MDA nears, add the view out the window to our scan

    • use the VASI or PAPI as an aid to the transition - it's the same approach path
    • pilots not flying should help during the transition
  • What makes a visual approach?
  • Visual illusions

    • be especially aware of the impacts haze and fog can have on distances


  • Used with unfavorable winds or runways more than 30° off our approach course
  • Circling minimums are almost always different

    • measured from the outermost points of the runway environment(s)
    • consider also the protected areas at each altitude
  • Descending below the circling MDA should wait until:

    • visual reference to the airport environment is maintained
    • landing threshold is in sight
    • obstacle clearance can be maintained throughout the full, normal landing profile
  • Missed approach procedures

    • initial climbing turn towards the landing runway
    • follow with the published missed for the approach

Light-gun signals

Color While taxiing? While airborne?
Flashing green cleared to taxi return for landing
Steady green cleared for takeoff cleared to land
Flashing red taxi clear of the active unsafe — don’t land
Steady red stop give way and circle
Flashing white return to starting point
Red and green extreme caution! extreme caution!
© 2022 Eric Gideon  •  archive