Real Answers from Real Pilots

Approaches

Random Question. What approaches do you guys use most frequently while flying? I know most airlines require visual approaches to be backed up with an instrument approach, but do you fly more ILS or RNAV approaches, and why? Is it personal preference? Whatever ATC assigns, or airline SOPs?

Tucker,

The ILS is the bread and butter of aviation. The fact is most airports have them, controllers like assigning them and the pilots AND airplanes can all fly them. While most planes can fly RNAV approaches these days not all are certified for LPV (Loc Performance w/Vertical Guidance) meaning regular RNAV approaches are still non-precision and require higher minimums for landing. Because they’re not as popular they’re performed less frequently which makes them less popular. Personally I like RNAVs because the old crusty’s still think it’s magic and are amazed when I fly one :slight_smile:

Adam

Does your airline leave it up to you what approach you want to fly? RNAVs seem to reduce the workload in the cockpit slightly, at least in my training.

As long as you can safely and legally land the airplane the airlines don’t care. As I said ILS’ are more common so if you want an RNAV at most airports you have to request it. I believe ATC prefers the ILS’ also because they can give you a vector to intercept pretty much from anywhere vs the RNAV which is “supposed” to start from an IAP (but I could be wrong?). Not sure why your workload would be less with the RNAV? it’s about the same for any airplane I’ve flown? The other thing to keep in mind is again RNAV’s often have higher minimums than an ILS. If you were to opt for the RNAV and end up going missed when there’s a perfectly good ILS in operation I can guarantee you the Chief Pilot will be calling you for a chat.

Adam

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I guess with the RNAV you don’t have to identify the localizer and then the VOR for a missed approach, and it also makes a missed approach much easier. The ATP planes have WAAS so we get LPV when it’s available. I guess the approach just feels more modern, I liked how you described them as magic :joy:

I guess RNAVs are also cool because of the fact they can build an approach, even if it does have higher minimums, to airports that aren’t viable for ILS approaches. It’s amazing what GPS can do.

GPS is a wonderful thing (especially crossing an ocean). FYI In most current modern jets the airplane tunes and IDs the ILS and the VORs but you still need to verify the GPS’ so the workload is really the same.

Adam

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Tucker,

I by far prefer to fly ILS approaches. In every airplane that I have flown the RNAV approaches, especially the RNAV RNP, actually dramatically increase the workload as it requires quite a bit of work to be done in the FMC, whereas an ILS is relatively easy to load and fly. Also, most jets are capable of auto landing from an ILS, none of them are from RNAV approaches, which should tell you something about the accuracy of the approach.

Chris

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I guess the FMC is different from the 430s we use :joy::joy:

Just a little bit :wink:

At what point do you disengage the autopilot and the auto throttle and fly it in manually?

Also, if tower clears you for the visual approach, do you still stay on the ILS and then take it off autopilot at your own discretion?

We turn off the autopilot when the individual pilot feels that it is appropriate to do so. In clear weather I usually turn it off at 1,000 feet above the ground, but some pilots turn it off a lot earlier. In bad weather, most pilots at United leave on the autopilot until breaking out of the clouds.

Yes, we continue to follow the approach even when cleared for the visual approach.

Chris

In addition to what Chris said, as far as the auto-throttles go some simply work better than others. When I flew the B717 I’d turn the off at the top of the descent but the Airbus actually does a much better job and I usually leave them on until the gear touches down.

Adam

I like to take the autopilot off after intercepting the localizer. I’ll
also take the auto throttles off around the same time, but it depends. The
passengers are paying us to fly safely and comfortably. So, I take the auto
throttles off on about half of my approaches to make sure I stay current.

Tory