Real Answers from Real Pilots

Manualy flying instrument approaches

(Garrett Fagen) #1

I’m not sure where I heard this, but I heard that airlines won’t allow the pilots to manually fly instrument approaches in actual IMC until they have the runway in sight. I know CATIII is a different story as the airplane will most likely be landing itself but as far as CATI type approaches can you manually fly them?



I can only speak about United on this one, but Continental’s policies were very similar. Our guidance strongly suggests, but does not require, that on a CAT I approach we leave the autopilot on until we visually acquire the runway. The school of thought on this is that the autopilot is far more precise than a human (it is) and that it will more accurately fly the approach. Also, by having the autopilot fly the approach the pilots are a bit more freed up to spend time looking for the runway. Of course if there is some over riding reason to hand fly the approach we will.

We fly plenty of approaches in good weather, that is the time to practice our skills. When an actual approach is flown using the autopilot greatly increases our accuracy and our situational awareness.

Good question.


(Garrett Fagen) #3

Ok thanks. That all makes sense, I was just curious if it was required. In my personal opinion, I think pilots should hand fly in IMC once in a blue moon to keep their IMC skills up in case they would need it some day as it’s very different than VFR or “under the hood” training. My current instrument instructor flys corporate (Lear 60) full time and they almost never use the autopilot for approaches. It’s looked down upon at their company I guess. However, I told him the same thing in reverse, you should prolly use the auto everyonce in awhile to make sure it’s working properly and such. Im no aviation expert though and have a lot to learn so who knows if I’ll think the same in the future.



At Hawaiian, other than CAT II & III where the auto pilot is required till you’re visual, it’s at the pilot’s discretion how much (or little) automation we use. It’s really individual preference and I’ve seen it go both ways. Personally I like to turn it off by 1000’ (conditions permitting, traffic, ceiling, winds) so I can get a “feel” for the airplane and the winds. In addition to the autopilot we also have auto throttles which are often turned off when it’s particularly gusty. The thing to remember is the autopilot is a tool to help manage the workload and there are times when turning it off is appropriate and others when it’s not.


(Garrett Fagen) #5

Ok, thanks. All good info. Glad that is clarified. That was a concern of mine.



What is interesting in this discussion is that it clearly shows that different pilots and different airlines take various approaches to the question of hand flying. At United we don’t think that the time to be practicing is low visibility, low clouds and 200 people in the back. There is plenty of time to practice on better weather days and in the simulator.
Go to my “Flying The Line” sub-category and look through the articles there, I recently posted one about hand flying in the airlines, you might find it of interest.



Excuse me Chris but who said anything about practicing? What I said was “conditions permitting”, I, and my airline, have no problem with pilots doing what pilots are trained to do. Fly airplanes :slight_smile:



Well, it is a well established fact that Hawaiian Airlines pilots are the best of the best. I would expect noting less. :slight_smile:


Not sure it’s a “well established fact” but it should be! And you UA guys are no slouches either :slight_smile:


(Garrett Fagen) #10

All good points. I’m not sure if I know enough to comment my opinion but I’m glad it’s an option and I’m glad the autos are solid as well. Thanks for your input.