VOR Approach with Circle-to-Land

Questions and comments about the PE Pilot Training Program

VOR Approach with Circle-to-Land

Postby Mark Hargrove » Wed Feb 22, 2012 1:53 pm

Let's say we're flying a VOR approach into, oh, I don't know, San Luis Obispo (KSBP). The approach plate indicates that only circling approaches are available. Further, there is a restriction that disallows circling to the north of Rwy 11/29. The VOR approach leads us to the airport from the west on a 084 deg heading down to an MDA of 1700'. I have a few questions about how to, er, approach this approach.

First, the approach plate shows the minimum circling altitude as 1700' (with a mile-and-a-quarter of visibility). But there are additional altitudes written in a smaller font right below the 1700' minimum: 1491 (1500-1 1/4). What is that second altitude?

Next, although I've read several articles about circle-to-land procedures, I'm not really clear on how it works at a towered field. We did a circle-to-land as part of I-07 at KAVX, but once I had the aiport in sight at the MDA there was time to directly enter a right base for Rwy 22 and land, just calling advisories as I made my turns. At KSBP we're going to be way too high at the MAP to have a chance to directly set up to land (assuming, of course, that the airport is in sight). After studying the the airport diagram and the approach plate, I decided that if Rwy 29 is active I could just make a slight right turn to a heading of 110 at the MAP, descending to pattern altitude in the downwind (have to descend about 500 ft) and the fly a normal left-hand pattern to land on Rwy 29. That seems like it would work. But what if Rwy 11 is active? Since we can't circle to the north of the runway I'm a bit of a loss as to what to do. It's left traffic for Rwy 11, so the pattern for Rwy 11 is to the north of the airport. Perhaps the same basic theory works for Rwy 11 as for Rwy 29? --i.e., turn right to 110 from the MAP, descend to pattern altitude, then enter the pattern for Rwy 11 on a left crosswind just beyond the end of the Rwy 29 threshold?

Or is all of my planning just academic -- will KSBP tower tell me how it wants me to get into the pattern?
Mark Hargrove
Longmont, CO
PE: N757SL (Cessna 182T 'Skylane'), N757SM (Cessna 337 'Skymaster'), N757BD (Beech Duke Turbine)
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Re: VOR Approach with Circle-to-Land

Postby Zebra » Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:12 pm

Generally yes, TWR will tell you how and where to enter the pattern, usually the leg most applicable to your present position

the smaller font from memory is radar altitude (Im an Aussie..still trying to get my head around US approach plates haha)
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Re: VOR Approach with Circle-to-Land

Postby Keith Smith » Wed Feb 22, 2012 8:56 pm

If it's VMC, my experience has been that the tower will generally ask you to report when you're breaking off the approach to join the pattern, at which point they'll treat you as a normal pattern entry and sequence you with other traffic.

If it's IMC, you're going to have the airspace mostly to yourself and it will be a true circle to land. There won't be a pattern reference from the tower, you just do your thing and get yourself down.
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