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3 Answers

Circle to land in a NON controlled airport

Asked by: 2503 views Instrument Rating

Cessna 172 on ILS approach RWY 9, since the wind from 280 (tailwind) my speed become 122 Knts which is greater than 90Knts (A) category 1.3) I will be using (C) category within 1.7 from the RWY circle to land RWY 27. 

I am not sure if there is any specific way to make the circle, from the right side (south the RWY) of the RWY or the left side (north of the RWY).

3 Answers



  1. John D. Collins on Oct 17, 2012

    The approach categories are based on the indicated airspeed used, either 1.3 VS0 or the actual indicated airspeed, whichever is greater. It is not adjusted because of wind speed, so if you remain at or below 90 Kts IAS, you will remain category A.

    There isn’t a specific way to conduct the circle other than to keep the airport in sight with an exception for when a turn obscures the view of the airport and to remain at the circling MDA or higher until you are in a normal position to land. One of the issues that must be considered when circling is that the sight picture is usually well below pattern altitude and it is difficult to visually judge if you are far enough out from the runway so that a turn to final will not overshoot. I teach making a turn into a crosswind to the downwind or a 45 degree to the downwind leg and time it for spacing. If you turn a 90 degree crosswind and then fly 15 seconds on the crosswind leg, followed by a turn to the downwind, this will space you out from the runway sufficiently so that your base leg is also approximately 15 seconds (no cross wind) and you won’t overshoot final on the turn from base to final. If you use the 45 degree crosswind to the downwind, increase the time to 25 seconds. The 45 degree to the downwind is preferable in my opinion because you can keep the airport in sight easier. Other techniques include flying down the length of the runway and then making a turn of 80 degrees followed immediately by a turn in the opposite direction of 260 degrees, ending up aligned with the opposite direction runway.

    Remember it is also permissible to circle the same runway if you end up too high or just want to check out the field before you land. Safety is remaining at the circling MDA and I would not leave the MDA until on my final approach, particularly at night where one can’t see unlit obstacles. Definitely use a VASI or PAPI if one is available for the circle to runway.

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  2. Sam Dawson on Oct 18, 2012

    I would also add that all turns while circling must be to the left per FAR 91.126 unless it is stated otherwise for the airport. See FAA “Murphy” letter dated June 30, 2009.

    http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/pol_adjudication/agc200/interpretations/data/interps/2009/Murphy.pdf

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  3. Will Liebhaber on Oct 23, 2012

    Approach category is determined by the speed you are indicating. 90kts on the airspeed indicator = Category A minimums.

    As for how to fly the circle, the AIM is pretty specific that you will enter the appropriate leg of the traffic pattern as directly as possible and you will use left turns unless otherwise specified by the controller or approach procedure.

    The other requirement is to stay at the circling altitude until in a position to make a safe approach and landing. Is this downwind, base, or final? Remember you are lower, so you may not need to start your descent to the airport at quite the same point.

    Circling references from the AIM:
    AIM 5-4-20(f)(1)&(2)
    “1. Maneuver the shortest path to the base or downwind leg, as appropriate, considering existing weather conditions. There is no restriction from passing over the airport or other runways.

    2. It should be recognized that circling maneuvers may be made while VFR or other flying is in progress at the airport. Standard left turns or specific instruction from the controller for maneuvering must be considered when circling to land.”

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