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Asked by: Koehn
FAA Regulations, Instrument Rating
If I’m flying to my alternate, will ATC only assign me an approach procedure that is acceptable for alternates? Do I have to decline procedures that are NA for alternates?
Matthew Waugh on Dec 16, 2012
The alternate rule only apply when PICKING an alternate to file – once you are on your way to the alternate you can fly any approach that’s legal, regardless of the status of the approach with respect to choosing an alternate.
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Chuck Copley on Dec 16, 2012
The alternate rule was developed when radios failed and in IMC rules / policy were needed to control radio out aircraft in IMC and the destination airport was below minimums. So if your destination was below the 1-2-3 rule you must have an Alternate airport thus everyone including you knew where you going next. At your arriving at alternate airport you use the most logical approach.
However in the real world you are not likely to lose your communication ability so when you miss the approach at the primary destination you will tell the controller where you are going next which might be different than what you filed for an alt.
Koehn on Dec 16, 2012
Matthew, that’s what I thought I understood about alternate minimums too (and I happily recited that to my DPE during my oral exam). Turns out it’s not true according to both my DPE and the local FSDO. You are not allowed to fly approaches that are NA for Alternates at an alternate airport, even if another aircraft successfully completes the approach as you arrive at the field. To this day this makes little sense to me, hence the question about ATC procedures, above.
Fortunately my DPE took pity on me and let me pass after straightening me out. I subsequently asked three different CFIIs about that scenario and got three different answers, which necessitated a call to the FSDO, which confirmed my DPE’s answer.
John D. Collins on Dec 16, 2012
I agree with Matthew and not with your DPE and FSDO person. I see no regulation requiring the choice of approach be limited to the ones that were used to meet the filing requirement. Of course, at least one approach must have been selected that the aircraft is equipped to fly and the weather forecast supports the required minimums for the alternate. An example, our airport, KUZA has three approaches, RNAV 2, 20 and ILS 2. The RNAV approaches are authorized to be used as an alternate if the aircraft is equipped with a WAAS TSO C146 GPS. The forecast alternate minimums must be based on the LNAV minimums, in this case 800-2. The ILS is not monitored locally, so may not be used for the purpose of an alternate. On arrival at the alternate, it is the pilot choice to fly the LPV minimums on either RNAV approach (even though the forecast plan was based on the LNAV minimums) or the ILS. In fact, the controller will normally expect to vector you to the ILS unless you request otherwise.
It would make absolutely no sense if the aircraft would have been permitted to fly the ILS if the airport was the original destination but not if they missed their approach at their original destination and then flew to the alternate. What you do when you get to the filed alternate depends solely on having the needed equipment (according to 91.205) to fly the approach of choice and of course, at least one of the choices would be the approach on which you determined that the alternate was acceptable and met forecast criteria.
I would challenge the DPE or any FSDO person to explain their position by referral to the FAR’s and any FAA General Counsel decisions. IMHO, they gave you bad advice.
Bill Trussell on Dec 17, 2012
There is an easy way to think of all of this. First, every IFR clearance has a “clearance limit” which is a point to which the aircraft is cleared. Most of the time this is a destination airport. An alternate airport is a “plan” that is required in the event that landing at the destination airport or “clearance limit” can not be achieved. At the point where such an event is declared, a new clearance, including a new clearance limit, is required. It could be anywhere by the way, and not required to be the initially filed alternate airport. Once an new destination is requested and granted the “alternate” now becomes the new destination and clearance limit. As a result of all of this there is not a law limiting the execution of any particular approach at your new desitination beyond being equipped and qualified to execute it. To do so would be counter productive to the overall objective, namely getting the aircraft on the ground safely while maintaining separation from other participating aircraft.
Also recall that the documented alternate airport also serves a purpose during loss of communications events. Such a declaration provides ATC with some clue of where you will be going in the event that communications is lost and an approach at the destination airport does not yield the desired result of a landing.
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