Section 4 vs. Section 5
The first question to ask when dealing with an instrument approach is which section(s) of the 7110.65 is applicable. All approach clearances must comply with section 4-8. Aircraft vectored to the final approach course must receive approach clearances that also comply with section 5-9. We’ll look at each of those sections separately. The main distinction between these sections is that approach clearances issued using the phraseology in 4-8 must have the aircraft routed over an initial approach fix or feeder fix. If the aircraft will not overfly an initial approach fix/feeder fix, its approach clearance must use the phraseology prescribed by section 5-9.
Section 4-8 (Approach will begin at an IAF)
If a pilot will overfly an IAF or feeder fix on his route (in the case of an RNAV approach, this same section can be used for aircraft routed over an intermediate fix as well), the approach clearance can be issued using this section. This section is very straight-forward, and there is no difference between non-precision and precision approaches; all approaches are handled in the same way. If the pilot is flying a published route (airway, SID, or STAR) which includes minimum altitude information all the way to the IAF or feeder fix, the pilot just needs to be cleared for the approach. This can be done in a few different ways:
Depending on the type of approach and the direction from which the pilot approaches, the pilot may or may not have to perform some type of course reversal (procedure turn, holding pattern reversal, or teardrop). We will cover some scenarios involving what to expect from the pilot later in this article.
If the pilot is not flying a published route (i.e. the pilot is not routed on an airway, SID, or STAR), then the pilot does not have minimum altitude information like he would if he was flying a published route. In that case he must be assigned an altitude restriction to keep him safely above the terrain until he is established on a published route, then cleared for the approach using the same phraseology as above. This can be phrased a few different ways, but normally will be something like, “cross XXX at or above 5000, cleared VOR approach.” Unlike vectored approach clearances, when issuing clearances under this section, distance from a fix is not required in the approach clearance.
Section 5-9 (Approach does not begin at an IAF)
If a pilot will not overfly an IAF or feeder fix on his route, then he will be radar vectored to the final approach course. Even though he might be navigating direct to a fix on final, his approach clearance is still governed by this section. There are times when a controller may not radar vector to final (discussed below); in those cases, the pilot must be issued a clearance so that he will overfly an IAF and issued an approach clearance using the phraseology above.
Requirements to Vector an aircraft to final
Section 5-9 has a long list of rules to be used when vectoring to final. We’ll look at each paragraph and discuss its meaning below.
As you can see there’s a lot to think about when vectoring to final. It can be especially challenging at certain airports which we’ll discuss later.
Phraseology for vectored approach clearances
The phraseology required for vectored approaches to final is a little more complex than for approaches from an IAF. The basic phraseology uses the PTAC phraseology. In a standard case, the aircraft must be issued its Position relative to a fix on the approach, a Turn to intercept the final approach course (generally must be a 30 degree intercept angle or less as discussed above), an Altitude to maintain until established on the approach, and finally issued the Clearance for the approach. For example:
“N123SX, Six miles from JETSA, turn right heading two three zero, maintain two thousand five hundred until established on the localizer, cleared I-L-S runway two four right approach.”
“N123SX, Five miles from BEVEY, turn left heading two four zero, maintain three thousand until established on the final approach course, cleared V-O-R Alpha approach.”
In some cases, it isn’t necessary to issue all elements of the “PTAC.” All vectored approach clearances must include at least the “P” and “C” of PTAC. If the aircraft is already established on the approach, then a turn is not needed (because the pilot is already tracking the approach course) and an altitude isn’t necessary (since this information is published on the approach chart). The phraseology should be:
“N123SX, Eight miles from BUDDE, cleared I-L-S runway eight approach.”
You might also clear an aircraft direct to a fix on the approach (if this fix is not an IAF, then it’s still considered a vector, so the intercept angle must be no more than 30 degrees). If an aircraft has been cleared direct to a fix on the approach, then the “T” of PTAC isn’t required:
“N123SX, Five miles from PETIS, cross PETIS at/or above four thousand two hundred, cleared I-L-S runway two six left approach.”
“N123SX, Five miles from PETIS, maintain four thousand two hundred until established on the localizer, cleared I-L-S runway two six left approach.”
If the aircraft is already assigned a heading that will permit an appropriate intercept angle, then the heading may be omitted:
“N123SX, Seven miles from KOAKS, maintain five thousand until established on the final approach course, cleared Localizer D-M-E Backcourse Alpha approach.”