Understanding the Missed Approach Point in Aircraft Landing

Pilots, crewmen, and the cooperation of passengers contributes significantly to safe landing procedures, perhaps more than the flight’s takeoff or in-flight operations. This is because proper landing is crucial for aircraft and passenger safety, where any lapse in judgment or attention to detail can immediately manifest as a potentially fatal accident. Furthermore, cross-wind, gusty, or foggy weather conditions can pose additional landing hazards; hence, a predefined landing sequence for safe aircraft landing is always paramount. In the case of an aborted landing, the missed approach point (MAP) is the location at a civil airport at which a pilot must immediately climb away from if the landing requirements of FAR 91.175 (c) are not fulfilled. At this point, the missed approach procedure is also set in effect if desired visual references are invisible to the pilot for another attempt at landing. As aircraft can be affected by various phenomena upon descent for landing, other instructions for a safe landing in a missed approach scenario will be discussed throughout this blog.

What Is an Approach Method?

Various factors contribute to determining the best approach method for landing aircraft, such as current weather conditions, vehicle type, and available equipment. In addition, nearly all airports contain systems to provide pilots with landing guidance and runway directions for safety. Moreover, in situations of poor visibility or a pilot’s inability to see the runway, specialized systems enable an aircraft’s safe and automatic landing. However, they can also be used even in good weather conditions or when pilots need extra guidance during manual flying approaches.

The ultimate aim of a landing approach is to ensure the stability of the aircraft with a controlled speed and correctly configured landing alignment. However, a pilot can also consider the landing trajectory unsafe due to course misalignment, instability, or the runway’s occupation at any point. In such cases, they must communicate their situation with air traffic control (ATC). Then, based on the ATC’s instructions, the pilot may decide to veer off from the prescribed pathway to land on another runway or adopt a different approach altogether.

FAA’s Obstacle Protection Guidelines

Every landing procedure aims to gradually reduce airspeed and altitude until it is safe enough to descend onto the runway (at a speed of nearly 135 kn). Any failure to reach a safe landing altitude triggers the missed approach procedure. For instance, when a modern airplane such as Boeing 777 is nearly 100 miles away from the airport, it will begin to descend from its standard altitude of 37,000 feet, with a decrease in airspeed of 470 kn to ensure safe landing. According to FAA’s Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPs), an aircraft is said to have crossed the missed approach point if the ratio of its decision altitude to decision height (DA/DH) is lower than its minimum descent altitude (MDA). Here a safe flight gradient for the aircraft is considered to be 200 feet per nautical mile.

Pre-Landing Approaches: A Brief Explanation

Pilots utilize cockpit equipment under the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) to know their exact in-flight location while navigating between two points. This is where the Instrument Approach Procedures (IAP) enable pilots to systematically align the aircraft to the runway’s course without cross-checking with any other source. Such approach procedures help pilots steer the plane to a safe landing destination even in bad weather conditions. Once the aircraft enters its descent, there are a few elements of the approach that the pilot should consider.:

The Stabilized Approach

  • During this approach, aircraft maintain a predetermined path and speed, and many have a Flight Operation Quality Assurance, or the FQPA system, to indicate when an unstabilized approach has been adopted. A typical stabilized approach begins at a certain point known as the “outer mark.” Typically, at the height of 1000 ft above the landing runway, the flaps are lowered in conjunction with landing gear to fulfill a stabilized approach criteria.

This approach typically follows a three-degree glide scope (the angle at which the plane descends) where speed gradually dissipates throughout the course of flight to arrive at an appropriate target speed for landing. Moreover, slowing down the aircraft is done by using a combination of slats, flaps, ailerons, and rudders to generate more lift. During this time, an Instrument Landing System (ILS) can also be used to provide specific height information such as whether an aircraft is on, below, or above the required glide slope and lateral position to the runway. To provide a stable landing experience, pilots may use a visual approach slope indicator or Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) lights to avoid the MAP.

In Conclusion

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