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Circling Approach

1. Circling approach. A maneuver initiated by the pilot to align the aircraft with a runway for landing when a straight-in landing from an instrument approach is not possible or is not desirable.

2. Circling Approach  describes the visual phase of an instrument approach to bring an aircraft into position for landing on a runway which is not suitably located for a straight in approach.

Circling-only approaches are normally designed for one of the following reasons:

• The final approach course alignment with the runway centerline exceeds 30º.

• The descent gradient is greater than 400 feet per NM from the FAF to the threshold crossing height (TCH). When this maximum gradient is exceeded, the circling only approach procedure may be designed to meet the gradient criteria limits. This does not preclude a straight-in landing if a normal descent and landing can be made in accordance with the applicable CFRs.

Many Part 121 and 135 operators are restricted from conducting circling approaches below 1,000-feet MDA and 3 SM visibility by Part C of their OpsSpecs, and many have specific visibility criteria listed for NDB approaches that exceed visibilities published for the approach (commonly 2 SM). In these cases, flight crews must determine which is the more restrictive of the two and comply with those minimums.



a. Circling approach instructions may only be given for aircraft landing at airports with operational control towers.

b. Include in the approach clearance instructions to circle to the runway in use if landing will be made on a runway other than that aligned with the direction of instrument approach. When the direction of the circling maneuver in relation to the airport/runway is required, state the direction (eight cardinal compass points) and specify a left or right base/downwind leg as appropriate.



CIRCLE (direction using eight cardinal compass points) OF THE AIRPORT/RUNWAY FOR A LEFT/RIGHT BASE/DOWNWIND TO RUNWAY (number).

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