A stabilized approach is the safest profile, and it is one of the most critical elements of a safe approach and landing operation. There are five basic elements to the stabilized approach:
Landing Configuration – Stabilized Approach Element 1
The airplane should be in the landing configuration early in the approach. The landing gear should be down, landing flaps selected, trim set, and fuel balanced per the AFM or POH, as applicable. Landing checklist items should be completed. Ensuring that these tasks are completed will help keep the number of variables to a minimum during the final approach.
Stabilize on Profile – Stabilized Approach Element 2
The airplane should be stabilized on profile before descending through the 1,000-foot window in inadvertent instrument meteorological condition (IMC) or through the 500 feet. above touchdown zone elevation (TDZE) window in VMC. Configuration, trim, speed, and glidepath should be at or near the optimum parameters early in the approach to avoid distractions and conflicts as the airplane nears the threshold window. The electronic or visual glide path or an optimum glide path angle of 3 degrees should be established and maintained. Approaches that require a glidepath angle greater than 3 degrees as “special case.” The airplane must be in the proper landing configuration, on the correct track, on the correct lateral track, the correct vertical track and the airspeed within the acceptable range specified in the AFM or POH, as applicable. It should be noted, as it applies to stabilized approaches, that following lateral and vertical tracks should require only normal bracketing corrections. An approach that requires abnormal bracketing does not meet the stabilized approach concept, and a go-around should be initiated.
Descent Rate – Stabilized Approach Element 3
The optimum descent rate should be 500-700 fpm. The descent rate should not be allowed to exceed 1,000 fpm at any time during the approach. Approaches that would require a descent rate greater than 1,000 fpm would qualify as “special case.”
Indicated Airspeed – Stabilized Approach Element 4
Indicated airspeed should be not more than VREF + 5 and appropriate adjustment for wind or other factors, and never less than VREF. There is a strong relationship between trim, speed, and power and it is important to stabilize the speed in order to minimize those variables. Page
Engine Speed – Stabilized Approach Element 5
The engine speed should be at a setting that allows best response when and if a rapid power increase is needed. The stabilized approach parameters should be confirmed at 500 feet (VMC) or 1,000 feet IMC above airport TDZE. This is approximately 1-2 minutes from touchdown. If the approach is not stabilized at that altitude, a go-around should be considered, if the approach is not stable and on all targets at 50 feet above airport elevation, a go-around should be immediately initiated. A go-around/balked landing should be executed at any time that the approach is determined to be unstable.
There may be specific, airport unique special cases that make transitioning to a stabilized approach difficult due to the unusual circumstances. Examples of special cases are ATC clearances that request airspeeds in excess of those airspeeds normally flown in the terminal area, an exceptionally steep glide slope, and ATC clearances that require an aircraft to remain at altitude to a point where intercepting the normal glide path is difficult to achieve. Operators should develop a SOP for such special cases. Additionally, operators should include the procedures developed to fly specific approaches to specific runways at specific airports in their crew training and checking events.
Standard Operating Procedures -SOP
A stabilized approach SOP is vital to reducing the potential of a runway overrun during the landing phase of flight. If the pilot determines that a stabilized approach cannot be flown or if an ATC clearance results in the pilot’s inability to fly a stabilized approach from the final approach fix (FAF) to the airport, the approach should not be accepted and a go-around should be initiated.
Regulatory references• ICAO – Annex 6 – Operations of Aircraft, Part I – International Commercial Air transport – Aeroplanes, Appendix 2, 2.1.25• ICAO – Procedures for Air navigation services – Aircraft Operations (PANS-OPS, Doc 8168), Volume I – Flight Procedures (particularly, Part IX – Chapter 1 – Stabilized Approach – Parameters, Elements of a Stabilized Approach and Go-around Policy)