Section 8. Approach Clearance Procedures
4-8-1. APPROACH CLEARANCE
Clear aircraft for “standard” or “special”
instrument approach procedures only.
1. To require an aircraft to execute a particular
instrument approach procedure, specify in the
approach clearance the name of the approach as
published on the approach chart. Where more than
one procedure is published on a single chart and a
specific procedure is to be flown, amend the approach
clearance to specify execution of the specific
approach to be flown. If only one instrument
approach of a particular type is published, the
approach needs not be identified by the runway
2. An aircraft conducting an ILS or LDA
approach must be advised at the time an approach
clearance is issued when the glideslope is reported out
of service, unless the title of the published approach
procedure allows (for example, ILS or LOC Rwy 05).
3. Standard instrument approach procedures
(SIAP) must begin at an initial approach fix (IAF) or
an intermediate fix (IF) if there is not an IAF.
4. Where adequate radar coverage exists, radar
facilities may vector aircraft to the final approach
course in accordance with Paragraph 591, Vectors
to Final Approach Course, and Paragraph 592, Final
Approach Course Interception.
5. Where adequate radar coverage exists, radar
facilities may clear an aircraft to any fix 3 NM or more
prior to the FAF, along the final approach course, at
an intercept angle not greater than 30 degrees.
CLEARED (type) APPROACH.
(To authorize a pilot to execute his/her choice of instrument
(Where more than one procedure is published on a single
chart and a specific procedure is to be flown),
CLEARED (specific procedure to be flown) APPROACH.
(To authorize a pilot to execute an ILS or an LDA
when the glideslope is out of service)
CLEARED (ILS/LDA) APPROACH, GLIDESLOPE
(When the title of the approach procedure contains “or
CLEARED LOCALIZER APPROACH
“Cleared V-O-R Approach.”
“Cleared V-O-R Runway Three-Six Approach.”
“Cleared L-D-A Approach.”
“Cleared L-D-A Runway Three-Six Approach.”
“Cleared I-L-S Approach.”
“Cleared Localizer Approach.”
“Cleared Localizer Back Course Runway One-Three
“Cleared RNAV Z Runway Two-Two Approach.”
“Cleared GPS Runway Two Approach.”
“Cleared BRANCH ONE Arrival and RNAV Runway
“Cleared I-L-S Runway Three-Six Approach, glideslope
“Cleared S-D-F Approach.”
“Cleared G-L-S Approach.”
1. Clearances authorizing instrument approaches are
issued on the basis that, if visual contact with the ground
is made before the approach is completed, the entire
approach procedure will be followed unless the pilot
receives approval for a contact approach, is cleared for a
visual approach, or cancels their IFR flight plan.
2. Approach clearances are issued based on known traffic.
The receipt of an approach clearance does not relieve the
pilot of his/her responsibility to comply with applicable
Parts of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations and the
notations on instrument approach charts which levy on the
pilot the responsibility to comply with or act on an
instruction; for example, “Straightin minima not
authorized at night,” “Procedure not authorized when
glideslope/glidepath not used,” “Use of procedure limited
to aircraft authorized to use airport,” or “Procedure not
authorized at night.”
3. In some cases, the name of the approach, as published,
is used to identify the approach, even though a component
of the approach aid, other than the localizer on an ILS is
inoperative. Where more than one procedure to the same
runway is published on a single chart, each must adhere to
all final approach guidance contained on that chart, even
though each procedure will be treated as a separate entity
when authorized by ATC. The use of alphabetical
identifiers in the approach name with a letter from the end
of the alphabet;
for example, X, Y, Z, such as “HI TACAN
Z Rwy 6L or HI TACAN Y Rwy 6L,” or “RNAV (GPS) Z Rwy
04 or RNAV (GPS) Y Rwy 04,” denotes multiple straightin
approaches to the same runway that use the same approach
aid. Alphabetical suffixes with a letter from the beginning
of the alphabet; for example, A, B, C, denote a procedure
that does not meet the criteria for straightin landing
4. 14 CFR Section 91.175(j) requires a pilot to receive a
clearance to conduct a procedure turn when vectored to a
final approach course or fix, conducting a timed approach,
or when the procedure specifies “NO PT.”
5. An aircraft which has been cleared to a holding fix and
prior to reaching that fix is issued a clearance for an
approach, but not issued a revised routing; that is,
“proceed direct to....” may be expected to proceed via the
last assigned route, a feeder route (if one is published on the
approach chart), and then to commence the approach as
published. If, by following the route of flight to the holding
fix, the aircraft would overfly an IAF or the fix associated\
with the beginning of a feeder route to be used, the aircraft
is expected to commence the approach using the published
feeder route to the IAF or from the IAF as appropriate; that
is, the aircraft would not be expected to overfly and return
to the IAF or feeder route.
6. Approach name items contained within parenthesis; for
example, RNAV (GPS) Rwy 04, are not included in
approach clearance phraseology.
FAAO 8260.3, United States Standard for Terminal Instrument
b. For aircraft operating on unpublished routes,
issue the approach clearance only after the aircraft is:
(See FIG 4-8-1.)
Approach Clearance Example
1. Established on a segment of a published route
or instrument approach procedure, or
Aircraft 1: The aircraft is established on a segment of a
published route at 5,000 feet. “Cleared V‐O‐R Runway
Three Four Approach.”
2. Assigned an altitude to maintain until the
aircraft is established on a segment of a published
route or instrument approach procedure.
Aircraft 2: The aircraft is inbound to the VOR on an
unpublished direct route at 7,000 feet. The minimum IFR
altitude for IFR operations (14 CFR Section 91.177) along
this flight path to the VOR is 5,000 feet. “Cross the Redding
V‐O‐R at or above five thousand, cleared V‐O‐R Runway
Three Four Approach.”
1. The altitude assigned must assure IFR obstruction
clearance from the point at which the approach clearance
is issued until established on a segment of a published route
or instrument approach procedure.
2. If the altitude assignment is VFR‐on‐top, it is
conceivable that the pilot may elect to remain high until
arrival over the final approach fix which may require the
pilot to circle to descend so as to cross the final approach
fix at an altitude that would permit landing.
c. Except for visual approaches, do not clear an
aircraft direct to the FAF unless it is also an IAF,
wherein the aircraft is expected to execute the
depicted procedure turn or holdinlieu of procedure
d. For RNAVequipped aircraft operating on
unpublished routes, issue approach clearance for
conventional or RNAV SIAP only after the aircraft is:
(See FIG 482).
1. Established on a heading or course direct to
the IAF at an intercept angle not greater than
90 degrees and is assigned an altitude in accordance
with b2. Radar monitoring is required until the
aircraft is established on a segment of the instrument
approach procedure for RNAV (RNP) approaches
when no procedure turn or holdinlieu of procedure
turn will be executed.
Aircraft 1 can be cleared direct to CENTR. The intercept
angle at that IAF is 90 degrees or less. The minimum
altitude for IFR operations (14 CFR, section 91.177) along
the flight path to the IAF is 3,000 feet. If a hold in lieu of
procedure turn pattern is depicted at an IAF and a TAA is
not defined, the aircraft must be instructed to conduct a
straightin approach if ATC does not want the pilot to
execute a holdinlieu procedure turn. “Cleared direct
CENTR, maintain at or above three thousand until CENTR,
cleared straightin RNAV Runway One Eight Approach.”
2. Established on a heading or course direct to
the IF at an angle not greater than 90 degrees,
provided the following conditions are met:
(a) Assign an altitude in accordance with b2
that will permit a normal descent to the FAF.
Controllers should expect aircraft to descend at
approximately 150300 feet per nautical mile when
applying guidance in subpara d2(a).
(b) Radar monitoring is provided to the IF.
(c) The SIAP must identify the intermediate
fix with the letters “IF.”
(d) For procedures where an IAF is published, the pilot is advised to expect clearance to the
IF at least 5 miles from the fix.
“Expect direct CENTR for RNAV Runway OneEight
3. Established on a heading or course direct to a
fix between the IF and FAF, at an intercept angle not
greater than 30 degrees, and assigned an altitude in
accordance with b2.
Aircraft 1 is more than 5 miles from SHANN. The minimum
altitude for IFR operations (14 CFR Section 91.177) along
the flight path to SHANN is 3,000 feet. SHANN is a step
down fix between the IF/IAF (CENTR) and the FAF. To
clear Aircraft 1 to SHANN, ATC must ensure the intercept
angle for the intermediate segment at SHANN is not
greater than 30 degrees and must be cleared to an altitude
that will allow a normal descent to the FAF. “Cleared direct
SHANN, cross SHANN at or above three thousand, cleared
RNAV Runway OneEight Approach.”
FAAO 7110.65, Par 562, Methods
FAAO 7110.65, Chapter 5, Section 9, Radar Arrivals
Approach Clearance Example
For RNAV Aircraft
Aircraft 2 cannot be cleared direct to CENTR unless the
aircraft is allowed to execute the holdinlieuof
turn. The intercept angle at that IF/IAF is greater than
90 degrees. The minimum altitude for IFR operations
(14 CFR Section 91.177) along the flight path to the IAF is
3,000 feet. “Cleared direct CENTR, maintain at or above
three thousand until CENTR, cleared RNAV Runway One
Eight approach.” The pilot is expected to proceed direct
CENTR and execute the holdinlieu of procedure turn.
Aircraft 2 can be cleared direct LEFTT. The intercept angle
at that IAF is 90 degrees or less. The minimum altitude for
IFR operations (14 CFR Section 91.177) along the flight
path to the IAF is 3,000 feet. “Cleared direct LEFTT,
maintain at or above three thousand until LEFTT, cleared
RNAV Runway OneEight Approach.” The pilot does not
have to be cleared for a straightin approach since no
holdinlieu of procedure turn pattern is depicted at
FAAO JO 7110.65, Chapter 5, Section 9, Radar Arrivals
e. For both RNAV and conventional approaches,
intercept angles greater than 90 degrees may be used
when a procedure turn, a holdinlieu of procedure
turn pattern, or arrival holding is depicted and the
pilot will execute the procedure. If a procedure turn,
holdinlieu of procedure turn, or arrival holding
pattern is depicted and the angle of intercept is 90
degrees or less, the aircraft must be instructed to
conduct a straightin approach if ATC does not want
the pilot to execute a procedure turn or holdinlieu of
procedure turn. (See FIG 4-8-3)
CLEARED STRAIGHTIN (type) APPROACH
1. Restate “cleared straightin” in the approach clearance even if the pilot was advised earlier to expect a
2. Some approach charts have an arrival holding pattern
depicted at the IAF using a “thin line” holding symbol. It
is charted where holding is frequently required prior to
starting the approach procedure so that detailed holding
instructions are not required. The arrival holding pattern
is not authorized unless assigned by ATC.
“Cleared direct SECND, maintain at or above three
thousand until SECND, cleared straightin ILS Runway
AIM, Paragraph 545, Instrument Approach Procedure Charts
AIM, Paragraph 549, Procedure Turn and HoldinLieu of Procedure
Approach Clearance Example for RNAV Aircraft
On a Conventional Approach
Aircraft 1 can be cleared direct to XYZ VORTAC, or
SECND because the intercept angle is 90 degrees or less.
Aircraft 2 cannot be cleared to XYZ VORTAC because the
intercept angle is greater than 90 degrees.
Aircraft 2 can be cleared to SECND if allowed to execute
the holdinlieu of procedure turn pattern.
f. Clear RNAVequipped aircraft conducting
RNAV instrument approach procedures that contain
radius to fix (RF) legs:
1. Via published transitions, or
2. On a heading or course direct to the IAF when
a holdinlieu of procedure turn is published and the
pilot will execute the procedure, or
3. On a heading or course direct to the IAF/IF, at
intercept angles no greater than 90 degrees and the
distance to the waypoint beginning the RF leg is 6NM
or greater, or
4. With radar monitoring, on a heading or course
direct to any waypoint 3 miles or more from the
waypoint that begins the RF leg, at an intercept angle
not greater than 30 degrees. (See FIG 484.)
5. Do not clear aircraft direct to any waypoint
beginning or within an RF leg.
1. RNAV approaches (containing RF legs) that commence
at 10,000 feet or above require special procedures that will
be site specific and specified in a facility directive.
2. An RF leg is defined as a curved segment indicating a
constant radius circular path about a defined turn center
that begins at a waypoint. RF legs may have maximum
airspeeds charted for procedural containment that must be
3. If an aircraft is vectored off the procedure, expect the
aircraft to request a return to an IAF.
Radius to Fix (RF) and Track to Fix (TF)
1. The segment between THIRD and FORTH in FIG 484
is an RF leg.
2. The straight segments between waypoints in FIG 484
are TF legs.
Aircraft 1 can be cleared to SCOND because the distance
to THIRD, where the RF leg begins is 3NM or greater and
the intercept angle will be 30 degrees or less and is radar
Aircraft 2 can be cleared direct to FIRST because the
intercept angle is 90 degrees or less and the distance from
FIRST to THIRD is 6NM or greater.
g. Except when applying radar procedures, timed
or visual approaches, clear an aircraft for an approach
to an airport when the preceding aircraft has landed
or canceled IFR flight plan.
h. Where instrument approaches require radar
monitoring and radar services are not available, do
not use the phraseology “cleared approach,” which
allows the pilot his/her choice of instrument
i. Where a terminal arrival area (TAA) has been
established to support RNAV approaches, use the
procedures under subpara b1 and b2 above.
(See FIG 4-8-5.)
Aircraft 1: The aircraft has crossed the TAA boundary and
is therefore established on a segment of the approach.
“Cleared R-NAV Runway One Eight Approach.”
Aircraft 2: The aircraft is inbound to the CHARR IAF on
an unpublished direct route at 7,000 feet. The minimum
IFR altitude for IFR operations (14 CFR Section 91.177)
along this flight path to the IAF is 5,000 feet. “Cleared
direct CHARR, maintain at or above five thousand until
entering the TAA, cleared RNAV Runway One‐Eight
Basic “T” and TAA Design
j. For GPS UNRELIABLE NOTAMs, inform
pilots requesting a GPS or RNAV approach that GPS
is unreliable and clear the aircraft for the approach.
This advisory may be omitted if contained in the
Automated Terminal Information System (ATIS)
k. For pilot reported GPS anomalies, advise
subsequent aircraft requesting a GPS or RNAV
approach that GPS is unreliable and clear the aircraft
for the approach. This advisory may be discontinued
after 15 minutes if no subsequent reports are received.
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 2-1-10, NAVAID Malfunctions.
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 4-7-12, Airport Conditions.
CLEARED (approach), GPS UNRELIABLE.
l. For Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS)
UNAVAILABLE NOTAMs, advise aircraft requesting a GPS or RNAV approach that WAAS is
unavailable and clear the aircraft for the approach.
This advisory may be omitted if contained in the ATIS
CLEARED (approach), WAAS UNAVAILABLE.
1. WAAS UNAVAILABLE NOTAMs indicate a failure of a
WAAS system component. GPS/WAAS equipment reverts to
GPS-only operation and satisfies the requirements for
basic GPS equipment.
2. WAAS UNRELIABLE NOTAMs indicate predictive
coverage, are published for pilot preflight planning, and do
not require any controller action.
4-8-2. CLEARANCE LIMIT
Issue approach or other clearances, as required,
specifying the destination airport as the clearance
limit if airport traffic control service is not provided
even though this is a repetition of the initial clearance.
CLEARED TO (destination) AIRPORT
4-8-3. RELAYED APPROACH CLEARANCE
Include the weather report, when it is required and
available, when an approach clearance is relayed
through a communication station other than an air
carrier company radio. You may do this by telling the
station to issue current weather.
4-8-4. ALTITUDE ASSIGNMENT FOR
MILITARY HIGH ALTITUDE INSTRUMENT
Altitudes above those shown on the high altitude
instrument approach procedures chart may be
specified when required for separation.
To preclude the possibility of aircraft exceeding
rate-of-descent or airspeed limitations, the maximum
altitudes which may be assigned for any portion of the high
altitude instrument approach procedure will be determined
through coordination between the ATC facility concerned
and the military authority which originated the high
altitude instrument approach procedure.
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 4-7-5, Military Turbojet En Route
4-8-5. SPECIFYING ALTITUDE
Specify in the approach clearance the altitude shown
in the approach procedures when adherence to that
altitude is required for separation. When vertical
separation will be provided from other aircraft by
pilot adherence to the prescribed maximum,
minimum, or mandatory altitudes, the controller may
omit specifying the altitude in the approach
Use FAA or NGA instrument approach procedures charts
appropriate for the aircraft executing the approach.
4-8-6. CIRCLING APPROACH
a. Circling approach instructions may only be
given for aircraft landing at airports with operational
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
CIRCLE TO RUNWAY (number),
CIRCLE (direction using eight cardinal compass points)
OF THE AIRPORT/RUNWAY FOR A LEFT/RIGHT
BASE/DOWNWIND TO RUNWAY (number).
Where standard instrument approach procedures (SIAPs)
authorize circling approaches, they provide a basic
minimum of 300 feet of obstacle clearance at the MDA
within the circling area considered. The dimensions of
these areas, expressed in distances from the runways, vary
for the different approach categories of aircraft. In some
cases a SIAP may otherwise restrict circling approach
c. Do not issue clearances, such as “extend
downwind leg,” which might cause an aircraft to
exceed the circling approach area distance from the
runways within which required circling approach
obstacle clearance is assured.
4-8-7. SIDE-STEP MANEUVER
Side-step Maneuver. When authorized by an instrument approach procedure, you may clear an aircraft
for an approach to one runway and inform the aircraft
that landing will be made on a parallel runway.
“Cleared I-L-S Runway seven left approach. Side-step to
runway seven right.”
Side-step maneuvers require higher weather minima/MDA. These higher minima/MDA are published on the
instrument approach charts.
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 3-3-2, Closed/Unsafe Runway
P/CG Term- Side-step Maneuver.
4-8-8. COMMUNICATIONS RELEASE
If an IFR aircraft intends to land at an airport not
served by a tower or FSS, approve a change to the
advisory service frequency when you no longer
require direct communications.
CHANGE TO ADVISORY FREQUENCY APPROVED.
An expeditious frequency change permits the aircraft to
receive timely local airport traffic information in
accordance with AC 90-42, Traffic Advisory Practices at
Airports Without Operating Control Towers.
4-8-9. MISSED APPROACH
Except in the case of a VFR aircraft practicing an
instrument approach, an approach clearance automatically authorizes the aircraft to execute the missed
approach procedure depicted for the instrument
approach being flown. An alternate missed approach
procedure as published on the appropriate FAA
Form 8260 or appropriate military form may be
assigned when necessary. Once an aircraft commences a missed approach, it may be radar vectored.
1. Alternate missed approach procedures are published on
the appropriate FAA Form 8260 or appropriate military
form and require a detailed clearance when they are issued
to the pilot.
2. In the event of a missed approach involving a turn,
unless otherwise cleared, the pilot will proceed to the
missed approach point before starting that turn.
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 4-8-11, Practice Approaches.
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 5-6-3, Vectors Below Minimum
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 5-8-3, Successive or Simultaneous
FAAO 8260.19, Flight Procedures and Airspace, Paras 404 and 815.
FAAO 8260.3, United States Standard for Terminal Instrument
Procedures (TERPS), Paras 275, 278, 943, 957, and 997.
4-8-10. APPROACH INFORMATION
Specify the following in the approach clearance when
the pilot says he/she is unfamiliar with the procedure:
a. Initial approach altitude.
b. Direction and distance from the holding fix
within which procedure turn is to be completed.
c. Altitude at which the procedure turn is to be
d. Final approach course and altitude.
e. Missed approach procedures if considered
INITIAL APPROACH AT (altitude), PROCEDURE TURN
AT (altitude), (number) MINUTES/MILES (direction),
FINAL APPROACH ON (name of NAVAID) (specified)
COURSE/RADIAL/AZIMUTH AT (altitude).
4-8-11. PRACTICE APPROACHES
Except for military aircraft operating at military
airfields, ensure that neither VFR nor IFR practice
approaches disrupt the flow of other arriving and
departing IFR or VFR aircraft. Authorize, withdraw
authorization, or refuse to authorize practice
approaches as traffic conditions require. Normally,
approaches in progress should not be terminated.
The priority afforded other aircraft over practice
instrument approaches is not intended to be so rigidly
applied that it causes grossly inefficient application of
1. IFR aircraft practicing instrument approaches must be afforded standard separation in
accordance with Chapter 3,
Chapter 4, Chapter
5, Chapter 6, and
Chapter 7 minima until:
(a) The aircraft lands, and the flight is
(b) The pilot cancels the flight plan.
2. Where procedures require application of IFR
separation to VFR aircraft practicing instrument
approaches, standard IFR separation in accordance
with Chapter 3,
Chapter 4, Chapter
5, Chapter 6, and
Chapter 7 must be provided.
Controller responsibility for separation begins at the
point where the approach clearance becomes
effective. Except for heavy aircraft/B757, 500 feet
vertical separation may be applied between VFR
aircraft and between a VFR and an IFR aircraft.
FAAO JO 7210.3, Para 6-4-4, Practice Instrument Approaches.
FAAO JO 7210.3, Para 10-4-5, Practice Instrument Approaches.
3. Where separation services are not provided to
VFR aircraft practicing instrument approaches, the
(a) Instruct the pilot to maintain VFR.
(b) Advise the pilot that separation services
are not provided.
“(Aircraft identification) MAINTAIN VFR, PRACTICE
APPROACH APPROVED, NO SEPARATION SERVICES
(c) Provide traffic information or advise the
pilot to contact the appropriate facility.
4. If an altitude is assigned, including at or
above/below altitudes, the altitude specified must
meet MVA, minimum safe altitude, or minimum IFR
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 7-7-5, Altitude Assignments.
5. All VFR aircraft must be instructed to
maintain VFR on initial contact or as soon as possible
This advisory is intended to remind the pilot that even
though ATC is providing IFR-type instructions, the pilot is
responsible for compliance with the applicable parts of the
CFR governing VFR flight.
b. Missed Approaches.
1. Unless alternate instructions have been
issued, IFR aircraft are automatically authorized to
execute the missed approach depicted for the
instrument approach being flown.
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 4-8-9, Missed Approach.
2. VFR aircraft are not automatically authorized
to execute the missed approach procedure. This
authorization must be specifically requested by the
pilot and approved by the controller. When a missed
approach has been approved, separation must be
provided throughout the missed approach.
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 7-2-1, Visual Separation.
4-8-12. LOW APPROACH AND TOUCH-AND-GO
Consider an aircraft cleared for a touch-and-go, low
approach, or practice approach as an arriving aircraft
until that aircraft touches down or crosses the landing
threshold; thereafter, consider the aircraft as a
departing aircraft. Before the aircraft begins its final
descent, issue the appropriate departure instructions
the pilot is to follow upon completion of the approach
(in accordance with para 4-3-2, Departure
Clearances). Climb-out instructions must include a
specific heading or a route of flight and altitude,
except when the aircraft will maintain VFR and
contact the tower.
“After completing low approach, climb and maintain six
thousand. Turn right, heading three six zero.”
“Maintain VFR, contact tower.”
(Issue other instructions as appropriate.)
Climb-out instructions may be omitted after the first
approach if instructions remain the same.