The contact approach is an IFR procedure you can request when you are operating on an IFR flight plan
in VMC conditions. To request a contact approach, you must be clear of the clouds with at least 1 sm of
visibility and have an unobstructed view of the ground. In a contact approach you may deviate from the
published approach procedure and proceed to landing via visual references. You may not perform a
contact approach to an airport that lacks an authorized instrument approach procedure or conduct an
approach to one airport and then, when in the clear, discontinue that approach and proceed to another
airport. The pilot must specifically request it and obtain clearance from approach control. During a
contact approach, you are still operating under IFR, and ATC will ensure your separation from other
aircraft. However, you are responsible for your own obstruction clearance. Radar service, if you are
receiving it, will be terminated when you are told to contact the tower.
In a visual approach, an aircraft on an IFR flight plan, operating in VMC conditions and having received an
Air Traffic Control authorization, may deviate from the prescribed instrument approach procedures and
proceed to the airport of destination by maintaining VFR conditions. ATC may initiate a visual approach,
but you are never required to accept it.
Certain conditions must be met before you can fly a visual approach: 1) the field or a preceding aircraft
must be in sight, 2) the ceiling must be at least 1,000 ft AGL and 3) there must be at least 3 sm visibility.
The circling approach is used to align aircraft with the proper runway at the end of an instrument
approach. The runway is often not the same one to which the instrument approach was flown. The
minimums for a circling approach differ from the others published for a given runway. Circling minimums
are higher than other instrument minimums and require you to remain VMC underneath while
maneuvering to land.
Once you have elected to conduct a circling approach and have obtained clearance, descend to the
circling minimums and visually acquire the runway. The applicable minimums are those published for the
approach flown, and not necessarily the landing runway.
Once you descend to the MDA, determine if visibility is sufficient to safely complete the landing. If it is,
choose the landing pattern (Figure 41) best suited to your situation, or the one directed by the controller.
Stay at the MDA until you are in a position to execute a normal landing--ideally, the point at which you
would intercept the normal glideslope to the runway. If weather permits, fly the circling maneuver at the
normal VFR pattern altitude. Be sure to check the approach plate for any obstacles in the vicinity of the
If you cannot safely complete the landing, execute a missed approach. The applicable missed approach
procedures are those for the approach flown (not necessarily the landing runway).
Due to the number of approaches required in a given instrument training sortie, and the transit times to
practice airfields, half flap approaches are sometimes necessary. However, approach configuration for full
stop landings should be full flaps.