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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

FAA Expands Airspace for Airport Circle-to-Land Approaches

By Woodrow Bellamy III

FAA is expanding the size of protected airspace reserved for minimum descent altitude (MDA) on circle-to-land approaches by one nautical mile, in response to industry concerns over airplanes landing too far down the runway on final approach. 
 
 
(Circling approach area. Photo, courtesy of NBAA.)
 
Instrument approaches at airports throughout the country are reviewed by FAA every two years. During a circle-to-land maneuver, pilots align the aircraft with a runway for landing when a straight-in landing from an instrument approach is not possible or desirable. These approaches are conducted at low-altitude with low speeds in a confined space. 
 
Industry groups, including the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), have expressed concerns in recent years over the radii size used to establish the arcs for circle-to-land approaches, as the size of the protected airspace has been frequently insufficient to contain "large, jet transport airplanes." 
 
“One of the problems that we’ve seen in the past with the circling-to-land approaches is unstabilized approaches – airplanes being too fast and too high at the end of the circling maneuver,” said Richard Boll, a member of the NBAA Access Committee and chairman of the Airspace, Air Traffic and Flight Technologies Working Group. 
 
"For CAT C and CAT D aircraft, the protected airspace is going to increase about one nautical mile from what we’ve seen in the past in all instances. And then, as the MDA increases, we’re going to see an additional widening of the protected airspace by approximately one-tenth of a nautical mile for every 2,000 feet of altitude,” Boll added.
 
In 2002, an Air China Boeing 767 crashed into a hill while performing a circle-to-land approach in South Korea, using U.S. terminal instrument procedures (TERPS) criteria. 
 
After an extensive review, FAA has updated terminal instrument procedures (TERPS) criteria that will increase the radii dimensions defining the circling protected airspace. As airports come up for review, the protected airspace expansion will be instituted, according to Paul Takemoto, a spokesperson for FAA. 
 
"What was happening for aircraft was that there wasn't enough room and so they'd come in too fast or too high on final, so they would touch down further down the runway then they wanted to," said Takemoto. "This is something that industry wanted, so they're very happy about this."

Related: Aviation Today's Checklist  

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