By utilizing the most appropriate waypoint for the direction of arrival, the pilot can enter the approach from any direction without needing to execute a procedure turn of any kind. A holding pattern is provided at the anchor waypoint to allow pilots to hold while descending if too high. The hold might also be used by air traffic control. If you need to make circuits in the holding pattern, you should advise air traffic control and receive a clearance to do so.

For an RNAV approach, a terminal arrival area, or TAA, is published instead of an MSA. The TAA provides a method to descend onto the approach from altitude and also serves as an emergency altitude. The TAA is usually divided into three sectors, which are a straight in area, a left base area, and a right base area.

Contact Approach

A contact approach is an approach in which the pilot flies to the airport by visual contact with the ground instead of flying the standard instrument approach procedure. Air traffic control will not issue a contact approach. It must be requested by the pilot.

A pilot may request a contact approach when he is able to remain clear of clouds all the way to the airport and is comfortable assuming responsibility for his own terrain and obstruction clearance. At least 1 mile flight visibility must exist and must be expected along the approach by the pilot. Additionally, the reported ground visibility at the destination airport must be at least 1 mile, as well.

Visual Approach

In visual conditions, air traffic control may ask you to advise the airport or traffic to follow in sight. When you tell them you spot that traffic or the airport, you may be given a visual approach clearance. This is an authorization to proceed visually and clear of clouds to the airport. Reported weather at the destination airport must be at least VFR conditions of a 1,000 foot ceiling and visibility of 3 miles.

When conducting a visual approach, VFR cloud clearance requirements do not apply. You are on an IFR procedure. The only requirement is to fly visually, which is to remain clear of clouds. If you are following traffic and lose that traffic, you should advise air traffic control.

The Difference between Straight In and Straight In

It is easy to get confused by the term "straight in" as it is used in two different contexts. A straight in approach can refer to an approach with straight in minimums, which means the final approach course is aligned within 30 degrees of the runway.

However, there exists air traffic control phraseology in which you might be "Cleared for the straight in approach". By issuing this clearance, the controller is informing you that you are to hit the approach fix and continue the approach straight through without doing procedure turns or holding patterns. The controller probably has another aircraft right behind you, and if you randomly start doing a holding pattern or something like that, you will potentially come into conflict with or delay the following traffic.

If you are cleared for the straight in approach, it is not an instruction that you must land straight ahead. You are still free to circle at the end of the approach.

Radar Approaches

Where radar is approved for approach control service, it is used to provide course guidance to the final approach course and for the monitoring of nonradar approaches. Additionally, ASR or PAR approaches may be provided at certain airports.

An airport surveillance radar (ASR) provides nonprecision approach capability for some airports. During an ASR approach, the controller vectors the aircraft to final, then provides lateral guidance down the final. The pilot will be advised of the MDA and when to begin descent. The controller will provide range to the runway as the pilot progresses down the final and call the missed approach point. Upon request, the controller will also provide recommended altitudes at each mile along the final approach.

During a precision approach radar (PAR) approach, the controller provides glide path guidance as well as lateral and range information.

No Gyro Approaches

Should a pilot need to make an approach using only the compass for heading information, the pilot may elect to use timed turns to headings using the clock and turn coordinator. In this case, the pilot can request a no gyro approach from air traffic control. The controller will direct the pilot when to start and stop turns, using the radar. All turns should be executed at standard rate until the final approach segment. On final, half standard rate turns should be made.

Timed Approaches

The controller may use holding, vectors, or assign times to a series of aircraft approaching the same airport to ensure separation. The controller will not specifically state timed approaches are in progress, but the assignment of a time to depart the final approach fix indicates timed approaches are the method of separation in use. Each pilot in the approach sequence is given a time to leave the holding point on approach to the airport. The pilot then adjusts the flight path so as to leave the holding fix as closely as possible to the designated time. Pilots shall not make a procedure turn during a timed approach.

Time approaches will only be conducted if a control tower is in operation at the landing airport and when direct communications between the pilot and the center or approach controller can be maintained until the pilot is instructed to contact the tower. The missed approach for the IAP in use must not require a course reversal, and the reported ceiling and visibility must be at least the highest circling minimums for the instrument approach procedure. If more than one missed approach exists for the IAP, then none of those missed approach procedures can require a course reversal.

Reference: FAR 91.175

A controller cannot assign a visual approach unless the ceiling is at least 500 feet above the minimum vectoring altitude.

A controller may not approve a contact approach unless the reported ground visibility is at least 1 sm and the airport has an instrument approach procedure. Separation from other aircraft must still be maintained by air traffic control, as well.

When landing behind another aircraft, avoid wake turbulence by staying above the preceding aircraft's flight path and landing beyond its touchdown point. The most dangerous landing condition for wake turbulence is a light quartering tailwind.