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Easier, Better Approaches

There's a lot to consider before beginning your single-pilot approach.There's a lot to consider before beginning your single-pilot approach, whether you fly VFR or IFR, and here's a checklist that will make your life a lot easier. Check the list and add your own insight to make the best match for the airplanes you fly. Include any additional items from your own experience, the Pilot's Operating Handbook, or other reliable sources, but remember to keep it short and sweet.

  1. I will be flying the (circle one) visual or instrument approach
    to Runway _______ at _______ (airport).

  2. Weather:
    a) Cloud bases: ____________ AGL Visibility: ___________
    b) Wind: __________________, crosswind from the (circle) left right tail
    c) Altimeter: _______________.

  3. High terrain and obstructions are at __________________ (locations and distances).

  4. VISUAL approach: Traffic Pattern Altitude is __________ ft. (for retractable gear airplanes) This is my Gear Extension Altitude.

  5. INSTRUMENT approach: Initial altitude (within 10nm of the FAF): __________ ft.

  6. My approximate final approach heading will be ____________.

  7. I should expect to break out at __________ (altitude) and __________ (distance from the airport).

  8. IFR items inside the FAF (as modified by approach plate notes, NOTAMs, etc.):
    a) Altitude: The DH/MDA is ___________, which is ___________ AGL.
    b) Distance: Distance to the MAP is _________ DME, ____________(fix)
    or ______________ (time).
    c) Missed: I will climb on heading ___________
    to ____________ ft., toward _____________
    (fix) on approximate heading of _____________
    and holding altitude of _____________.

  9. Avionics
    a) Altimeter Set
    b) Approach timer Ready
    c) Number one nav Tuned, identified, OBS/course needle set.
    d) Number two nav Tuned, identified, OBS/course needle set.
    e) Additional nav radios Tuned, identified, OBS/course needle set.
    f) Tower/Advisory Frequency Tuned/Available (in #2 comm or back-up)

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About This Author:
Tom Turner is a widely published author and regular forum speaker at EAA's Oshkosh/Airventure and American Bonanza Society. Tom holds an M.S. in Aviation Safety with an emphasis on pilot training methods and human factors. He has worked as lead instructor at FlightSafety International, developed and conducted flight test profiles for modified aircraft and authored three books including: Cockpit Resource Management: The Private Pilot's Guide and Instrument Flying Handbook (both from McGraw-Hill). His flight experience currently spans 3000 hours with approximately 1800 logged as an instructor. Tom's certificate currently shows ATP MEL with Commercial/Instrument privileges in SEL airplanes.
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