Reading Instrument Approach Plates

In this lesson we are going to define the Instrument Approach Procedures. All images in this lesson are courtesy of the FAA Instrument Handbook, and are available here: FAA Instrument Flying Handbook, Chapter 8 (external link)

Lets begin by looking at an Instrument Approach Procedure.

Now depending on your level of experience, what you see here may or may not make sense. If it does, good! This will be a review. If it does not then don't worry. By the end of this lesson you have a good understanding of the Instrument Approach Procedure. The FAA did a fine job of breaking the procedure into parts, and lets start by explaining what each part is.

Pilot Briefing and Procedure Notes - This is more so useful to the pilot then the controller, but it does provide the basics such as frequencies and other information.

Plan View - This is a biggie. This is a top down view of the actual procedure. This part is VERY Important to you as a controller. Not only is it going to provide you with information required for the approach, but its also going to give you an idea as to what to expect from a pilot. Now due to the large amounts of information in these plans, below are some more images courtesy of the FAA to help pick out and distinguish what the items in the Plan View Mean. Lets start with a general legend. I recommend you print this out and practice viewing multiple approach plates to ensure you have an understanding of the information.

Now that should give you an idea of what the items on the Plan View mean. Below is another legend for the Minimum Safe Altitude and the Terminal Arrival Area that you will see in the Plan View as well.

Profile View - This next item on the Instrument Approach Procedure is the "Profile View" which is basically a side view of the procedure. It shows the altitude information which is important for you to know, as well as the pilot. Below is a legend explaining and describing the various pieces of the profile view.

Minimums Section - This section displays the various minimums for the approach. This is the lowest the pilot is allowed to fly before being required to have the runway/airport environment in sight.

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