Report of Visual Approach Procedures

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Report of Visual Approach Procedures

33RD ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Ottawa, Canada, 18-22 April 1994

WP No. 107

Report of Visual Approach Procedures


In June 1993 a Seminar was held in Paris, organised by the APATSI Project Board in order to resolve from the consultant (SH&E) documentation, the procedures capable of enhancing runway capacity. One of the suggested methods, was the use of “Visual Approach Procedures” and this was discussed in the workshop A. Unfortunately this lead to confusion, as there was no common definition for the operational use of this procedure.

During the first meeting of the Steering Group on new procedures and control techniques held in Amsterdam, IFATCA was requested to provide more information on the situation in European countries, as seen from the operational perspective. A questionnaire was constructed from the main issues which arose from these discussions. It is recognised that this questionnaire is not a complete study on the Visual Approach procedure , but is an attempt to identify the controllers point of view on the subject.

Replies were received from: Belgium (B) ; Switzerland (CH) ; Denmark (DK) ; France (F) ; Germany (D) ; Italy (I) ; Netherlands (NL) ; Sweden (S) ; United Kingdom (UK) ; Ireland (EI) and information was received from Australia.

The following paragraph’s are the questions and replies from the questionnaire.

What is according to your RAC/AIP the exact definition of “Visual Approach” ?


The majority of countries have no definition printed in RAC/AIP and therefore refer to the ICAO DOC 4444 definition.

Is there some annexe associated to the previous definition on a regional and/or national basis?


The following additional comments were received:

CH – Visual Approaches are not proposed at night , but can be accepted if initiated by the pilot.

A – ” Half Visual Approach ” can be accepted until the noise abatement protected area , additionally a point should define the limit of the visual clearance.

F – In some urban areas the visual approach path should remain above the glide slope of the ILS approach for the same runway. In the case of LFMN a visual track is depicted on the approach chart to be observed accurately by the pilot to avoid the overflight of tourist resorts.

I – Visual approaches are prohibited at night.

NL – Minimum Met Conditions apply, 5NM and Cloud Base at least 1200ft. To maintain 1000ft until clear of residential areas.

S – Goteborg; to maintain 3000ft until the described visual approach sector and descent not below the glide path. Arlanda; descent profile of at least 3 degrees, Bromma; maintain at least 2000ft MSL until established on final approach , with compulsory overflying points.

UK – The visual approach clearance must include if necessary a level restriction to ensure that the aircraft remain within radar cover and the pilot does not descend below the base of controlled airspace.

From an operational point of view , who is in charge of the initial request?


(P for Pilot, C for Controller)

It should be noted that in 5 countries , the controllers are not allowed to initiate visual approach procedures/clearances.

Who is responsible for separation between aircraft ?


We can see from this result a common attitude from ATC management , which consistently keeps the responsibility for separation with the air traffic controller.

In Sweden, during daytime the responsibility can be transferred to the pilot if he has accepted “to maintain his own separation from preceding aircraft”.

Are there any constraints associated with the procedure? ( Vis, Ceiling, OCH , end of FPL)


The following additional comments were received:

CH – Visual Approaches not proposed at night. noise abatement areas to be respected.

D – Reported cloud ceiling not below 3000ft and the aircraft already below the ceiling. Separation is also maintained, if the responsibility to maintain separation is delegated to the pilot.

I – Procedures forbidden at night.

NL – Met conditions see question 2.

UK – as defined in answer 2.

From a capacity point of view , do you think that the use of visual approaches can improve the capacity of the runway?


The following additional comments were received:

DK – When an aircraft is in sight of a tower, you can apply another set of separation minima.

From a capacity point of view do you think that visual approach can improve the capacity of an airport (In any type of control, procedural or radar)?


The following additional comments received:

CH – In the case of LSGG.

DK – Refer to 4A.

F – Capacity could be increased by using visual approach procedures to land on a runway different from the IFR equipped runway (case of LFPB), but the ruling of the procedure should be to change the established procedure to compulsory as in the US , from the IAF and initiated by the controller.

D – When IFR do not follow procedures it makes the controllers job more flexible.

UK – Could be possibly improved in a procedural environment but should not be relied by an operator because of the constraints placed upon a manoeuvre (e.g. Met Conditions)

What could be the improvement (changes) to your present rules which will help you to provide a better service? Add any comments you wish to detail.


B – No Comments.

CH – No Comments.

DK – Transfer of responsibility for spacing to the pilot.

F – As soon as the met. conditions are met to introduce visual approach for a non IFR equipped runway as standard procedure initiated by the controller beginning by radar vectors until predetermined points where visual approach should be executed. (Same procedure for parallel approach).

D – The main problem is not coming from the type of approach itself , but by the restrictions put to forbid it (Noise abatement etc.)

I – ICAO should restore the need to have the aerodrome in sight.

NL – The improvement lies in the capacity, when operating with dependent parallel runways, or intersecting runways and the possible use of departure runways for visual landings, where no instrument approach exists.

S – Restrictions for noise abatement are very restrictive and it would be much easier without them , but we have to live with them.

UK – It would be useful if the controller can ask the pilot to continue visually.

EI – Possibly to use visual approach on intersecting runways.

To Conclude

It is seen that there is not a standardised procedure for visual approach procedures in Europe. The way the ATC/O view the situation is from a historical and national perspective. In terms of capacity, a few countries request the establishment of procedures such as those used in the US, however the poor climatic conditions experienced in Western Europe preclude the use of visual procedures throughout the year. There was no reference made by any country to the use of visual in trail approaches which would permit the use of different glidepaths to avoid wake turbulence effect , which would in turn result in a reduction of separation and enhancement of capacity. This compilation of replies was initiated from the APATSI WG , and MA’s should consider what further actions should be taken regarding this subject.

Last Update: September 20, 2020  

December 23, 2019   794   Jean-Francois Lepage    1994    

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