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Circling approaches are pretty rare these days, but at some airports they are the only option. While flying the approach to minimums is the same as a straight-in approach, what happens next leaves no room for error. This video breaks down the circling approach, including when it’s required, how close to stay to the runway, and what to do if you lose sight of the airport. This video tip is taken from Sporty’s Instrument Rating Course.


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3 replies
  1. Larryo
    Larryo says:

    Circling rare? Hardly. There’s most likely one at every airport, especially the smaller ones where there’s often no choice. Now, you’re unlikely to get one at OHare where they’re doing parallel ILSs, but there’s probably 20 or 30 within 30 min of there that are nice options.

    Often one can circle just to save time. Lots of options.

    And, yes, getting training is not an option.

  2. James Walters
    James Walters says:

    the one thing I would have added is:
    once you circle to a type of downwind leg, it will look different than a normal downwind, because often you are around 500′ agl instead of 1,000. You look “flat” or low (which in fact you are). But your actual distance offset from the runway should be the same as it is normally for your aircraft. The trap is, a pilot will sneak in to be closer to the runway, so that it looks more like a “normal” downwind, but… when the turn to final is made, a very steep bank will be required to prevent an overshoot of final – YIKES! More than one pilot has stalled out in that steep bank turn trying to correct the overshoot.

  3. George Hamilton
    George Hamilton says:

    About 1969 I was in the jump seat of a Dassault Falcon 20, Milwaukee to Midway short flight south over Lake Michigan near the west shore total cloud cover tops such that passing the John Hancock it was several floors above the cloud layer.
    Approach ILS 27 at least west, circle to land 23, right seat flying; broke out must have been at minimums right turn to base however overshot final. Left seat took control increased the bank and easy landing.


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