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Old 02-06-2021, 10:46 AM   #1  
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Default Crossing the FAF without approach clearance

Was giving dual instruction in VFR (not on an IFR flight plan) the other day to an instrument student (Miami area). Was on with approach and requested an ILS approach. We got vectored and intercepted but never received 'cleared for XYZ ILS' from the approach controller. We got to glide slope intercept and my student asked if we could continue, knowing we hadn't received the clearance. The class D was quickly approaching so I told my student to end the approach and proceed out and away from the class D. Then I advised ATC we broke off from the approach and were going to squawk 1200. Now I realize it's a VFR flight, and that just simply asking ATC if we were "cleared" was the right thing to do. The issue was how busy he was at the time I could not call to verify, which led me to breaking off.

What is the proper procedure here? Contact the class D's tower and do the approach anyways because we are VFR? What about if it had been under IFR? Ultimately I am curious if, under IFR, you do not receive the approach clearance but you cross the FAF what is the correct course of action? Execute a missed approach?
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Old 02-06-2021, 11:27 AM   #2  
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Hopefully one would not find themselves at the FAF without ATC having given them the clearance to proceed. I’ve never had this happen but I have experienced situations where I could see that as a possibility. I feel that you know based on your post that if you had been an actual IFR flight plan that you would have alerted ATC that you were approaching the FAF and knowing that you were an actual IFR flight they would take you seriously enough to issue a clearance or tell you to execute a missed approach. As a CFII, I’ve been in VFR teaching situations where the local class B approach controller got too busy and forgot about me over at the class D airport. Definitely don’t switch to tower without having been handed off from ATC. I know you were in VFR conditions but consider that the class D tower is in communication with approach control and knew you were shooting the approach. They might have been vectoring traffic around you in landing sequence but you wouldn’t have been aware of it because you were on the ATC approach frequency. Going VFR and veering off an approach at the FAF could have potentially caused an issue with how the tower was dealing with actual VFR sequencing so I think the best thing in your situation would have been to execute a missed approach- 1. It’s the correct thing to do in an IFR situation. 2. It lets Approach know they forgot about you. 3. Doesn’t screw up the tower’s actual VFR sequencing. 4. Neither you nor your student could ever practice “too many” missed approach procedures.

TLDR: If you have not received clearance to land, upon reaching the FAF, execute a missed approach, and politely notify ATC you are going missed. They’ll know why.

Last edited by DocMcFly; 02-06-2021 at 11:38 AM.
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Old 02-06-2021, 07:15 PM   #3  
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VFR flight = VFR flight rules. From the OP’s statement, one can infer that although a discreet beacon code was given, an IFR clearance was not. Essentially ATC provided basic VFR flight following services and maybe some limited vectoring. The question remains, was a “practice” ILS in VFR conditions what was requested? If so, then aborting the approach and avoiding Class D airspace before establishing comms with the tower was good ADM. Just my opinion based on the info presented.
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Old 02-06-2021, 08:38 PM   #4  
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I don't know the exact airspace you were in or around, but assuming airspace isn't an issue, you didn't need a clearance to fly the approach. An ILS is nothing more than a long straight-in approach. If the approach controller was too busy to give you an approach clearance, I would have just switched over to Tower and told them I'm 5 miles out for landing.

As a VFR aircraft in class G (generally, the FAF is outside of Class D), no one cares what you do. The only thing you really need in that situation is the clearance to enter the Class D airspace. Executing the missed is probably the wrong thing to do since it would still cause you to fly into the Class D airspace.

Now, if this happened on an IFR flight plan, and you weren't given an approach clearance, you would either have to enter a hold at the FAF (if that was your clearance limit) or continue tracking the localizer at your last assigned altitude (if your last clearance was to intercept the localizer). I wouldn't even execute the missed since that will cause you to leave your assigned altitude. Simply follow the localizer and tell the controller they forgot to clear you when there is a break in communication.
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Old 02-07-2021, 09:16 AM   #5  
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Originally Posted by 2StgTurbine View Post
I don't know the exact airspace you were in or around, but assuming airspace isn't an issue, you didn't need a clearance to fly the approach. An ILS is nothing more than a long straight-in approach. If the approach controller was too busy to give you an approach clearance, I would have just switched over to Tower and told them I'm 5 miles out for landing.

As a VFR aircraft in class G (generally, the FAF is outside of Class D), no one cares what you do. The only thing you really need in that situation is the clearance to enter the Class D airspace. Executing the missed is probably the wrong thing to do since it would still cause you to fly into the Class D airspace.

Now, if this happened on an IFR flight plan, and you weren't given an approach clearance, you would either have to enter a hold at the FAF (if that was your clearance limit) or continue tracking the localizer at your last assigned altitude (if your last clearance was to intercept the localizer). I wouldn't even execute the missed since that will cause you to leave your assigned altitude. Simply follow the localizer and tell the controller they forgot to clear you when there is a break in communication.
This makes no sense. If you’re IFR you don’t fly the localizer off into infinity. Assigned, vectored, expected or filed. Eventually you get to the point where you have to fly the missed approach procedure. Your last assigned altitude might’ve been the min vectoring altitude in a completely different area. The missed approach accounts for terrain and obstacles. So why wouldn’t you fly the ground track of your last clearance with the appropriate attitudes?
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Old 02-07-2021, 09:25 AM   #6  
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This makes no sense. If you’re IFR you don’t fly the localizer off into infinity. Assigned, vectored, expected or filed.
That's correct, but I can't think of a situation where you would have to fly from the FAF to the MAP without being able to get a word in. In all likely hood, you would be able to talk to the controller within 30 seconds of passing the FAF. You aren't at the MAP yet, min vectoring altitude won't be an issue. Odds are your last clearance was "descent maintain X, intercept the localizer." If somehow you can't get reach the controller by the time you get to the MAP, execute the missed.
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Old 02-07-2021, 09:40 AM   #7  
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Originally Posted by 2StgTurbine View Post
That's correct, but I can't think of a situation where you would have to fly from the FAF to the MAP without being able to get a word in. In all likely hood, you would be able to talk to the controller within 30 seconds of passing the FAF. You aren't at the MAP yet, min vectoring altitude won't be an issue. Odds are your last clearance was "descent maintain X, intercept the localizer." If somehow you can't get reach the controller by the time you get to the MAP, execute the missed.
Well, you said you wouldn’t leave your last assigned altitude which might be required if the MAP calls for it. That was why I commented. It’s all good if you can raise ATC and get alternate instructions but the whole system is set up to account for the times you can’t.
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Old 02-08-2021, 04:38 PM   #8  
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Without the specifics, in the US, it’s most likely on an ILS, you were in Class E airspace, not uncontrolled Class G. You’re operating under VFR, flying practice approaches, no ATC approach clearance expected. The TRACON controller should have it worked out with the local controller.
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Old 02-17-2021, 03:31 AM   #9  
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Happened to me twice in a regional jet, in both cases after being told to "join the localizer and track inbound". In the first case we actually lost comms with Approach, being only able to hear static. I was PF that time. The second time the controller forgot about the approach clearance and handed us to tower. I was the PM for this one, read back the handoff and asked to verify approach clearance. He didn't acknowledge and started talking to other traffic. It was busy and I couldn't get a word in. Both times we went over to tower and asked them to verify the approach clearance before starting down on the glideslope. We had gone through the glideslope intercept both times and were a bit high, but both of us started slowing down and configuring early when we saw the situation start to develop so we were able to catch it back with an initially higher descent rate and still meet the company's stabilized approach criteria at 1,000 AGL.
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Old 02-19-2021, 07:43 AM   #10  
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Happened to me twice in a regional jet, in both cases after being told to "join the localizer and track inbound". In the first case we actually lost comms with Approach, being only able to hear static. I was PF that time. The second time the controller forgot about the approach clearance and handed us to tower. I was the PM for this one, read back the handoff and asked to verify approach clearance. He didn't acknowledge and started talking to other traffic. It was busy and I couldn't get a word in. Both times we went over to tower and asked them to verify the approach clearance before starting down on the glideslope. We had gone through the glideslope intercept both times and were a bit high, but both of us started slowing down and configuring early when we saw the situation start to develop so we were able to catch it back with an initially higher descent rate and still meet the company's stabilized approach criteria at 1,000 AGL.
In the UK, typically no approach clearance, just “intercept the LOC, descend with the glide”. The FAF may not be a clearance limit as much as just another waypoint on your filed or cleared route.
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