FAA: Use Constant Descents for Nonprecision Apps

 - June 11, 2009, 12:13 PM

The FAA recently issued a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO 09011) to provide guidance for Part 121 and 135 operators about the importance of using a constant angle of descent when conducting nonprecision instrument approaches. It issued the alert because a Part 121 operator conducting a nonprecision approach at night in IMC failed to control the descent rate and subsequently crashed short of the runway. “During a nonprecision approach procedure, the descent from the final approach altitude to the MDA requires disciplined piloting technique and increased situational awareness to accommodate the pilot workload during this segment of the approach,” according to the SAFO. Because other factors such as multiple step-downs and nighttime operations can add complexity, “operators should evaluate and, if necessary, implement appropriate procedures to reduce workload issues applicable to nonprecision approaches.” The FAA said such procedures should include the use of vertical navigation (Vnav) or a constant angle of descent on the final approach segment. The alert also includes recommendations for operators to update their training programs and operating procedures with respect to the information in the SAFO.