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FAA Glossaries

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New guidance on approach categories.

Old AIM 5−4−7. Instrument Approach Procedures

a. Aircraft approach category means a grouping of aircraft based on a speed of VREF, if specified, or if VREF is not specified, 1.3 VSO at the maximum certified landing weight. VREF, VSO, and the maximum certified landing weight are those values as established for the aircraft by the certification authority of the country of registry. A pilot must use the minima corresponding to the category determined during certification or higher.

New AIM 5−4−7. Instrument Approach Procedures

a. Aircraft approach category means a grouping of aircraft based on a speed of VREF at the maximum certified landing weight, if specified, or if VREF is not specified, 1.3VSO at the maximum certified landing weight. VREF, VSO, and the maximum certified landing weight are those values as established for the aircraft by the certification authority of the country of registry. A pilot must maneuver the aircraft within the circling approach protected area (see FIG 5-4-29) to achieve the obstacle and terrain clearances provided by procedure design criteria.

c. A pilot who chooses an alternative method when it is necessary to maneuver at a speed that exceeds the category speed limit (for example, where higher category minimums are not published) should consider the following factors that can significantly affect the actual ground track flown:

4. Pilot technique. Pilots frequently have many options with regard to flightpath when conducting circling approaches. Sound planning and judgment are vital to proper execution. The lateral and vertical path to be flown should be carefully considered using current weather and terrain information to ensure that the aircraft remains within the circling approach protected area.

As AOPA points out, this change allows pilots to remain in the safe area provided that they maneuver at or below the airspeed designated for the category—not the airplane.

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