If it were a beautiful sunny VFR day and you were cleared for a circling approach, can you begin the circle prior to the final approach fix/circling DH in order to maneuver visually to land?
Here are two examples of situations where it would be very useful, and both are real life clearances that I have gotten multiple times:
Example 1 - KASE
N1234, Cleared for the VOR/DME-C approach, cleared to land runway 15
If you follow the step downs until the final approach fix (ZIGBU) you will be at 2,983 ft. above the runway (10,820 ft. MSL) with 2.9 miles to go (9.61 degree descent angle). To put this in perspective, on a normal 3 degree descent, you should be at 870 ft. above the runway so are over 2,000 ft. high on less than a 3 mile final.
Could you begin the circle early and descend while visually avoiding any obstacles prior to the step-down fixes? Say cross ALLIX at 11,000 ft. and ZIGBU at 9,000 ft. (assuming that this cleared all obstacles)? Keep in mind that this is a circling approach so we will be operating below the MDA visually at some point on final anyway.
If not, then it would be nearly impossible to land straight-in while flying most jets, and yet I have never seen anyone do a 360 or a similar maneuver while on final here (and who would want to do that in the valley anyway??).
Example 2 - KTEB
N1234, Cleared for the ILS Runway 6 Circle Runway 1 Approach, cleared to land runway 1
If I fly the ILS (localizer and glideslope) until reaching circling minimums, especially in a category C or D airplane and with this runway layout, it will take a lot of room to turn right for a base leg to runway 1 and then turn back left to intercept final and lose the required altitude.
Could you start the circle a little sooner by making the right turn early (prior to DH, but still within the protected circling area) in order to intercept the extended final for runway 1?