Let's say you are on a 180° heading right of the airport and want to land on runway 36. Abeam 36 you can make a descending turn left, flare and start leveling off at the same time, touch down with the left gear, level off and finish the rollout. No problem in a GA aircraft. Can this be done in an airliner, for example in a circle-to-land approach? What is the minimum straight-in segment required for circle-to-land?


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If the aircraft has not established a stabilised approach, a go around is required. According to EUROCONTROL's Skybrary, a stabilised approach is defined as:

Their Approach-and-landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) Briefing Note 7-1 suggests that "all flights must be stabilised by 1000 feet above airport elevation in IMC and 500 feet above airport elevation in VMC. An approach is stabilised when all of the following criteria are met:

  • The aircraft is on the correct flight path
  • Only small changes in heading/pitch are necessary to maintain the correct flight path
  • The airspeed is not more than VREF + 20kts indicated speed and not less than VREF
  • The aircraft is in the correct landing configuration
  • Sink rate is no greater than 1000 feet/minute; if an approach requires a sink rate greater than 1000 feet/minute a special briefing should be conducted
  • Power setting is appropriate for the aircraft configuration and is not below the minimum power for the approach as defined by the operating manual
  • All briefings and checklists have been conducted
  • Specific types of approach are stabilized if they also fulfill the following:
    • ILS approaches must be flown within one dot of the glide-slope and localizer
    • a Category II or III approach must be flown within the expanded localizer band
    • during a circling approach wings should be level on final when the aircraft reaches 300 feet above airport elevation; and,
  • Unique approach conditions or abnormal conditions requiring a deviation from the above elements of a stabilized approach require a special briefing.

An approach that becomes unstabilised below 1000 feet above airport elevation in IMC or 500 feet above airport elevation in VMC requires an immediate go-around.

(Source: www.skybrary.com)

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    $\begingroup$ Nice (LFMN) has RNAV approaches to 22R and 22L that are circling, to avoid a mountain range right behind the runways. Not often in use, but a very fun approach as a passenger (and flight crew, I reckon) $\endgroup$
    – JustSid
    Sep 20, 2016 at 10:30
  • $\begingroup$ @JustSid -- there's also Martin State (KMTN)'s VOR/DME or TACAN RWY 15 approach, which has a DME arc for its only leg, and effectively no straight in final approach segment as a result. $\endgroup$ Sep 20, 2016 at 11:34
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    $\begingroup$ The most extreme approach is probably VQPR runway 15. The aircraft wings get level around over threshold, 50 ft or less (they are level by 50 ft on this video but there was another where they were not until 30 ft). $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Sep 20, 2016 at 22:10
  • $\begingroup$ But this is only recomendation $\endgroup$
    – Andrius
    Sep 21, 2016 at 6:25
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    $\begingroup$ @JustSid: The circling approach for rwy 22L/R has still a small straight-in segment parallel to the Promenade des Anglais. Well parallel as wind permits ;-) $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Sep 21, 2016 at 10:02

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