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As I recently contemplated 14 CFR 135.223 and its implications, I began wondering about airports with exceptionally low circling minima.


For a little context and background, the part of §135.223 that sparked my imagination is the following exemption clause:

(1) The ceiling will be at least 1,500 feet above the lowest circling approach MDA

This got me thinking along these lines: "How often might one encounter both a circling MDH sufficiently low as to allow exemption from the fuel requirements of §135.223(a) and a ceiling high enough that the requirement of §91.169 to file an alternate airport remained in effect? Such a scenario would require a reported or forecast ceiling of 1900 ft and a circling MDH of 400 ft or less.

I know that there are at least a few airports with MDH of 400 ft or lower (which seems altogether too low). Thus, my question is:

Which airport in the United States has the lowest published circling Minimum Descent Height (MDH) for an instrument approach?

I initially wanted to apply this question equally to any airport worldwide. However, I have chosen to limit the scope of this question for two reasons.

Firstly, ICAO standards are more strict in this area than the TERPS standards that the US, Canada, and a few other parts of the world adhere to. Specifically, the TERPS standards for Cat A prescribe a minimum MDH of 350 ft, while ICAO prescribes a higher minimum of 394 ft.

Secondly, I recognize that discovering an ultimate answer to this question (i.e., "ABCD airport definitively has the lowest circling MDH") is difficult, especially if the question's scope included airports from multiple nations. For this reason, I have chosen to limit the scope of the question to the United States of America, where available databases should provide an opportunity for a definitive answer.


For example, the lowest MDH that I know of is Point Hope (PHO/PAPO) with a circling MDH of 361 ft for both the RNAV RWY 1 and RNAV RWY 19.

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While this might be the lowest published MDH, I don't know whether or not it is.

I am looking for any answer that can factually establish which airport has the lowest published circling MDH, whether that might be Point Hope or some other airport.

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  • $\begingroup$ If your only approach was a circling approach with a 1200' MDA, would 2000/3 get you out of needing an alternate, or in that case would you need an alternate with anything below a 2700' ceiling? $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Feb 3 '17 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @RalphJ I.a.w. §91.169, given an IAP at the first airport of intended landing, and given a forecast of 2000/3 or greater, no alternate need be filed, regardless of IAP minima. I.a.w. §135.223, given a circling MDH of 1200, and given weather of 2000/3, sufficient fuel to fly to the alternate must be carried. That's what the regs say. I know, it doesn't make sense. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Feb 3 '17 at 22:29

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