My question mainly pertains to the simple altitude difference. Why is the stabilised call given at 1000ft for an instrument approach and 500ft for a visual approach?

  • $\begingroup$ There's no legal definition of "stabilised approach criteria", it's completely up to the air carriers $\endgroup$
    – Steve Kuo
    Nov 21, 2017 at 23:14

1 Answer 1


All instrument approaches are not alike. The Flight Safety Foundation Approach-and-Landing Accident Reduction Tool Kit, Section 5.1 — Approach Hazards Overview points out

  • Fifty-three percent of the accidents and incidents occurred during nonprecision instrument approaches or visual approaches (42 percent of the visual approaches were conducted where an instrument landing system [ILS] approach was available); …
  • Fifty-nine percent of the accidents and incidents occurred in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC); …

For a precision ILS approach, the ALAR recommends additional criteria in that the approach must be flown within one dot of the glideslope and localizer.

The thousand-foot gate is clearly driven by the worst case of a circling approach where the aircraft is not aligned with the runway, must transition off instruments back to visual flying, make the appropriate maneuvers, and land safely. Those all take time, so we should expect the recommendation to be at least as high as the visual approach.

In Section 7.1 — Stabilized Approach, we read

In addition, a stabilized approach provides

  • More time and attention for monitoring ATC communications, weather conditions and system operation;
  • More time for monitoring and backup by the PNF;
  • Defined flight-parameter-deviation limits and minimum stabilization heights to support the decision to land or to go around; and
  • Landing performance consistent with published performance.
  • $\begingroup$ So if the 1000ft gate if for the worst case scenario being a circling approach. What's with the 500 ft gate for the visual approach? As here we are in visual contact with the runway the whole time. Is that why it's lower? $\endgroup$
    – Jai
    Aug 24, 2017 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ How is 1000' gate about circling? Circling minima are often below 1000' and the circling often (especially in the most common case of flying downwind ILS and landing on that runway in opposite direction) includes level segment. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Sep 23, 2017 at 20:43

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