When you shoot a non-precision approach, you are expected to maintain the MDA until the missed approach point, and if you have the runway in sight before you get there, you may proceed to land on the runway, and if not, you must perform a missed approach.

My question is: Was it ever possible to land big commercial jets when the pilots spotted the runway right at the missed approach point during non-precision approach?

With the benefit of Visual Descent Point (VDP) and Constant Descent Final Approach (CDFA), most airline pilots today do not need to worry about this, but I'm still curious: Was it possible?

To add, the reason why I'm asking this question is that if a stabilized landing was not possible in some airplanes (big commercial jets), why was and still is the missed approach designated far too close to the runways for stabilized approach on most non-precision approach charts, instead of it simply being designated at the VDP point, when after all it's a "missed approach point"?

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    $\begingroup$ I never understood how it could be possible - except of course if you manoeuvre in a way inconsistent with how most airlines these days feel a jet should be operated close to the ground. $\endgroup$ May 7, 2018 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


Possible? Yes, depending. Advisable? That's a matter of opinion. I suspect most these days would probably say no unless you did a circling maneuver to another runway. And then many (most?) would say that you have no business circling at less than, say, 800 ft AGL in a 747 or the like.

Restating my first answer: Possible? Yes, for some MAPs, with some aircraft, at some weights, at some airports, to some runways, by some pilots, but not if you HAVE to fly a stabilized approach.

Was it ever possible....

What was physically possible in the past—let's say 25 years ago so it's within the context of my experience—is still physically possible today, so I think what you might be asking is whether it was ever done.

While I don't recall ever having done it myself from the exact MAP, I think it reasonable to accept that it would have been done on occasion by some. Back in the 1990s at the two 747 carriers I flew for, we flew non-stabilized approaches when convenient, especially in freighters. Thus, in-close, down low maneuvering was not the no-no that I get the impression that it is today.

Indeed, the IGS 13 approach at Kai Tak in Hong Kong in bad weather meant you'd be popping out of the clouds a few hundred feet above buildings and then having to make a 47° right turn to line up with the runway. The decision altitude was 600 feet as I remember.


Having the missed approach point so close in to the runway does usually make a steep straight in approach but it does give pilots more chance of seeing the required visual references and then being able to do a circling approach instead of straight in.


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