If I'm north of KSAN heading east and the controller clears me for the visual approach for runway 27, can I descend and turn the plane at my discretion so that I can get ready for landing?

Also, once a controller clears me for the visual approach and I accept it, am I responsible for my own terrain and obstruction clearance?

  • $\begingroup$ Are you flying VFR? If so, then yes... $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 11, 2019 at 4:01
  • $\begingroup$ Same if you're IFR in VFR conditions. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Feb 11, 2019 at 4:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer If you're cleared visual approach, it implies that you're on an IFR flight plan as far as I know. $\endgroup$
    – slantalpha
    Feb 11, 2019 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ Sweetwater visual for 27: aeronav.faa.gov/d-tpp/1902/00373SWEETWATER_VIS27.PDF $\endgroup$
    – BowlOfRed
    Feb 11, 2019 at 5:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Radu094 that's absolutely false, visual approaches in non-radar environments are common. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2019 at 19:00

1 Answer 1


Visual approach procedures are discussed in AIM 5-4-23. A visual approach is an IFR procedure and you must be on and stay on an IFR flight plan. It authorizes you to proceed visually clear of clouds to the airport. You may make whatever normal maneuvers necessary to safely conduct the approach and landing including descents and turns. Under most conditions, you are responsible for your own terrain clearance and separation. The exception is if you have the airport in sight but not the aircraft you're following. ATC can still clear you for the visual but will retain radar separation responsibility.

Note that a visual approach is different from a "Charted Visual Approach Procedure," which KSAN happens to have for Runway 27. If cleared for the charted visual, then you must fly it as depicted.


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