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I have recently discovered that a budget airlines flight deck in the UK (Airbus 320) announce ‘Stable’ on the final approach. Both the Captain and F.O, just after 500 ft is called out by the computer.

It does seem obvious and yes, the word does speak for itself, but why does it need to be verbally announced?

Is it similar to the same reason when ‘Thrust set’ is announced? To acknowledge that they are happy with the appropriate aircraft instruments and performance, and that it is ‘stable’ and safe to land? I know ‘hundred above’ is a great way to warn the crew that minimum is coming very soon so does stable lead them into this ‘is the aircraft able to proceed’? If one was to not agree that it was ‘stable’, not quite sure what that means at this stage, it does not leave them much room for negotiation does it? Aside from the obvious, what could make one pilot disagree with ‘stable’?

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The FAA offers some advice on this:

An unstable approach is simply an approach that does not meet the criteria for a stable approach established by the aircraft operator. As an illustration, Flight Safety Foundation defines a stable approach in the following terms:

On the correct flight path:

  • ILS Approach - ILS within 1 dot of the localizer and glide slope.
  • Visual Approach - Wings level at 500 feet AGL.
  • Circling Approach - Wings level at 300 feet AGL.
  • Only small heading and pitch changes required.
  • Speed within +20/-0 kts of reference speed.
  • Aircraft must be in proper landing configuration.
  • Maximum sink rate of 1,000' per minute.
  • Appropriate power settings applied.
  • Briefing and checklists complete.
  • During IMC - Stable by 1,000 feet AGL.
  • During VMC - Stable by 500 feet AGL.

If the approach is not stable by 1,000 feet AGL or 500 feet AGL (depending on weather conditions), or if the approach becomes unstable below these altitudes, the pilot should initiate a missed approach/go around. The pilot may initiate a go around at any time above or below these altitudes if deemed necessary. It is possible for a pilot to initiate a go around even after touchdown on the runway, but not after the thrust reversers have been deployed.

They are simply verbally verifying the approach is stable and they don't feel they need to go around. I would think Various OpSpecs dictate how go-arounds are initiated but in reality either pilot can initiate a go-around. If an approach is unstable a go-around should be initiated.

IATA advises that callouts are used which may be why carriers are adopting them.

Furthermore, the adoption of calls of “STABILIZED”, “UNSTABLE” or “GO-AROUND” at a given point on the approach (stabilization altitude/height for example) may improve decision making and compliance to ensure a timely go-around is carried out. While a “STABILIZED” callout might be required at either 1,000 feet or 500 feet above touchdown, the “GO-AROUND” command can and must be made at any time prior to deployment of thrust reversers. Once again, if such callouts are adopted it is essential that an acknowledgement is made by the other pilot in every case

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