I'm writing my instrument rating examination soon and one of the questions that I came across was:

While executing a VOR A RWY 01 approach for Alexander bay, 2700ft is reached at 8DME on the outbound leg. The most appropriate action would be to:

  1. level off and turn inbound before descent
  2. continue outbound and descend to 2500ft before turning inbound
  3. turn inbound while descending to 2500ft >>> Correct

Now some background info: Alexander bay's VOR approach outbound leg ends at 8DME 2500ft.

I would say answer 1 is correct, however the answer is stated to be no. 3 Is it because it's a NPA? I was taught never to descend while turning inbound and that it is sloppy flying/poor planning. So this answer doesn't really make sense to me.

I tried looking it up in 8168 and the ICAO docs, but I haven't had any luck.

This is the plate:

enter image description here
Source: caa.co.za (PDF), click image to view

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It would help if you can link the plate you are referring to. $\endgroup$
    – PilotDan
    Aug 8, 2019 at 16:44
  • $\begingroup$ Alexander Bay South Africa? $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Aug 8, 2019 at 17:39
  • $\begingroup$ I might have bit off on #1 as well, but I think #3 can be justified. I don’t have time to dig right now, but I think the answer is that if you are within a published segment of the approach, (including a depicted hold or procedure turn) and have been cleared for the approach, you are then cleared to descend to the next published lower altitude for that segment. Without seeing the plate you are referring I can’t tell if the IAF you are maneuvering to is at or above 2700, or 2500. So to PilotDan's point, please provide a plate or more detail so we can help. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2019 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting approach, different format than I am used to seeing, but it looks to me from the profile view that if you are heading 187 outbound you need to turn at 8DME, but that you can descend all they way down to 2500 until established inbound at 007. This interpretation supports answer #3. (FMI, what are the two altitudes, one bold and one not?) $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2019 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall the bold is your altitude with current QNH set and the not-bold is your height above ground or altimeter reading with QFE set. $\endgroup$
    – Skydemon
    Aug 8, 2019 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


It's because 2500 feet is the minimum altitude prior to starting the inbound descent at 8 DME and you can descend to that altitude pretty much anywhere between ABV and 8 DME inbound, within the protected airspace of the procedure turn.

When you started the outbound leg at 3000, you can pretty much descend to 2500 sooner or later, as long as you don't descend below 2500 until you are 8 DME inbound on final. So if you find yourself at 2700 at 8 DME outbound and you're ready to turn in, you can keep descending to 2500, leveling at 2500 until you cross 8 DME inbound.

Basically, the airspace between ABV, the 10 mile circle, and 30 degrees of the approach path is the protected airspace with a floor of 2500, and technically, you can do whatever you want within that zone. Also the altitude is a minimum.. you don't have to descend to exactly 2500, technically (I'm assuming SA IFR rules are similar to NA)


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