I heard it was 100 feet above minimums, I'd just like verification.

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    $\begingroup$ While you have tagged it FAA, for Europe see related: How late can a landing clearance be given? In short: it is not yet set in EASA regulations, and there aren't ICAO SARPs for it. $\endgroup$ – ymb1 Dec 21 '19 at 11:12
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    $\begingroup$ By the way, "above minimums" doesn't mean anything to a VFR pilot. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Dec 21 '19 at 15:13
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer Granted, I'm not a pilot. $\endgroup$ – James Davis Dec 21 '19 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ Don't VFR guys have minimums? @RonBeyer $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 22 '19 at 0:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Harper-ReinstateMonica Sure, but not the way you'd think about "minimums" in this context. For example at a Class-C airport you need to be 500 feet below, 1000 feet above, and 2000 feet horizontal. I've been well below 500 feet getting clearance to land on many occasions, 1000 feet AGL is pattern altitude... When working in the area of an airport, especially coming in for landing, "minimums" is an IFR term. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Dec 23 '19 at 18:43

From the Pilot/Controller Glossary:

CLEARED TO LAND−ATC authorization for an aircraft to land. It is predicated on known traffic and known physical airport conditions

A clearance to land is exactly that: a clearance to land. A pilot without landing clearance hasn't violated ATC instructions until their aircraft has, in fact, landed. So the answer to how close you can get is: anything that isn't touching the surface.

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    $\begingroup$ That said, if you're not cleared to land and you skim the runway of a controlled airfield at 100ft AGL there will be phone calls. $\endgroup$ – J... Dec 22 '19 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ @J... Depends whether one executes a proper go-around or rather a low approach. The low approach requires a clearance the same way landing or touch and go do. $\endgroup$ – Vladimir F Dec 22 '19 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ But what about the minimum distance? No word about that? But still the right answer? $\endgroup$ – mike Dec 23 '19 at 6:20

Imagine going for the "I'll come within 1 foot then go-around" option at night when due to a comms failure a plane was lined-up (also, ATC is allowed to withhold the landing clearance in this scenario), or there is a departing plane that has just rejected its takeoff and the comms were blocked due to a simultaneous transmission.

While nothing seems to prohibit that option, it isn't the best of advice. While not regulation, AC 91-73B is aimed at flight schools, and advises to go-around if landing clearance is not received and could not be confirmed when on final approach (no height is specified).

Instruct students that on final approach, if they have not received landing clearance, to ask the tower, "Flight School call sign, am I cleared to land?" and, if there is no response, to execute a go-around.

A pilot that is trained with that mindset, should keep it after finishing the flight school – always ask, or as the AIM puts it:

ATC will normally withhold landing clearance to arrival aircraft when another aircraft is in position and holding on the runway.

i. Never land on a runway that is occupied by another aircraft, even if a landing clearance was issued. Do not hesitate to ask [emphasis added] the controller about the traffic on the runway and be prepared to execute a go-around.

In short, there is no minimum, but best practices and good judgement (not hesitating to ask) should apply.

On a related note:

Did You Know?

There have occurred collisions and incursions involving aircraft holding in position awaiting a takeoff clearance. The FAA's analyses indicate that two minutes or more elapsed between the time a line up and wait instruction was issued and the resulting incident. CURRENT GUIDANCE IS TO CONTACT ATC AFTER HOLDING IN POSITION FOR 90 SECONDS.

(Runway Safety, FAA)

  • $\begingroup$ While you are not wrong, the question was about what is allowed, not what is smart. $\endgroup$ – Sami Dec 22 '19 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Sami: I've covered the "no minimum" part, as did all the answers. There's nothing against adding additional information. $\endgroup$ – ymb1 Dec 22 '19 at 13:57

Disregarding all other factors (like weather etc) an approach can be made as low as you can without touching the pavement.
It is not uncommon in major airports with a lot of traffic to get landing clearance very low, well below approach MDA or DA.

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    $\begingroup$ The question is not about a low approach $\endgroup$ – expeditedescent Dec 21 '19 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ But I'm sure you had clearance "for the option" before doing that... The op isn't asking about go-arounds... $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Dec 21 '19 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ Edited the answer $\endgroup$ – Sami Dec 21 '19 at 18:31

TL;DR there is no minimum distance

An aircraft landing on a runway of a controlled aerodrome may do so for a variety of reasons.

For example they might be on final approach and due to communication loss they don't get a final clearance and land anyway.

In a controlled aerodrome you are usually given a clearance to enter the TMA (terminal movement area) as well as a STAR (standard arrival route). Entering a TMA without clearance will surely cause more trouble, especially at busy and / or sensitive aerodromes.

There are even incidents, where pilots landed on the wrong runway or even the taxiway. Also landing at the wrong airport in the same TMA has happened.

Landing on uncontrolled aerodromes is also regulated. There is usually a frequency to listen to and a pattern to fly, to make sure you are the only one landing.

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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't answer the question... Quite often you are given clearance to enter the pattern or fly towards a particular runway, but the arrival frequency may not pass you off to tower or tower may not give clearance until short final. The OP is asking how close you can get to the runway without tower's clearance to land. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Dec 21 '19 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ It does answer the question in the first sentemce. $\endgroup$ – Koyovis Dec 22 '19 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ The question is about the minimum distance from the runway, there is no such thing. So how does this not answer the question? $\endgroup$ – mike Dec 23 '19 at 6:22

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