You are flying to the GDM VOR on a 097 heading. The ATC clears you for the approach, but does not specify straight in. The procedure turn is marked by the barb and specifies remaining within 10nm. My assumption is that you would fly a procedure turn style course reversal, using the altitude of 3000 within 10nm, fly the 277 back course, then fly the procedure turn inbound. I would assume most times ATC would just clear you straight in however is there any documentation of this style of double PT/unpublished course reversal procedure?


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    $\begingroup$ If in doubt about what ATC wants you to do, ask! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @aeroengie, What do you mean by “this style of double PT/unpublished course reversal procedure“? I just see a single PT, and it is obviously published... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 22:04
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    $\begingroup$ ATC will not clear you "straight in" for this approach because there is no IAF or IF which exists along the final approach course. There is only a procedure turn, which you must execute unless ATC issues you an approach clearance based on vectors to intercept final approach course. There being no FAF, the "approach gate" outside of which they would vector you will be on the GDM277 radial, 3.1DME fix. (Although center controllers are famously reluctant to issue vectors-to-final.) $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 20:35

3 Answers 3


When talking about approaches, you should limit your terminology to mean the same thing for you as it does for ATC. In other words, for a Category A aircraft:

  • ATC would not clear you for a Straight-in Approach unless you were inbound from the South for Runway 36 or inbound from the North for Runway 18. There are no Straight-in minimums for this approach, only circling minimums. To use this approach, you are required to fly a modified Traffic Pattern no lower than 1760 feet MSL until you reach a point where you can descend safely to the runway while maintaining cloud clearance. ATC will give you instructions on which direction to circle. In the absence of instructions, circle in the direction prescribed for Traffic Patterns in the US Chart Supplement and Sectional.
  • There is no Back-Course for a VOR. A Back-Course implies an ILS or Localizer transmitter. VORs transmit their navigation signals differently than ILSs and Localizers. There are Radials for each VOR dependent on your bearing from it. There are To-indications and From-indications for each Radial depending on your location on the extended Radial relative to the VOR. There is normal/direct-sensing and reverse-sensing for each Indication dependent on your Heading.
  • If you were flying inbound direct to the GDM VOR on the 097° Radial, you are East of the VOR flying Westbound on a heading of 277° Magnetic. The safe altitude at which to remain above is the Minimum Sector Altitude of 3300 feet MSL unless assigned otherwise.
  • You may request from ATC a Hold at the VOR to buy time to prepare for the approach or to lose altitude. Although, it is not part of the official Instrument Approach Procedure until the Missed Approach Procedure, you may use it to get established inbound to the airport or VOR on the 277° Radial instead with ATC clearance.
  • If you are not cleared for the hold, or accept clearance for the full procedure, once you pass the VOR, you may descend down to an altitude at or above 3000 feet MSL as long as you remain on the 277° Radial.
  • You may perform a Procedure Turn (starting with a left turn to a Heading of 232° Magnetic for 1 minute, then a right turn to 052° until reestablished back on the original Radial) anywhere along the 277° Radial as long as your aircraft remains within a 10 Nautical Mile distance from the VOR during the entire procedure. The general convention is to travel at least 2 miles or 2 minutes before starting the Procedure Turn.
  • Once you are established inbound on the 277° Radial with a Course and Ground Track of 097°, you may descend down to, but no lower than, 2400 feet MSL until you reach the Final Approach Fix which is the GDM VOR. Please be cognizant of the fact that when ATC Radar services are unavailable, other aircraft may be holding at the GDM VOR at or above 3000 feet MSL. It would behoove you to cross GDM inbound below 3000 feet MSL.
  • Once you have passed the Final Approach Fix, you may descend down to, but no lower than, 1760 feet MSL to start your Circling Approach. The Circling Approach May only be started if you have established visual contact with the runway.
  • If you never establish or are unable to maintain visual contact with the runway environment during the entire Circling Approach, remain on or return to the 097-From/277-To Radial until you reach the Missed Approach Point of 1.9 miles DME from the VOR (1 minute, 54 seconds at 60 knots ground speed). If you still have not established visual contact, perform the Missed Approach Procedure (a climbing left turn to circle back to the GDM VOR, climbing to hold at GDM at an altitude of 3000 feet MSL).
  • If, at any time during your descent past the Missed Approach Point, you can not maintain cloud clearance, circle back over the runway to join the Missed Approach Procedure.


Per the OP’s edit:

  • Remain at or above the MSA for the inbound heading from which you are coming or your assigned altitude.
  • Do not descend until you have crossed GDM on an outbound leg.
  • Once you have crossed GDM, utilize the hold to descend down to but not below 3000 feet MSL.
  • Notify ATC on whether you will proceed in on the inbound leg directly from the hold, or do the full procedure outbound to the Procedure Turn.
  • If no altitude loss is necessary, notify ATC of your request to proceed inbound on the procedure. You will have more than 1.9 miles to descend down to 1760 feet MSL (depending on where you get established on the Initial Approach course/leg).
  • Alternatively, you can intercept the procedure anywhere on the Initial Approach course/leg if cleared by ATC. Provided you do not start your descent to 3000 feet MSL until you are established on the procedure outbound or to 2400 feet MSL until you are established on the procedure inbound. Either inbound or outbound legs must be within 10 NM of GDM.
  • $\begingroup$ "other aircraft may be holding" — not any IFR aircraft, certainly. ATC can provide non-radar separation via altitude, and would, if necessary. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ Also in your very first bullet point, you are referring to a straight-in landing, which is not what OP was talking about and (as you point out) not possible because this is a circling approach. Completely separately, and more to the point, ATC will never issue "Cleared straight-in VOR-A approach" because the 7110.65 4–8–1c prohibits it: "Except for visual approaches, do not clear an aircraft direct to the FAF unless it is also an IAF, wherein the aircraft is expected to execute the depicted procedure turn or hold-in-lieu of procedure turn." See also 4–8–1d and e. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 20:43

When ATC clears you for an approach in a Non-Radar environemnt, the airspace around the airport is your protected airspace. As long as you stay within the confines of the published instrument approach, you may execute all, or any part of, the published procedure in order to reach the runway.

This is a rather unique situation because you just happen to be flying towards the airport on the inbound track of the approach. In this case a procedure turn is not needed and you don't need an ATC clearance to skip the procedure turn. This of course assumes you are low enough and can establish your location with DME or GPS.

Skipping the procedure turn will save you lots of time and the controller and/or other waiting aircraft will be happy you did. This is a Non-Radar environment and it is important that you communicate to ATC and other aircraft exactly what you are doing.

When you are within 25nm you can descend to the Minimum Sector Altitude of 3300'. Since you are already on the 097 Approach Course, at 10nm you can continue descending to 2400' to cross overhead the VOR.

Once past the VOR you may descend to 1760' and complete your circling approach to which ever runway you prefer.

If you do not have DME or GPS to accurately establish your position, or if you find yourself too high(poor planning?), you would need to overfly the VOR and then do some kind of course reversal. The easiest way would be to hit the VOR and then do a righthand racetrack pattern while descending to 3000' to establish yourself on the 097 Approach Course.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very good answer but I think OP is specifically asking hypothetically what if you're NOT cleared for straight in. $\endgroup$
    – Kolom
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ I edited my answer to provide more information. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ Your answer might be correct in other countries, but NOT in the USA where this approach is located. > As long as you stay within the confines of the published instrument approach, you may execute all, or any part of, the published procedure in order to reach the runway. No, AIM 5-4-7(d) says, "Except when being radar vectored to the final approach course... pilots must execute the entire procedure commencing at an IAF...." > When you are within 25nm you can descend to the Minimum Sector Altitude of 3300'. NO! The MSA is for emergency reference only. $\endgroup$
    – Dave-CFII
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 3:35
  • $\begingroup$ Why are you assuming this is a non-radar environment? What justification can you provide for your assertion that a PT is not required? $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 20:44

Dave-CFII is correct; you have to do the entire procedure starting at an IAF (or IF if ATC allows for a straight-in), or if being radar vectored to FINAL. ATC will not vector to final unless the final course is depicted on thier scopes (and the pilot has to ask, or ATC will initiate it, if it is). Otherwise, a "double course reversal" is always required. ATC cannot, and will not, vector to intercept the R-277 outbound in order to skip the IAF. AIM 5-4-7 paragraph (f) and (i)


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