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FAA Instrument Approach Plate for the LOC/DME RWY 21 approach at PDX, depicting final approach course and several fixes along it; in particular the Intermediate Fix/Initial Approach Fix "CREAK", the Final Approach Fix "HUDUT", and "COVDU", the last fix prior to "HUDUT". There is a procedure turn depicted northeast of "CREAK".

On the Portland, Oregon Loc 21 approach....

Let's say I was east at CARBY (not shown) and traveling on a northwest heading to CREAK (about 280 or so). CREAK is on the approach plate and an IAF/IF. I am at 6,000 MSL.

What happens at CREAK? This might be nonsense/not even allowed as I was testing it on a flight simulator and don't know if a controller would ever the assignment. In any case, I had myself (in the sim) traveling northwest to intercept CREAK at 6k...

What should I do at CREAK? Lets assume that I have to do the full approach as the controller just said "Cleared for the approach" elsewhere and portland tower was closed?

Again, not sure if that could ever happen with this specific approach (as it is in a radar environment) and probably open 24/7.

Upon reaching CREAK, would I .... turn to a heading of 030 for a few miles to go out, then turn left to a heading of 344 for a bit, then turn left again to 164 in order to intercept the localized and continue back to CREAK and down?

On the approach plate, CREAK looks well to the southwest of the procedure turn barb (it said remain within 10nm)?

Would I instead make a right turn at CREAK and turn/maneuver to enter the final approach course?

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  • $\begingroup$ AFAIK the position of the procedure turn barb relative to the IAF is not significant; the "Remain within 10NM" is. But I'm not a pilot. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Oct 25, 2021 at 0:32
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    $\begingroup$ If you are cleared direct to Creak (using your rnav/GPS) generally heading 280 and ATC says "cleared for approach" you are obligated to do a procedure turn (since you are not on a "nopt" route and you have not received ATC approval not to do a PT). You could turn to a 340 heading at Creak, staying within 10nm and then make a right turn inbound to intercept the final appch course. My comment is in response to your question as written. It's likely ATC would give you a vector to final in the vicinity of covdu in actuality. $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Oct 25, 2021 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Note that tower being open or closed has nothing to do with whether or not you must execute the course reversal, nor with whether or not you receive "cleared approach" or vectors to final. (Although if the TRACON was closed it is much more likely that the overlying Center would be unable or unwilling to provide vectors to final.) $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Oct 25, 2021 at 20:05

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The reason for a procedure turn is to provide a self contained, published means for a pilot to reverse course with minimal controller involvement. If you are on a heading of 280 you are only 70 degrees off the final approach course and nicely set up for a modified left base leg, so there really isn't any reason to execute the full procedure turn.

Personally I don't see any reason to go all the way to CREAK either. There is significant terrain in the area, and 18.7 miles is WAY out there... especially for a light piston single GA airplane. By time you complete the procedure turn you would be almost half the distance of a cross country away from the airport!

If it were me I would ask for direct to COVDU. An 11.3 DME modified base would avoid the highest terrain and give any category aircraft plenty of room to set up for the approach and get into landing configuration. There would be a little more controller workload to help you get established, but really only a single vector 40+ degrees left as you approach COVDU would be needed to put you on a 30 degree or less intercept to final, and this would allow them to clear you for the straight in approach.

ADDENDUM:

If you are proceeding direct to the airport and they simply clear you for the approach with no other modifiers, (such as "cleared for the straight in"...) they do expect you to execute the procedure turn. In that respect I haven't answered your question as to how you should do that, because it makes no sense to perform a course reversal - to perform a course reversal. (and in the process driving 20 miles the other way, over mountains, in IMC.) I wouldn't accept it.

If, however, you have requested vectors and been informed you can expect that, then approaching COVDU you are told "N123X, turn left heading 230, maintain at or above three thousand five hundred until established on the localizer, cleared LOC/DME runway 21" then you are good to go. No course reversal is needed, expected, or even practical to execute at that point.

I know the controllers are supposed to say "straight in" when there is no expectation to do the PT, but I honestly don't recall hearing it much, if ever.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Vectors to COVDU" could work, because COVDU is greater than three miles from the final approach fix HUDUT. But you won't get a "base:" Where adequate radar coverage exists, radar facilities may clear an aircraft to any fix 3 NM or more prior to the FAF, along the final approach course, at an intercept angle not greater than 30 degrees 7110.65 4–8–1a5. This may less work for the controller than true vectors-to-final, but it's not guaranteed, especially if the controller said "cleared approach." $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Oct 25, 2021 at 2:13
  • $\begingroup$ @randomhead, good feedback, thanks. I made a few minor edits to my answer as a result, please let me know if you have anything else... $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2021 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ Looking at it again, this is a helpful answer in this specific case but doesn't actually answer OP's question, which is: If you are on the "I could conceivably do a straight-in" side of an instrument approach, and ATC says "cleared approach", should you execute a course reversal; and if so, how? $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Oct 25, 2021 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ From previous discussions, and from looking at the .65 4–8–1e, I believe the answer to "do you have to" is: 1) the rules say you have to execute the course reversal unless ATC says "cleared straight-in," and 2) many controllers aren't aware of that and will clear you without saying "straight-in" even when that's what they expect. $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Oct 25, 2021 at 3:13
  • $\begingroup$ @randomhead, please see my addendum and let me know what you think. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2021 at 5:14
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If you are cleared direct to Creak (using your rnav/GPS) generally heading 280 and ATC says "cleared for approach" you are required to do a procedure turn (since you are not on a "nopt" route and you have not received ATC approval not to do a procedure turn).

You could turn to a 340 heading at Creak, staying within 10nm and then make a right turn inbound to intercept the final appch course.

My answer is in response to your question as written. In reality it's likely ATC would give you a vector to final at a point near or beyond covdu.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1. You can also, instead of doing the PT without question, ask ATC to authorize a straight-in approach—as long as you will intercept CREAK at an angle of 90º or less (as you allude to). $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    Oct 25, 2021 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ It boggles my mind to think that the people who write these sort of flight procedures apparently believe that an instrument rated pilot is incapable of intercepting a course at anything greater than a 30 degree angle, and is somehow better served by executing a procedure that requires turning 100 plus degrees away, driving almost 20 miles, turning 30 degrees, turning 180 degrees, then turning 30 degrees again. Is that safer, or "easier"?! $\endgroup$ Oct 26, 2021 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall I think this IAP is designed as a non-radar transition from BTG (054 R) to CREAK (PT required to remain in protected airspace) or ATC radar vectors. Random rnav/GPS routes direct to CREAK from various angles are likely inconsistent with basic TERPS criteria and not considered within the IAP design. Non-radar course reversal criteria considers the necessity to remain within protected airspace, not the capability of the pilot to make a 90 plus degree heading change avoiding the PT. $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Oct 26, 2021 at 14:57

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