On Sep. 11, 2018, Air India Flight 101 was flying from Delhi to JFK. On approach they had multiple failures including two of the radar altimeters and the localizer receiver. They decided to do an LNAV/VNAV approach and were having New York TRACON help them find a diversion airport that met the minima for such an approach. They ended up going to EWR. The approach controllers were aware of the failure of the LOC receiver and that they were unable to use the ILS. But they told them they were clearing them for the ILS to rwy 4R and that they were to fly the LNAV/VNAV instead.

The ceiling was reported at 400 ft. There are no LNAV/VNAV minima for 4R. The LNAV minima is 660 ft. 4L has a LNAV/VNAV minima of 470 feet. Was the ILS the only approach they could legally clear them for due to the reported ceiling? Was it legal for the pilots to fly it with only VNAV? I understand that the fuel situation was taking away their options and they used the best option available. I’m just wondering why ATC decided to give them that particular clearance.

As a side question, why doesn’t 4R have LNAV/VNAV minima?

  • $\begingroup$ Were they legal to fly that approach "vis only", i.e. ceiling not required? (Could make it legal; doesn't make it necessarily a good idea.) $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 2:45
  • $\begingroup$ How could they be legally cleared for an approach that they were not equipped to fly? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 13:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Did they declare an emergency? $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Jim I don't believe so. I don't have a complete transcript of the ATC comms, just the videos on the internet. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 18:29

2 Answers 2


The simple answer is that ATC cleared them because they could. The crew had advised a low fuel situation and no one in their right mind was going to tell them to play musical chairs with all the nearby airports having low ceilings. You also need to remember that when push comes to shove, the PIC can do pretty much anything they want to guarantee the safety of the a/c and pax in whatever way they feel is appropriate.


Once an emergency was declared -- if I understand it correctly, by ATC and not the pilots -- the options became broad. Most ILS approaches can be flown with lateral guidance only, but the minimums will be far higher. If the localizer is also missing, GPS will work for lateral guidance as well.

I'd expect the crew to have flown the approach with three sets of eyeballs, one on instruments, one on crossing altitudes, and the third looking for the runway environment allowing a descent to land.

The question I have is why they didn't go to PIT, as the ceiling there would have been a far safer bet than facing running on fumes after a possible go-round to EWR. Maybe the 7 ton fuel state was too dire for that. (Perhaps a 777 driver can help us here.)


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