Another important piece of a thorough approach briefing is the discussion of the airport and runway environment. A detailed examination of the runway length (this must include the Airport/Facility Directory for the landing distance available), the intended turnoff taxiway, and the route of taxi to the parking area, are all important briefing items. In addition, runway conditions should be discussed. The effect on the aircraft’s performance must be considered if the runway is wet or contaminated.

NACO approach charts include a runway sketch on each approach chart to make important airport information easily accessible to pilots. In addition, at airports that have complex runway/taxiway configurations, a separate full-page airport diagram will be published. The airport diagram also includes the latitude/longitude information required for initial programming of FMS equipment. The included latitude/longitude grid shows the specific location of each parking area on the airport surface for use in initializing FMSs. Figure 5-19 shows the airport sketch and diagram for Chicago-O’Hare International Airport.

Pilots making approaches to airports that have this type of complex runway and taxiway configuration must ensure that they are familiar with the airport diagram prior to initiating an instrument approach. A combination of poor weather, high traffic volume, and high ground controller workload makes the pilot’s job on the ground every bit as critical as the one just performed in the air.


A thorough instrument approach briefing greatly increases the likelihood of a successful instrument approach. Most Part 121, 125, and 135 operators designate specific items to be included in an IAP briefing, as well as the order in which those items will be briefed.

Before an IAP briefing can begin, flight crews must decide which procedure is most likely to be flown from the information that is available to them. Most often, when the flight is being conducted into an airport that has ATIS information, the ATIS will provide the pilots with the approaches that are in use. If more than one approach is in use, the flight crew may have to make an educated guess as to which approach will be issued to them based on the weather, direction of their arrival into the area, any published airport NOTAMs, and previous experience at the specific airport. If the crew is in contact with the approach control facility, they can query ATC as to which approach is to be expected from the controller. Pilots may request specific approaches to meet the individual needs of their equipment or regulatory restrictions at any time and ATC will, in most cases, be able to accommodate those requests, providing that workload and traffic permit.

If the flight is operating into an airport without a control tower, the flight crew will occasionally be given the choice of any available instrument approach at the field. In these cases, the flight crew must choose an appropriate approach based on the expected weather, aircraft performance, direction of arrival, airport NOTAMs, and previous experience at the airport.


Once the anticipated approach and runway have been selected, each crewmember sets up their “side” of the cockpit. The pilots use information gathered from ATIS, dispatch (if available), ATC, the specific approach chart for the approach selected, and any other

Figure 5-19. Airport Sketch and Diagram for Chicago-O’Hare International.

sources that are available. Company regulations dictate how certain things are set up and others are left up to pilot technique. In general, the techniques used at a specific company are similar. This section addresses two-pilot operations. During single-pilot IFR flights, the same items must be set up and the pilot should still do an approach briefing to verify that everything is set up correctly.

The number of items that can be set up ahead of time depends on the level of automation of the aircraft and the avionics available. In a conventional cockpit, the only things that can be set up, in general, are the airspeed bugs (based on performance calculations), altimeter bug (to DA, DH, or MDA), go around thrust/power setting, the radio altimeter bug (if installed and needed for the approach), and the navigation/communication radios (if a standby frequency selector is available). The standby side of the PF navigation radio should be set to the primary NAVAID for the approach and the PM navigation radio standby selector should be set to any other NAVAIDs that are required or available, and as dictated by company procedures, to add to the overall situational awareness of the crew. The automatic direction finder (ADF) should also be tuned to an appropriate frequency as required by the approach, or as selected by the crew.