In instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), you must continuously evaluate instrument information throughout an approach to properly maneuver the aircraft (or monitor autopilot performance) and to decide on the proper course of action at the decision point (DA, DH, or MAP). Significant speed and configuration changes during an approach can seriously degrade situational awareness and complicate the decision of the proper action to take at the decision point. The swept wing handling characteristics at low airspeeds and slow engine-response of many turbojets further complicate pilot tasks during approach and landing operations. You must begin to form a decision concerning the probable success of an approach before reaching the decision point. Your decision-making process requires you to be able to determine displacements from the course or glidepath centerline, to mentally project the aircraft’s three-dimensional flight path by referring to flight instruments, and then apply control inputs as necessary to achieve and maintain the desired approach path. This process is simplified by maintaining a constant approach speed, descent rate, vertical flight path, and configuration during the final stages of an approach. This is referred to as the stabilized approach concept.

A stabilized approach is essential for safe turbojet operations and commercial turbojet operators must establish and use procedures that result in stabilized approaches. A stabilized approach is also strongly recommended for propeller-driven airplanes and helicopters. You should limit configuration changes at low altitudes to those changes that can be easily accommodated without adversely affecting your workload. For turbojets, the airplane must be in an approved configuration for landing or circling, if appropriate, with the engines spooled up, and on the correct speed and flight path with a descent rate of less than 1,000 FPM before descending below the following minimum stabilized approach heights:

  • For all straight-in instrument approaches (this includes contact approaches) in IFR weather conditions, the approach must be stabilized before descending below 1,000 feet above the airport or TDZE.
  • For visual approaches and straight-in instrument approaches in VFR weather conditions, the approach must be stabilized before descending below 500 feet above the airport elevation.
  • For the final segment of a circling approach maneuver, the approach must be stabilized 500 feet above the airport elevation or at the MDA, whichever is lower.

These conditions must be maintained throughout the approach until touchdown for the approach to be considered a stabilized approach. This also helps you to recognize a windshear situation should abnormal indications exist during the approach.