If conditions permit, pilots can request a contact approach, which is then authorized by the controller. A contact approach cannot be initiated by ATC. This procedure may be used instead of the published procedure to expedite arrival, as long as the airport has a SIAP or special instrument approach procedure (special IAPs are approved by the FAA for individual operators, but are not published in Part 97 for public use), the reported ground visibility is at least 1 SM, and pilots are able to remain clear of clouds with at least one statute mile flight visibility throughout the approach. Some advantages of a contact approach are that it usually requires less time than the published instrument procedure, it allows pilots to retain the IFR clearance, and provides separation from IFR and SVFR traffic. On the other hand, obstruction clearances and VFR traffic avoidance becomes the pilot’s responsibility. Unless otherwise restricted, the pilot may find it necessary to descend, climb, or fly a circuitous route to the airport to maintain cloud clearance or terrain/obstruction clearance.

The main differences between a visual approach and a contact approach are: a pilot must request a contact approach, while a visual approach may be assigned by ATC or requested by the pilot; and, a contact approach may be approved with 1 mile visibility if the flight can remain clear of clouds, while a visual approach requires the pilot to have the airport in sight, or a preceding aircraft to be followed, and the ceiling must be at least 1,000 feet AGL with at least 3 SM visibility.


A charted visual flight procedure (CVFP) may be established at some airports with control towers for environmental or noise considerations, as well as when necessary for the safety and efficiency of air traffic operations. Designed primarily for turbojet aircraft, CVFPs depict prominent landmarks, courses, and recommended altitudes to specific runways. When pilots are flying the Roaring Fork Visual RWY 15 shown in figure 5-32, mountains, rivers, and towns provide guidance to Aspen, Colorado’s Sardy Field instead of VORs, NDBs, and DME fixes.

Pilots must have a charted visual landmark or a preceding aircraft in sight, and weather must be at or above the published minimums before ATC will issue a CVFP clearance. ATC will clear pilots for a CVFP if the reported ceiling at the airport of intended landing is at least 500 feet above the MVA/MIA, and the visibility is 3 SM or more, unless higher minimums are published for the particular CVFP. When accepting a clearance to follow a preceding aircraft, pilots are responsible for maintaining a safe approach interval and wake turbulence separation. Pilots must advise ATC if unable at any point to continue a charted visual approach or if the pilot loses sight of the preceding aircraft.


Because of the complications with database coding, naming conventions were changed in January 2001 to accommodate all approaches using RNAV equipment into one classification — RNAV. This classification includes both ground-based and satellite dependent systems. Eventually all approaches that use some type of RNAV will reflect RNAV in the approach title. This changeover is being made to reflect two shifts in instrument approach technology. The first shift is the use of the RNP concept outlined in Chapter 2 — Departure Procedures, in which a single performance standard concept is being implemented for approach procedure design. Through the use of RNP, the underlying system of navigation may not be required, provided the aircraft can maintain the appropriate RNP standard. The second shift is that advanced avionics systems such as FMSs, used by most airlines, needed a new navigation standard by which RNAV could be fully integrated into the instrument approach system. An FMS uses multi-sensor navigation inputs to produce a composite position. Essentially, the FMS navigation function automatically blends or selects position

Figure 5-32. Charted Visual Flight Procedures.

sensors to compute aircraft position. Instrument approach charts and RNAV databases needed to change to reflect these issues. A complete discussion of airborne navigation databases is included in Appendix A — Airborne Navigation Databases.

Due to the multi-faceted nature of RNAV, new approach criteria have been developed to accommodate the design of RNAV instrument approaches. This includes criteria for TAAs, RNAV basic approach criteria, and specific final approach criteria for different types of RNAV approaches.