What approaches can you legally log?
Before you answer “all of them”, you may want to remember that a visual approach is an IFR procedure conducted VMC conditions (AIM 5-4-22), but for meeting currency requirements it means a whole lot of nothing – meaning don’t bother logging it because it doesn’t count.
Here’s why. ATC cleared you for the visual approach, but you’re flying the aircraft based on outside visual references (visual contact with the airport or preceding aircraft), not by sole reference to your navigational instruments.
So, we know that we can’t log a visual approach (or a contact approach either), what approaches can we log and what criteria must be met to legally log the instrument approach?
Prior to September 2015, it wasn’t clearly defined by the FAA.
So, in an attempt to clear it up for us, the FAA issued this InFO statement.
The problem with the Info statement is that it’s just like every other government publication in existence – it reads like a freaking law school textbook you need to read it five or six times before you even begin to partially understand any of it.
Here’s my attempt at making sense of it.
FAR 61.57(c) generally states that to act as pilot in command (PIC) under IFR or weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR you must, within the last six calendar months, have performed and logged at least six instrument approaches (it doesn’t specify the type of instrument approaches), holding procedures and tasks, and intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems.
Simply, it means that you need to do this:
- Fly a minimum of six (6) instrument approaches; ILS, LOC, VOR, GPS, etc.…
- Fly a holding pattern (no amount specified).
- Intercept and track the courses you’re flying (which you do anyway when flying those approaches).
So, does this mean that you can just go out and fly an approach by yourself on a sunny day? Sure, you can. There is just one little problem though…
You can’t log the approach for instrument currency requirements.
According to the FAA, you can only log an Instrument Approach Procedure (IAP) for currency or training when several conditions are met.
- You must operate the aircraft solely by reference to instruments in either actual conditions (IMC) or simulated instrument meteorological conditions (by wearing a view limiting device).
- You must execute the entire IAP, commencing from an initial approach fix or an associated feeder route and fly the initial approach segment, the intermediate approach segment, and the final approach segment.
- You must be established on each required segment of the IAP to the MDA or DA / DH.
The FAA does not require the ceiling to be at MDA or DA/DH during the approach.
You can still log it if while in IMC, you transition to visual meteorological conditions (VMC) on the final approach segment prior to or upon reaching MDA or DA/DH – meaning that if you break out on an ILS before reaching DH, you can still log the approach.
SIMULATOR vs AIRCRAFT
All the approaches, including the holding pattern(s), can be performed in a simulator or other trainer (FTD, AATD).
However, they must be accomplished in an FAA approved training device (your home computer with Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t count), and with an Instrument Flight Instructor (CFII) who must sign your logbook.
If the approaches and holding pattern(s) are conducted in an aircraft, they must be performed in actual IMC, or under simulated instrument conditions using a view-limiting device (hood, foggles, etc.).
If the flight is made under simulated IMC conditions (hood, foggles, etc.), the approach must be flow to MDA or DA / DH.
If you need to deviate from the final approach segment for a safety issue – like maneuvering to avoid trading paint with another aircraft – you can still log the approach if your aircraft has passed the final approach fix.
If you’re flying under the hood in simulated instrument conditions, FAA regulations also require that you have a safety pilot on board.
The safety pilot must be able to act as PIC if needed, which means they must hold a current medical certificate (BasicMed counts) and be appropriately rated in the aircraft (ASEL, AMEL).
You must also record the name of the safety pilot in your logbook.