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FAA Safety Alert For Visual Approaches

While air traffic control may clear pilots for visual approaches to expedite traffic, the Federal Aviation Administration is reminding operators to remain aware of associated risks because such procedures are a common contributing factor in incorrect airport surface approaches and landings as well as other excursion events.

In its Safety Alert for Operators 21005, the FAA said that while visual approaches can reduce pilot and controller workload and shorten flight paths to the airport, “this expediency must be balanced with safety.  It is the pilot’s responsibility…to advise ATC as soon as possible if a visual approach is not desired.”

Following an increase in Class B excursion events and wrong surface events, the FAA conducted a risk assessment that found “the risk of experiencing a Class B airspace excursion and/or a wrong surface event was greatly increased where visual approach clearances were accepted.”

Operators are being advised to limit visual approaches and consider requesting instrument approaches to reduce the likelihood of lining up on the wrong runway or on a taxiway.  If a visual approach is used, the FAA said operators must strictly adhere to their standard operating procedures; use navigational aids associated with the assigned runway; and maintain a stabilized approach.  If compliance with specific instructions, requests, or clearances may reduce safety, then pilots should respond “unable.”