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Circle To Land - MDA. Clarification ?

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    Circle To Land - MDA. Clarification ?


    The MDA for a circling to land approach is printed on the chart. Usually this altitude is increased to the nearest hundred.

    Often I find the adjusted altitude (or the original published MDA) too low for the approach I am making. If I keep to the MDA, the downwind segment is rather short leading to a quick turn to base and final.

    My question: Can you fly a circle to land at an altitude higher than the MDA (assuming VFR & still within the airport confines) ?

    Flying the approach at a higher MDA (for example, 1000-1500 feet) will allow for a longer downwind segment and more time for the base and final approach. I have been told that this is OK provided you maintain VFR and keep with the designated area allocated around the airport for a circle to land.

    Can a real world pilot clarify that this is correct ?

    Thank you.

    Regards, WilloW
    Last edited by WilloW; 21Sep2022, 23:23.
    W. Z. Harris

    Yes, of course you can. The Circle to Land MDA and Viz limits you see quoted on a Navigraph Jeppesen chart should be treated with extreme caution. They are an absolute minimum for all aircraft types and not necessarily the actual height you should fly a circling approach at in your PMDG B737.

    In the real world an operator will often publish their own approved limitations, including those for circling approaches,. They are usually based on several factors, including the speed category of the aircraft and also a minimum height to fly at while carrying out any sort of visual approach (this is sometimes referred to as the Approach Ban). The objective of the exercise is to fly the published procedure safely (assuming there is one) by remaining clear of cloud, in sight of the surface and keeping as close as possible to the landing runway. This is best achieved by the pilots flying at a familiar height which is typical of a normal visual circuit. Here is a link to an interesting article which explains the different requirements for circling approaches in more detail:-

    So, let’s say you are required to fly a visual circuit at a minimum height of 1,000ft Agl in your (Cat C) PMDG B737. You will obviously need to increase or factor in the Met Viz accordingly to anything between 1,000 to 2,400 metres, depending upon the published MDA and the sort of approach lighting the landing runway has. However, when the published Circle to Land MDA and Viz is greater than the minimum Approach Ban height of 1,000 ft Agl that you are required to fly at (e.g. at Islamabad Intl where it is 1,839 ft Agl (3,600 ft QNH) and 3,600 metres Viz), then you must use that greater height and visibility as your minima for the circling approach. If at any time the weather goes below the State’s published minima, or you lose sight of the terrain below the aircraft’s intended track to the extended runway centreline, then an immediate go-around must be flown. Here’s a second link to a report on what can happen when you don’t get it right :-

    I hope this explanation answers your question.

    Michael Codd


      Hello Michael

      This must be one of the best answers I have ever received. Concise, easy to understand, and correct English! Thank You, WilloW
      Last edited by WilloW; 22Sep2022, 23:26.
      W. Z. Harris


      • Michael Codd
        Michael Codd commented
        Editing a comment
        You are welcome and thanks for the compliment! :-)