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What is visual approach or VMC in airplanes?

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visual approach in airplane

Maybe you’ve heard the term “visual approximation” or “VMC” before and you don’t know exactly what it is or maybe you know more or less what it can be but you’re not quite clear. That is why today I want to tell you about it because if you are a person who normally travels by plane, you will find very interesting information there.

Although this is primarily information if you are someone who wants to learn to drive and enjoy the inside scoop on exactly what Visual Weather Conditions is.

What is a visual approximation or VMC/CMV?

Airplane VMC approach

A visual approach is essentially a pilot discretionary approach. This means that the pilot will take the shortest and most convenient route to the track. A visual approach is authorized (an ATC request is requested) when there is visual contact with the destination airport.

A visual approach on the other hand means that you are flying without navigation or landing aids, instead the pilot has/must adjust the navigation like a normal approach. Only then can you have a safe flight and enjoy peace of mind behind the wheel of the aircraft.

So why a visual?

  • A visual approach can save time and money (you’ll likely take shortcuts from published procedures).
  • A visual approach allows the crew to decide and fly more conveniently.

The important thing is to control any restrictions for visual approximations. This information can be found on the maps/STAR maps of each destination. In the case of the ESSA STAR for runway 26, there is a restriction to descend below 2500 feet outside the sector of the ARL radials 045 -110. Between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. (local time and not UTC). You are used to descending below 2500 feet until you stabilize on final. These restrictions will affect our planning of a visual approach. (Some airports have published approach procedures such as ENBR, Bergen)

Real virtual situation

visual approach to the aircraft

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Let’s say you fly the approach segment to TEB at 0º and you visually recognize the ARL fix. Before commencing the visual approach, contact ATC:

  • Pilot: Control Stockholm, Scandinavian 081 has runway in sight.
  • ATC: Scandinavian 081, cleared for visual approach to runway 26, go to final.

When you have received the visual clearance from ATC, it’s time to plan your approach. Depending on how much time you need for the final approach, you can check the IAL chart again to find out at what altitude. You want to capture the Glide Slope.

Let’s say we are about 6 Nm on final, so our glide path entry point speaks of an approximate altitude of 1750 ft (see D7 ARL left column, ARL VOR located 1 Nm behind runway 26. We plan our side navigation as below:

  1. We left TEB on radial 350, at a speed of 210 kts (if we have no ATC restriction) flaps on 5.
  2. The glide speed should be that for which we enter with a final left turn of 160 – 180 kts and flaps at 15 with landing gear extended. When you are on final, contact ATC:
  • Driver: Scandinavian 081, stabilized in the final at 26
  • ATC: Scandinavian 081, winds 250º at 10 knots, runway 26 cleared to land.
  • Pilot: Scandinavian 081 cleared to land.
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Continue the approach as normal

The other procedure for a visual approach is if you are approaching the runway from the opposite direction to it. There is a special operation designated for this type of approach called “Standard Visual Meteorological Approach Pattern” and it looks like this:

The different flap configuration should designate the airspeed to be maintained throughout this procedure.. It is recommended to download the speed logs and update the maps from the VAS fleet pages.

As you will have seen during the article, Visibility Weather Conditions have a lot to do with flight safety. Flying is not just taking a plane and starting the flight, there are many hours of work and study behind it and also technical ground support is necessary to achieve a safe flight. In this sense, knowing the technical data is essential to be able to fly safely and without endangering others.

Visual approach and permissions to the controller

Aircraft visual approach simulation

When we talk about visual approach and contact approach, it has to do with the arrival of flights of all kinds. It is not only an instrumental procedure but they also have to approach the airfield also taking into account the visual cues to be able to wait for safety. But the maneuvers covered with the visual approach should not be confused with the flight rules.

In visual approach, the plane or aircraft must approach the airfield based on visual references, but it will never cease to be instrument flight and must be treated as such. But before changing the flight rules, the pilot must notify the controller of his intentions to confirm that he is canceling the instrument flight to proceed with the visual approach.

In any case, if the pilot wishes to carry out a maneuver or modify his flight condition, he must always request authorization from the controller.

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air traffic


Air traffic currently has a very controlled movement through visual flight rules and instrument flight rules. Likewise, the visual weather conditions will also be essential to take them into account. When an aircraft cannot fly normally, it must do so taking into account visual meteorological conditions.

Each aerodrome will need to determine and report the conditions under which it operates in order to have good control and safe flight.. Air traffic has nothing to do with ground traffic and requires much more rigorous control to keep everything in order. Only trained and professional personnel can take the initiative in deciding how an aircraft should operate. In addition, pilots must be trained professionals to perform safe flight.

What do you think of all this information? If you want to know more about how to fly or if you want to know more about airplanes, I advise you to enroll in a specific course that deals with these subjects or to start studies that have to do with aviation . Flying can be a wonderful experience, but to do it successfully, you need to have good information about it. And if you want to tell us about your experience as a pilot, you are welcome to do so! We would like to know your experience among the clouds of our planet and what you consider most important for a safe flight and landing.

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