Approach Operations and the Energy Management Challenge

Approach Operations and the Energy Management Challenge

Kevin M. Smith (United Airlines (ret.). and United States Navy (ret.), Mesquite, NV, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJASOT.2016070101
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Abstract

This article presents vital approach energy management data that has been flight tested. This important background information may be of considerable interest to those involved in designing solutions for the approach and landing safety problem. This data can easily be uploaded to a “Smart Cockpit” feature so that flight crews can have this information presented when it is most needed. Limiting parameters for a stabilized approach are presented. The flight crew must be aware of certain stabilization targets so as to make a more informed decision concerning the go-around or land decision. Aerodynamic factors such as weight and airspeed effects are covered to provide the necessary understanding of the dynamic stability challenge. Deceleration distances versus approach airspeeds have been operationally examined. These profiles include level flight deceleration, level flight maximum deceleration, three-degree maximum rate deceleration, high-speed descent, low-speed descent, and the concerning “slam dunk” turn.
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Flight Operations

Conducting flight operations is exacting in nature. The major objectives are to arrive at the destination airport and fly an approach and landing where safety is paramount, passenger comfort is considered, and other safety parameters such as fuel reserves are maintained. Also, economy and schedule reliability are considered. Unfortunately, things often do not proceed as desired. Operations are disrupted by many variables such as deteriorating weather, high levels of traffic, and most importantly, air traffic control (ATC) flow requirements that are incompatible with dynamic stability requirements.

However, hard safety parameters exist to ensure a safe operation. One of these hard safety parameters is the approach stabilization limits. These must not be violated, since they are hard limits. Taking extraordinary measures to recover from an unstabilized approach is unsafe.

Limiting Parameters

Limiting parameters for a stabilized approach are well documented. These are presented here.

Prior to the final approach fix (FAF):

  • The landing gear must be down;

  • The final descent checklist must be completed;

  • Landing clearance needs to be obtained;

  • Traffic needs to be observed.

These are approach stabilization limiting parameters:

  • Final flaps selected;

  • On profile (three-degree glideslope or equivalent);

  • Airspeed within 5 knots (kn) of target airspeed;

  • Rate of descent not greater than 1,000 FPM;

  • Engines at the approach power setting;

  • Pitch attitude target achieved.

If the approach is not stabilized at 1,000 feet (for large aircraft) during an instrument approach or becomes unstable, a go-around must be executed.

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