A Guide to the Rio (Santos Dumont) Approach

SBRJ Approach Tutorial


This tutorial will cover the East RNAV RWY 20 approach into Rio-Santos Dumont. In this tutorial I will be in an Azul a320, callsign AZU4543 from Recife.


Below is a link to Brazil’s AIP, which gives you access to the most up-to-date charts for the airport. I highly recommend using them!


Part 0: Arrival

I just want to make a note that you want to use a STAR that doesn’t make you fly an upwind or makes you pass the airport. If you’re arriving from the east, make sure your STAR stays east. If you’re arriving from the west, make sure your STAR stays west. While this isn’t a requirement, it makes the approach easier to follow, and ensures that you don’t have to make any sharp turns.

Part 1: Initial Approach

VNAV is your friend. Use it. It makes this approach much easier to follow.

By the time you cross EVRIR, you want to be at around 250 KIAS, reducing your speed as you follow the approach. The approach angle is a standard 3 degree descent, so you don’t have to worry about making any rapid descents here. As you approach the final approach fix, the point at which you need to be in full landing configuration (gear down, spoilers armed, etc.), you need to quickly cut your speed to a maximum of 140 KIAS. By this point, you will also want to turn off LNAV and VNAV, as you’ll be making a sharp, 2.4 nm left turn to line up with the runway.
sbrj approach

Part 2: Final Approach

This is the tricky part. You need to make a long left descending turn to line up with Runway 20L. If you’re going 140 KIAS, your bank needs to hover between 15-20 degrees. The hard part about this is that you must be precise, because there’s very little room for error. Your altitude and alignment must be near perfect, because the runway is INSANELY SHORT: only 4300ft!

Here, the bridge is visible. Once you cross this, start your sharp left turn.

This turn is partially visual, and pilots use a bridge just under them as a reference. Once you cross this bridge the second time, you want to be between 500-600ft. At this point, the runway should be in view, and if it isn’t, you need to execute a missed approach and go around.

Here’s what the turn should look like:
sbrj turn

I want to emphasize this: you can always go around. If you look at replays on Fr24 or flightaware, you’ll see many aircraft go around when trying this approach. Going around isn’t a sign of a bad pilot, but of an intelligent pilot.

When you land you really gotta plant the plane on the runway. Like I said before, the runway is only around 4300ft! There’s NO room for a soft landing. An important piece of advice is to aim for the numbers, not the blocks. If you aren’t applying full brakes by the time you pass the blocks, go around.

*Notice the early touchdown.

The day I post this is GA day, so I recommend flying this in a TBM or Cessna before hopping into your a320. The largest aircraft that can operate here is a 737-800. No a321 or 737-900s, or anything larger than those.

If you have any questions, drop them below. I’ll upload pictures as soon as I can. Thanks for reading!

Read my other tutorial: A Guide to the Toncontin Approach here:

I’m probably going to make this a series where I make tutorials on how to fly some of the world’s challenging approaches. Interested?

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Great tutorial! I think I’ll go try the approach right now!

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Coincidentally I did this approach earlier today. Never knew it was that cool, such a late turn! Only wish I had this earlier. Nice and detailed, well done!

Cign :)

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I NEED to do this approach, I will fly in as soon as i land! Thank you for the very informational and detailed tutorial!

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Great tutorial!! Thank you so much for making it. Maybe I’ll go fly it with @JarrettFlies


Solid and very informative read, thanks for the heads up!


Edited with pictures and a few tweaks to the information.

What about the runway 02R approach?

They don’t use that runway for landing, anyone correct me if I’m wrong.

IFATC was using it this morning

It’s challenging but A) The winds are unfavorable today and I wanted to fly live, and B) The approach aircraft usually use irl is simpler.

They don’t use 02L/20R at all because it’s shorter and skinnier.

For landing?

Yes, that’s correct

Approaching the 02s is much easier, so I decided to give a tutorial on the harder 20s.

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Thank you for this great guide! You’re absolutely right about the go-around too.

Only thing I don’t agree with is the very early landing as the aiming point markers are there for a reason in my opinion.

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Well put, thank you!

And you’re gonna make a world’s challenging approach tutorial series?


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For GA aircraft and smaller jets (like the E-Jets), you’re exactly right that you should aim for the markers, but for larger aircraft like the a320, landing on the blocks just won’t give enough runway to stop.

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I took off out of SBRJ last night in a 737-800 and I went to TOGA with the brakes on and then released the brakes once at full power.

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Great tutorial, and please listen to his advice concerning the touchdown zone at this airport. I touched down a bit later than the two markings and almost fell in the water, pretty terrifying