Hello everyone !
Tired of landing always straight to the runway? Looking for a bit of challenge? Here’s something you would like to try: Landing on runway 05 at LPMA airport !
So what are we talking about ?
Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, aka Madeira Airport (Aeroporto da Madeira) is an airport in the Portuguese island of Madeira. It is considered one of the most peculiarly perilous airports in the world due to its location and its spectacular runway construction.
When built in 1964, the airport was known to host a quite short runway of 1’600m. Unfortunately, in the morning 19th November 1977, the TAP flight 425 operating by a Boeing 727-282 lands on the third trial, but due to bad weather, starts to hydroplane on the runway and overruns it, finishing its course plunging over a 60m steep causing many causalities.
As tourism increased over the years, the decision to extend the runway was taken instead of building a second runway. Since 1986, the length has been increased to 1’800m.
Finally, in 2000, the runway is increased to 2’781m to allow bigger planes to land safely. The extension was possible by building a platform over the ocean which is quite unique for an airport.
Source: Wikimedia commons
So what’s the challenge?
The challenge is approaching and landing on the runway 05, especially when you approach from North-east !
As you can see, once you’re on final you have to deal with a 180° right turn to align your plane with the runway. It may look easy at first glance, but when you’ve made half of the turn, you are literally facing a mountain and your cockpit may start to warn you with its soft voice: “Terrain, Terrain !”.
This is my favourite approach because you have to keep an absolute 100% concentration and any mistake can lead to bad landing or a missed approach. I may have landed here about 30 times, I can still improve the approach and I find this very interesting. So I’ll give you here a correct runway 05 approach, with fixes, altitude and speed so you can enjoy a soft and safe landing !
Let’s start with fixes
Maybe you have already looked at the previous image. There are a lot of informations in there so I’ll give you the fixes you have to book to approach correctly on the runway 05.You will notice that this approach is the standard procedure when flying from North-east. Usually, planes come from LPPT Lisbon Portela located at about 950 km (500 nm) North-east from the island. I highly recommand you to start your trip from Lisbon.
Here are the final fixes you have to plan absolutely, in order:
This is how it should look like:
How do I turn?
You can let the autopilot command the plane until arriving at MA526. From here you have to do everything manually ! I suggest you deactivate the autopilot mode a few seconds before MA526.
The most important thing is that you do not have to follow the lines between the fixes.
Your turn should be as smooth as possible, a 180° without jerky moves. Try as much as you can to follow this red path:
As you can see, go straight forward for a few seconds once you’ve passed MA526, then turn gradually and try to pass above every waypoint before aligning with the runway on the very final.
How fast do I go?
You will not make this turn at 240 kts, no you will not. No need to say that even if you go as slow as your plane permits, this 180° takes about 40-50 seconds to make, that’s a little time to make things correctly.
Make 220-210 kts until arriving at the first fixe, MA530. From here descend gradually to the slowest practical speed. You have to be at minimum speed BEFORE reaching MA526 !
With an Airbus A320, you should be manoeuvring the turn at 150-160 kts. As I usually fly this plane to approach LPMA, I can’t tell you which speed you have to fly for bigger planes, but I recommand using this one first, then try a bigger one (don’t try to land with an A380 please, this airport is not able to handle this kind of plane…)
What altitude do I manoeuvre?
Officially, this is the altitude parameters:
- MA530 = 2000 ft
- MA528 = 2000 ft
- MA526 = 2000 ft
- MA522 = 2000 ft
- MA520 = 1200 ft
- MA504 = 890 ft
- MA502 = 390 ft
- MA407 = Landing
In my experience, to handle the altitude variation while manually turning the plane is really hard. You have to focus on two different things a the same time, three if you count the speed. So I suggest to set your altitude at 2000 ft when you’re above MA528, then 1300 ft above MA526, and as I said before, deactivate autopilot just before passing through this fix (which is the last one before starting your turn). Make half turn at 1300 ft (try to hold the altitude manually), and then descend manually all way the second half. You should align with the runway at approximately 700-800 ft.
A few tips and common mistakes
That’s it ! You have everything you need to land perfectly on runway 05 at Madeira Airport ! :-)
I’ll finish with a few tips and “what not to do”:
- Do not use a plane too big for this airport. Forget the 747, the A380, even the A340 is a monster for this runway. Start slow, the A320 is the perfect plane for practising !
- Do not turn too fast. Try to respect the path I coloured in red. When you’ll face the mountain, I bet your heart will scream at you “turn turn !”. Don’t. Follow the fixes and everything will be alright. The faster you turn, the harder the alignment with the runway will be !
- Do not turn too slowly. If you turn too late, you will encounter a small hill with houses about 1 km straight facing the runway and you will not be able to descend correctly.
- Do not fly too fast. This is not a race. You’re landing on a challenging airport for experienced pilots. Do you job correctly.
- Take off from LPPT Lisbon Portela for a more immersive experience !
- Practice, practice, and practice again !
Thank you for reading and have a nice flight ! :-)
Approaching with Captain Joe YouTube channel:
Credits: Approaching procedure map is from www.rocketroute.com and free for use.