Circle-to-Land Tutorial

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Video | Circle Radius | Communication


Circle-to-land is a maneuver initiated by the pilot to align the aircraft with a runway when a standard straight-in landing following an instrument approach is not possible and/or desirable. Put simply, it’s a visual approach attached to an instrument approach. Circle-to-land maneuvers must only be executed after ATC authorization has been obtained and the pilot has established the required visual contact with the airport. They can be flown off of any approach that has circling minimums. Note that the visual contact must be established and maintained.

The maneuver is used when a runway is not aligned within 30 degrees of the final approach course of the instrument approach procedure or the final approach requires 400+ feet of descent per nautical mile. When circling, the pilot must maintain a low altitude and speed while maneuvering in a confined airspace. If possible, it is recommended to fly as close to a normal traffic pattern as you can. The margin for error is slight, often calling for the more advanced pilots.

Note: This tutorial has been reposted to better align with the forum’s chart-use guidelines.


Circle-to-Land Diagram

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A few examples of what a circling maneuver might look like.


Video and Notes



Timestamps and Corresponding Notes

00:00 – Beginning of Flight
00:04 – VNAV and x5 Mode Activated
01:20 – Runway Environment in Sight, A/P Deactivated
02:00 – Leveled off at 1500ft AGL, 120kts
02:30 – Turning Base
03:25 – Final
03:40 – Landing


Determining the Circle-to-Land Radius


The size of the protected airspace while circling to land is determined by a standard radius from the ends of the runways. The radius is the distance from the ends of each runway and can be found based on the aircraft’s speed and altitude. For example, if your radius is 1.3nm, you must always stay within that distance from the airport during the circle-to-land maneuver. Below, is a graphic that depicts a circling approach area.


Circling Approach Area Graphic

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Note that there are two separate circling minimums tables: the Standard Circling Minimums (Old) and the Expanded Circling Minimums (New). If, in the circle-to-land section on the approach chart, there is a black box or diamond with a “C” in the middle, it uses the Expanded Circling Minimums. Otherwise, it either (a) uses the Standard Circling Minimums or (b) uses its own minimums, often indicated on the chart.


Standard Circling Minimums (Old)
Circling MDA in feet MSL CAT A CAT B CAT C CAT D CAT E
All Altitudes 1.3 1.5 1.7 2.3 4.5

Expanded Circling Minimums (New)
Circling MDA in feet MSL CAT A CAT B CAT C CAT D CAT E
1000 or less 1.3 1.7 2.7 3.6 4.5
1001-3000 1.3 1.8 2.8 3.7 4.6
3001-5000 1.3 1.8 2.9 3.8 4.8
5001-7000 1.3 1.9 3.0 4.0 5.0
7001-9000 1.4 2.0 3.2 4.2 5.3
9001 and above 1.4 2.1 3.3 4.4 5.5

Category Speeds

Category A Category B Category C Category D Category E
Speed up to 90 knots 91 to 120 knots 121 to 140 knots 141 to 165 knots 166 knots or greater

Standard Circling Minimums - Example Chart

Expanded Circling Minimums - Example Chart

Circle-to-Land Communication


If flying with Unicom, announce which pattern direction you will be flying and then report your position on each leg of that pattern. While some circles may not have distinct downwinds and bases, it is still helpful for other pilots.

In Infinite Flight, pilots do not yet have the ability to communicate to ATC their intentions of circling. So, for the time being, an alternative is requesting a transition and then requesting to enter the pattern for a landing once overhead/upwind.


Resources


Resources used in the making of this tutorial.

Boldmethod
Skybrary
CFI Notebook
AirNav
SkyVector
AlexanderNikitin


23 Likes

Nice one, although even after all this months I still prefer this version of the banner more

7 Likes

Well done!

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Nice tutorial ! It’s also so nice to see you around @lucaviness 😊

1 Like

Nicely written Luca, always hapypy to see some real-world procedures explained to the community.

1 Like

Great tutorial. Even better airport!

Bank angle looked real high though. Reminded me of the circle to land incident which happened earlier this year on RWY 11.

1 Like

Thank you! And yes, definitely way too high—was lucky not to have replicated that accident.

1 Like