GPS, ILS and Visual Approaches

Can someone please explain the difference between GPS, ILS, and Visual Approaches WITHOUT just linking the user guide because I just want it simplified.

Ok because if the “NOT” I’ll explain it to you, ILS is when you intercept a localizer, and glide down the glide slope, GPS is when you see R next to the runway number in the Approach menu, and is a guided down approach. W/ VNAV. Visual is just going visual, meaning none of the above.

How to visual:

A similar topic: Difference between GPS and ILS approach - #4 by George


GPS approach is for when you want to follow your flight plan on the final approach.

Visual is when you decend to 1500 AGL which is the pattern altitude, and then hand fly the approach to final.

ILS is what guides you to the runway if you have selected the runway by clicking on the icon on the map and then selecting the runway, and then click NAV1! And then going to what’s above the Autopilot function (I forgot the name of it) and then you switch it from GPS to NAV1

That’s not true, visual approaches can be given at any reasonable altitude.


Oops. My mistake. Sorry about that. Thank you for reminding me what it was @Thunderbolt!

This gives all of the info from the Infinite Flight user guide.

  1. A GPS Approach is a non-precision approach, where you’ll follow a series of pre-set waypoints and altitudes that will guide you to the runway. In Infinite Flight, they’re often considered the easiest approaches to handle, both in terms of piloting and controlling. To fly and get your GPS Approach request approved, make sure your filed approach contains a letter that starts in H, R, D, S, L, X, and occasionally, RNV. You’ll most commonly see H, R, D, S, and L, for the GPS Approaches. You’ll typically be cleared on base by the radar controller.
  2. An ILS Approach is another instrument approach where you rely on both glideslope and localizer guidance. The glideslope will help you with your altitude guidance on the approach, and the localizer will keep you aligned with the runway. To successfully fly an ILS Approach, the runway must first support the ILS Approach. You can see if it does with a red cone. Then, you’ll need to intercept the localizer within 30 degrees of the runway heading, and you must be below the glideslope before you intercept the localizer. To help yourself out with the ILS Approach, click on the airport dot, select the runway with the ILS Approach you wish to fly, and set it as NAV1. Make sure your LNAV is set to NAV1 as well. From then on, you’ll be able to see how you are in terms of the glideslope via a green dot on the right side of the HUD. The compass will make sure you’re aligned with the localizer. Once you establish yourself with the localizer (lined up with the runway), you’ll be handed off to UNICOM or Tower, and you may descend according to what the glideslope tells you.
  3. A visual approach can only be flown if conditions are VMC. You can be told to turn base and align with the runway at any time, and at any suitable altitude for the position you’re at. You’ll most commonly be asked to report airport in sight after you’ve turned base, though if you see the airport before hand, you may report airport in sight without being asked to do so. Once you report airport in sight, you’ll be cleared and from then on if appropriate (if not, you’ll continue to receive vectors), and it’s up to you to finish flying the approach successfully.

I hope this helps you out! Let me know if you have any questions.


You could fly a visual at 12000/50nm if you wanted assuming you had the field in sight

Toaster knows what he’s talking about. He’s a professional… basically

So If I’m using RNAV to decent and then ILS to land I request ILS for landing, correct?

Bit of a plug here, but here’s another explanation, courtesy of the Virgin Virtual Group Pilot Academy. No promotion intended, just trying to provide some information.

ILS Approach (too long to copy and paste)

GPS Approach

A GPS Approach in some ways is similar to the ILS. The GPS Approach provides lateral and vertical guidance, however can be flown at any airport and to any runway. GPS Approaches are often referred to as RNAV (Radar Navigation) Approaches.
GPS Approaches rely solely on your flight plan and utilize LNAV and VNAV to guide you down to your minimums (final go-no-go altitude). APPR cannot be used with GPS Approaches.
Planning for a GPS Approach
The critical element of a GPS approach in the planning. To be able to fly a GPS approach you must have waypoints in your flight plan that take you all the way down the cone and to the runway. You must also have altitude targets programmed for all these waypoints. Many approaches available in Infinite Flight will do this for you, but be sure to select an approach with the R or H prefix, to ensure you’ll be flying an RNAV Approach. This way, altitude targets will be input for you.
Flying a GPS Approach
Flying a GPS Approach is as simple as activating VNAV and LNAV and letting the aircraft fly. Of course, you’re more than welcome to do this without the autopilot, however we strongly recommend you use at least one of the VNAV/LNAV autopilot functions. Once you reach the final waypoint in your flight plan with an altitude target it’s up to you to fly the aircraft to the runway.

Visual Approach

A Visual Approach is an approach whereby the pilot follows their flight plan (or receives ATC vectors) to final approach but then proceeds visually. This means no use of procedures to get to the runway. To fly a Visual Approach, simply program your flight plan to take you to final approach then disable LNAV and VNAV once you can see the airport and fly based on what you can see. It’s simple, but more difficult than it sounds.

Hope this helps!


Correct. However, if you have a GPS Approach filed, we as radar controllers would much rather you request a GPS and utilize waypoints and altitudes of the GPS Approach instead. It’s a much easier approach for us to handle compared to the ILS.

And you’ll be using VNAV to descend and LNAV for lateral guidance.

Hot take: the user guide is written and maintained by an airline pilot and is probably the most concise info you’ll get on the topic. I’m not discounting some of the great info above, but on a forum setting, the possibility of misinformation and confusion can increase. I hope you got the info you were looking for.

Having said all of that, if the guide is missing the mark in explaining this simply (hard to explain instrument procedures simply) please let us know.


Here’s a tutorial about your question.
A lot of info has already been provided above.

This is simply incorrect. You call in on one Approach type, and if we can work with it, we will. Visuals are not allowed if conditions are IMC. GPS are only allowed if you have a filed GPS Approach. ILS are available at any runway with an ILS. Where you’re at has zero impact on what to call in on, besides the above scenarios I listed. Please don’t constantly change your approach type. It’s pointless and gives us unnecessary work.

If the approach type you call in on fails to meet the required criteria, your service will be upgraded or downgraded depending on the situation. For example: if you call in Visual when it’s IMC, you’ll be given the ILS, or the GPS if you have a GPS Approach filed. If the runway doesn’t support ILS and you call in ILS, you’ll be given GPS if you have a GPS Approach filed, or you’ll be given a Visual. If you call in on the GPS without a GPS Approach, you’ll be upgraded to ILS whenever possible.


As I haven’t seen this posted above, an ILS is the only approach where you can do an autoland (landing with autopilot only). In real life there are multiple categories of ILS with different Minimums where you have to be visual and only certain ones allow autoland, but in IF you can use every ILS for an automatic landing.


What I’m still not sure about is sometimes I want to autoland but I have waypoints (GPS) to guide me to the ILS zone so I am using both. So which do I request?

A GPS Approach is one where you can’t autoland because of a lack of the ILS. If you’re gonna autoland, call in on the ILS.

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So I call in on the ILS, but I can still use GPS (RNAV) to get to the ILS zone to activate it?

Chances are, you’ll be given an intercept heading that’s within 30 degrees of the runway heading to intercept the localizer first. After you establish yourself, feel free to continue using LNAV to guide you to the runway.

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Descending and approaching airport with your eyes. This is what happens when in a GA aircraft or when you want to fly the whole approcah without using ILS or GPS.

If your aircraft doesn’t have APPR mode and you want to land/approach with the auto pilot’s help, then you fly a GPS approach. To do this, you can select NAV1 with the runway you are landing on and in the avionics tab, set your GPS to NAV1 or you can manually enter headings. Two planes which are likely to fly a GPS approach in IF are the B747 and A380.

This is the option for when you have APPR mode on your aircraft and have selected the runway you are landing on with NAV1. ILS/APPR will guide you to the runway with the glide slope and localiser but you will still have to drop your gear and lower speed etc.

I hope this helped and that I’m not just repeating information previously given.