Yep. Short approaches. I’m sure everyone’s heard of them or struggled to cope at one point. It happens. I get that. At times, you may be wondering what the flying ferret the approach controller is doing or why you’re coming in lower and closer. This post serves to explain the phenomenon, covering the hows and whys of short approaches from a controller’s perspective and what pilots do in regards to them.
In today’s example, I will be using one of Newark Liberty’s approach plates as a demonstration. Two days ago, I attempted utilizing short approaches for aircraft in accordance with the plate below while working some traffic:
Random jumble of numbers. Check. The hood in Jersey. Check. What you definitely should check is the glide path illustrated in the lower portion of the picture. Take a peek at the little x, the arrow, and 1,500 feet marking at the TALTE fix. That’s the goal of the short approach I conducted- to have flyers hit it at that altitude at the appropriate distance (five miles).
Short approaches mean what they mean. You won’t be flying a twenty mile final or a full ILS approach. Controllers will use it for a variety of reasons, such as squeezing in traffic to avoid having them fly extra miles behind long finals, for the sake of utilizing approach plates for the heck of it, exercising realism, to flesh out creativity, and so on.
If you’re flying in and have an inkling that aircraft are executing short approaches or the inbounds look like they’re being maneuevered in that way, prepare. Heck, even being turned to base earlier than normal is warning enough. Slow down and get ready for a sharper turn to final.
I bet you’re wondering how we think this through. The beauty of it is that very few of us will think the same way- we all take a creative approach to… well, vectoring for short approaches. There’s always a plan. Here’s an example of mine.
The Plan of an App Controller
This was what was going on in my head when vectoring people for this approach with the plate. Ideally, they’d join at the appropriate point after going through one of the arrival paths. Inbounds from WRI usually joined right downwind, JFK on the left, and SWF from the north to south- that one was a bit tricky, requiring the aircraft to position abeam, but it worked out fairly well for the ones who went through it.
But for those who successfully execute those approaches, there will be people who fail. I won’t consider you a total loser, so don’t worry. Instead, here’s a list detailing some of the most common causes of screwed up short approaches.
Reasons Why People Fail
- Flying too fast and overshoot.
- Failing to pay attention to the instructions given, realize it too late, try to turn, then overshoot.
- Less time to configure for landing while on final. Be prepared beforehand on late downwind or the turn to base.
- Not completing the turn, stalling, only doing half of it, then deciding to finish it later down the road. It isn’t a 30 mile long final where you’re already positioned for the 30 degree intercept- it’s short. Keep the turn going until you fully line up.
For the people who avoid all of those points, they’re the ones who are the real stars at conducting short approaches. Sure, I vector them, but their attention is entirely focused on this adrenaline pumped turn. Focus goes a long way in successfully pulling this off.
Examples of Short-App Pilot Awareness
- It probably comes as no surprise, but @Tyler_Shelton showed good airmanship and prepared for this type of approach by reducing speed appropriately and turning as soon as instructed. This led him to hit the desired approach fix shown in the pictures below right on the penny. That’s literally all it takes.
- @Bulba also showed up and did the same thing. Appropriate speed reduction and turned as instructed. Guess what that resulted in? Another nail right on the fix. Great airmanship from him as well. People like him who mull the forums at least have enough sense to pay attention. It’s one job.
Some other people pulled this off wonderfully, but I can’t find their usernames on here. Point being, it’s not rocket science to do, and if two entirely different people with vastly diverse backgrounds can both demonstrate a short approach, then you can too.
Overall, that’s a little bit of insight into what goes into planning short approaches and what we as radar controllers expect pilots to do. It isn’t the most widely talked about topic on here, and with more and more of us trying out those types of approaches, I thought it’d be prudent to explain this a little bit.
Honestly, they’re a lot of fun to do and makes the blood rush shoot up a bit in the right circumstances. Who doesn’t love banking onto an Expressway Visual turn, LGA style? Gives goosebumps.
I’m out. Peace.