Cleared for the Visual Approach, Or Not

  1. You are taking radar vectors to an ILS approach.
  2. The controller points out traffic you are following.
  3. You report the traffic in sight.
  4. ATC tells you to follow the traffic and clears you for a visual approach.
  5. Two minutes later, you lose sight of the traffic you were supposed to follow.
  6. Now what?!

Also in this week’s show:

We can talk all day about the correct way to use your call sign in a radio transmission. All that talk doesn’t add up to a hill of beans if pilots aren’t using their call sign at all when talking to ATC.

The answer to the Question of the Week asked in your last show, plus a brand new question to ponder.

Show Resources:

AIM 5−5−11. Visual Approach

b. Controller.

1. Do not clear an aircraft for a visual approach unless reported weather at the airport is ceiling at or above 1,000 feet and visibility is 3 miles or greater.

2. Issue visual approach clearance when the pilot reports sighting either the airport or a preceding aircraft which is to be followed.

3. Provide separation except when visual separation is being applied by the pilot.

4. Continue flight following and traffic in- formation until the aircraft has landed or has been instructed to change to advisory frequency.

5. Inform the pilot when the preceding aircraft is a heavy.

6. When weather is available for the destination airport, do not initiate a vector for a visual approach unless the reported ceiling at the airport is 500 feet or more above the MVA and visibility is 3 miles or more. If vectoring weather minima are not available but weather at the airport is ceiling at or above 1,000 feet and visibility of 3 miles or greater, visual approaches may still be conducted.

a. Pilot.

5. Advise ATC immediately if the pilot is unable to continue following the preceding aircraft, cannot remain clear of clouds, needs to climb, or loses sight of the airport.

I have a complete discussion about why using your call sign in every transmission to ATC is absolutely critical. Check out the first 10 minutes of the Radar Contact Show episode “We’d Be Thrilled if You Simply Used Your Call Sign!”

Your Question of the Week:

You are on a long, wide base leg, taking radar vectors to an ILS approach. The approach controller asks you if you have the airport in sight. You do have the airport in sight but due to hazy visibility you don’t see the landing runway.

You know if you report the airport in sight, the controller is probably going to clear you for the visual approach. Due to your lack of orientation to the runway, you would prefer to continue with radar vectors to intercept the ILS.

Do you have the option to continue with vectors to the ILS approach even if you have the airport in sight? If so, what would you say to the approach controller?

I’ll have the answers to those questions, along with a full explanation, in your next edition of the IFR Flight Radio Show.

If you are in the process of researching a new radio headset, check out my Headset Buyer’s Guide at


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