Aviation In Canada

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Outbound Reports

Picture this: You're holding on the Final Approach Fix for runway 27 at some airport. You're inbound track is, of course, 270°, and over the FAF you make the right turn (of about 180° as per my last post regarding holds), fly that heading for a minute (or 1.5 minutes, depending on altitude), then make the turn to rejoin the final approach course inbound to the FAF, at which point you repeat the whole process. Answer this: At what point are you "outbound" in the hold?

I can't speak for other countries, but for Canada, it's clear in the AIP, RAC 9.14. You're outbound when you're over or abeam the holding fix and heading away from the airport. This means that if you're on the final approach course and cross over the FAF, you're not outbound yet. When you complete the turn to the reciprocal of the inbound course and you have passed the FAF, only then are you actually outbound. It seems many pilots believe they are outbound when they are over the FAF and commencing the turn to the outbound leg. The same point applies to an aircraft cleared for an approach with a procedure turn.

Why is this important? If ATC clears you for an approach and says, "...not below 4,000 til by the Sumspot NDB outbound,", he's probably setting up for a departure to come out the airport you're approaching, and he probably has the departure cleared off with a restriction at 3,000 feet. If you were to hit the FAF and commence your descent from 4,000 while you're still pointing at the airport -- thinking you're outbound at that point -- the departure restriction at 3,000 feet would be meaningless, and separation would no longer be a sure thing. It's by proving "tail to tail" that separation is accomplished. In our example above, the airport is west of the FAF and the departure is proceeding away from the FAF. You're by the FAF eastbound and proceeding away from the airport. This is cold, hard proof that there is separation between you and the departure.