Aviation In Canada

Monday, April 18, 2005

Contact vs. Visual Approach

Once again, I've seen it happen and I find it a little strange. Not unacceptable, and certainly not illegal, but I'm just curious about it. In years gone by, there was a time where I hardly ever issued a contact approach. These days, there are more contact approaches issued in my area than ever before. The part I don't get is when the weather is CAVOK and you can see forever, why some pilots will specifically ask for a contact approach when offered a visual.

From a control perspective, there are only a few differences between the two. First and foremost, a pilot must ask for a contact approach to be given a clearance for one. When an aircraft reports the field in sight, ATC can initiate a clearance for a visual approach. Another thing that ATC can do under certain circumstances is clear aircraft for successive visual approaches, even at uncontrolled aerodromes. When I say successive approaches, more than one aircraft cleared for an approach at the same time. Normally at uncontrolled aerodromes, only one IFR airplane gets an approach clearance at a time, and each successive aircraft must wait until the one in front of him lands or cancels IFR. Of course, the weather limits for contact and visual approaches are different, but I'm talking about days where there are no clouds (or the ceiling is nice and high) and the visibility is 93 million miles (must be, since you can see the sun).

With the ceiling and visibility virtually unlimited, what's the difference from a pilot's standpoint? I would like to see some responses for a pilot's interpretation on this. Someone educate me, please.