Can I Descend?

Throughout your instrument training you practice flying instrument approach procedures to minimums from which you either see the runway and land or execute a missed approach. In reality it isn’t always that clear. When weather conditions are right at approach minimums what exactly do you plan to see?

Approach Lights

There are a variety of approach light systems that few general aviation pilots take the time to study. In inclement weather it is critical that we brief the anticipated Approach Lighting System (ALS) because it is likely the first thing we will see approaching the runway. Below is a list of the various systems found at US airports with a brief description and graphic depicting their configuration:

HIRL – High Intensity Runway Light system

MALSR – Medium intensity Approach Light System with Runway alignment indicator lights

TDZ/CL – runway Touchdown Zone and Centerline Lighting system

ALSF 1 – high intensity Approach Light System with Sequenced Flashing lights, system length 2,400 to 3,000 feet

ALSF 2 – high intensity Approach Light System with Sequenced Flashing lights and red side row lights the last 1,000 feet, system length 2,400 to 3,000 feet

SALS/SALSF – Short Approach Lighting System, high intensity (same as inner 1,500 feet of ALSF 1)

SSALF – Simplified Short Approach Lighting system with sequenced Flashing lights and runway alignment indicator lights, system length 2,400 to 3,000 feet

MALD/MASLF – Medium intensity Approach Lighting, with and without Sequenced Flashing lights, system length 1,400 feet

ODALS – OmniDirectional Approach Lighting System with sequenced flashing lights, system length 1,400 feet

RAIL – Runway Alignment Indicator Lighted sequence flashing lights (which are only installed in combination with other light systems)

REIL – Runway End Identifier Lights (threshold strobes)

LDIN – sequenced flashing LeaD-IN lights

VASI – Visual Approach Slope Indicator

PAPI – Precision Approach Path Indicator