Approach Charts

approach plate explained

Things to know about approach charts…

We’ll cover everything you need to know in the following TOPICs, but there are just a few quick points I want to drive home first!  For starters, take a look at the plate above and get a little acquainted with it.  Try just reading it left to right and on down like a page in a book, and see just how much exactly does already make sense (I mean they make these things for pilots, so it’s not rocket science).

First big point, all procedures (approach plates, SIDs, STARs, OPDs, etc) are made by people called TERPS Specialists, and the technical name for any instrument publication is a TERP (Terminal Instrument Procedure).  These TERPS Specialist are the guys who do the surveying and flight testing of every IFR procedure ever published.

The T and the A…

On instrument approach plates you will sometimes find an non standard alternate minimums on an approach plate or a non standard takeoff mins approach plate.  These symbols mean something important to you as an instrument pilot!

The “T” indicates non-standard takeoff minimums apply (but this is only for part 121, 135, etc, carriers, not part 91 General Aviation).  However it could also mean there is a departure procedure published for that runway and that is important to you in part 91 (because regardless of what “part” you are flying under, your airplane will still hit the big tree or tower at the end of the runway that the departure procedure is trying to help you avoid).  Moral of the story, if you see a “T” on the plate, go to the “takeoff minimums” section in your iPAD or on the instrument procedures for that airport, and find out what it is talking about.

When you see an “A” on the approach plate, it means that “non-standard alternate minimums” apply to that approach.  What the heck are “standard alternate minimums” for that matter?

Standard alternate minimums as prescribed in 14CFR91.169:

  • when you are legally required to have an alternate airport on your flight plan, the weather at that airport must be forecast to be at least
  • a 600′ ceiling and 2sm visibility or better at your ETA if the airport has a “precision” approach available
  • an 800′ ceiling and 2sm visibility or better at your ETA if the airport has a “non-precision” approach

Now those are the “standard alternate minimums”.  When you see non standard alternate minimums on an approach plate, then non-standard alternate minimums apply, and you’ll have to look in the “alternate minimums” section of your instrument procedures for that airport on your iPad or paper charts to see what the “different” minimums are (could be higher ceiling and vis required, could be that the approach you are looking at is not allowed to be used for alternate airport planning purposes and you’ll have to find another approach or airport to list as your alternate).

That’s done…now let’s get to the dinner plates!