When Can You Log an Instrument Approach?
The FAA issued INFO 15012 (Information for Operators) to help us understand exactly when you can and cannot log an instrument approach for the purpose of instrument currency or training. Under any scenario, the pilot logging instrument currency/training must be flying solely by reference to instruments (obvious I know, but the FAA still feels the need to mention it, so we did too).
The scenarios we’ll look at are:
- Flying in actual IMC
- Flying with a safety pilot under VFR
- Flying in an approved simulator to gain instrument currency
Let’s look at the conditions that must be met for each scenario, and then take the short quiz at the end to test your knowledge!
Flying in Actual IMC
So you head out for a short cross-country flight with clouds overcast at 1,500′, and you decided to file IFR since you are instrument current and proficient. When you approach your destination, you are cleared for the ILS approach, can you log it as an approach (one of the 6 approaches required every 6 months)? Well it depends where you break out at. If you break out at 2,000′ agl and fly the rest of it VFR, I think we’d all agree that doesn’t really count as a true “instrument approach”. So what does count? Per the FAA this:
When flying in actual IMC, and the aircraft transitions from IMC to visual flight conditions on the final approach segment of the IAP prior to or upon reaching MDA or DA/DH.
That means if you’re inside the final approach fix and still in actual IMC, you can count it for currency or training (training like an IPC for instance). Even if you break out well before reaching MDA or DA/DH, you can still log it as long as you were within the final approach fix. Important note from the FAA below:
NOTE: Except when being radar vectored to the final approach course, or otherwise directed through an appropriate air traffic control (ATC) clearance(7) to a specific IAP, pilots must execute the entire IAP commencing at an initial approach fix or associated feeder route and fly the initial segment, the intermediate segment, and the final segment of an IAP [AIM 5-4-7 (e)]. If the pilot completes these segments, or receives vectors to the final approach course, he or she may log the IAP.
- Note (6): During simulated instrument flight in an aircraft, it may be necessary to deviate from the final approach segment for safety reasons (e.g., in order to avoid traffic or other hazards). In these cases, the pilot may still log the IAP, provided the aircraft has passed the final approach fix (FAF).
- Note (7): A safety pilot, authorized flight instructor or designee may simulate ATC radar vectoring
Flying “Under the Hood” Simulated Instrument
When you are flying “Under the Hood” with a safety pilot using a view-limiting device, the FAA has set forth these criteria to be able to count a simulated approach in VFR conditions towards your instrument currency or training.
When practicing approaches “under the hood” you must keep the view-limiting device on down to MDA or DA/DH. The FAA wants you to take advantage of your time practicing and have you fly the approach all the way down the MDA or DA/DH. Of course, you don’t have to ever take the “hood” off, you could just keep it on and fly the missed approach procedure.
The same note (7) from the FAA above applies here also; you must either be vectored onto the approach by ATC, or if not using ATC services, then fly the entire approach starting at the IAF.
Currency in the Sim
When using a simulator (or any FAA approved flight training device) you must follow the same rules as above. The settings on the sim should be that the weather is down to minimums. The other option is that the weather is below minimums and you execute a missed approach when you never see the runway environment. If you are in a sim and the weather is set to 500′-2sm, and the mins are 200′, then you’ll break out prior to reaching MDA or DA/DH and the approach would not count per the FAA towards training or currency.
Another important note from the FAA regarding logging approaches for currency or training is this:
A pilot cannot log an IAP for currency in an aircraft without also logging actual or simulated instrument time. Simulated instrument conditions occur when a pilot uses a view-limiting device in an aircraft to prevent the pilot from seeing outside visual references. Consequently, a flight conducted under simulated instrument conditions requires a safety pilot. A safety pilot must possess a current medical certificate, occupy the other control seat, and be appropriately rated in the category and class aircraft flown [§ 61.3(c), § 61.51, § 61.57(c) and § 91.109]. The pilot operating under simulated instrument conditions must also log the name of the safety pilot.
Take the Quiz
Think you know what it takes to legally log an instrument approach, give it a try below!