Understanding Instrument Approach Charts is a fundamental skill of instrument flying.  Without approach charts, landing in an instrument environment becomes impossible.
Let’s start building that foundation and learn what the major components of an approach plate are, and what information can be found on each plate.
Every standard FAA Approach Plates are divided into six major sections:

  • Margin Data
  • Pilot Brief
  • Plan View
  • Profile View
  • Minima
  • Airport Diagram

Each section has important information that each pilot flying the approach must know to safely fly the approach.
The margin data includes the approach name, airport name, city, state, amendment number, and FAA identifier for the approach.
The pilot brief section includes all frequencies, courses, and altitudes needed to fly the approach, along with notes specific to each approach procedure.  The pilot brief also includes a full description of the missed approach procedure.
The plan view  is designed as a broad “overhead” view of the approach course and any transition routes, along with the missed approach procedure.
The profile view gives a “side view” of the approach so that the pilot can easily see what altitude they must fly during each segment of the approach.  The profile view also includes distances between waypoints, approach angles, and a brief view of the missed approach.
The minima table shows the various minimums for the different approaches depicted on the plate.  Each minima includes a minimum altitude and visibility.
Finally, the airport diagram section displays a smaller version of the airport diagram to give the pilot a quick reference for airport layout without having to change charts.  The airport diagram also displays a table containing the time to fly from the final approach fix to the missed approach point at various airspeeds if applicable.

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