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Straight-in Approach

Source:, Featuring John Krug

Subscriber question:

"Can you use the straight-in approach at a non-towered airport? If so, where in the FARs does it state this? I have heard both yes and no, what is the legal answer?"

- Gene V.


"The answer is, like many FAR questions, found not in what the FARs allow but what they do not.

FAR 91.126 states that when approaching to land, all turns must be made to the left unless otherwise indicated by ground markings such as a tetrahedron or listed in the appropriate charts or AFD.

That is pretty simple but what about a situation where no turns are made, such as a straight-in approach? Unless the departure airport runway is perfectly lined up with the arrival airport runway, you have to make a turn somewhere to get on the straight-in.

The FAA has held that a right turn to line up on a five or six mile final is contrary to the FAR. I don't want to take a chance arguing that point in front of a judge.

straight in approach

The other issue is the right of way rules. When two or more aircraft are approaching an airport for the purpose of landing, the pilot of the aircraft at the lower altitude has the right-of-way over the pilot of the aircraft at the higher altitude. However, the pilot operating at the lower altitude should not take advantage of another aircraft, which is on final approach to land, by cutting in front of, or overtaking that aircraft.

I much prefer, even if I am in a position to make a straight-in, to enter the pattern on the upwind. I can get a good look at the runway condition, windsock and any local traffic in the pattern. It's much easier to sequence yourself behind traffic on the downwind and not interrupt the flow at a busy airport."

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