Unique IFR Approaches From Around the World

by HPA · October 15, 2011

The Lighter Side of Instrument Flying

By Hank Gibson, CFI, CFII, MEI

There are always those approaches that instrument pilots are proud to have attempted and actually made it through. Theoretically, an instrument pilot should be able to perform any instrument approach, but some are a little tougher than others. Some are also more fun than others. Here are a few below that could give an IFR pilot an experience and a story. I have not personally shot any of the approaches below.

Isafjordur, Iceland

Of all the approaches I have seen, this localizer/DME approach into the Isafjordur airport in Iceland is quite possibly the coolest. The airport is positioned in an inlet between two mountains. Looking at the approach plate below, it is a little complex to fly. The initial approach fix is the NDB at the bottom. The bearing was cut off in the picture, but it’s the 013 degree bearing off the NDB. That bearing is followed until intercepting the localizer at 7.0 DME. The IOG localizer is tracked inbound until station passage.

Instrument Approach

So far, this seems like a normal approach, right? Well, not exactly. Looking closely at the plate, the airport itself is off to the west of the actual approach course. In order to get there, the localizer has to be tracked outbound to 7.5 DME. This becomes the missed approach point. To help identify the MAP, just wait for the 280 bearing from the IS NDB to come in, then turn inbound to the airport. If the airport isn’t in sight at this point, it is time to go missed.

Missed Approach

As is seen above, the cloud penetration altitude is 500 feet, allowing a low descent. At this point, when the pilot is visual, more fun begins. I certainly wouldn’t want to be at 500 feet skimming around the edge of the inlet the runway is in. If landing runway 8, the airplane is flown on the north side of the inlet, right next to the mountain. If landing runway 26, a mountain must still be skimmed, but there is no crazy U-turn at a low altitude.

AIP Iceland

As is seen by the airport diagram above, the mountain ridges appear to be lighted, which is handy at night so a newbie pilot does not run his airplane aground. I have a good friend who flies King Airs and he has flown this approach. He was so kind as to shoot a video of himself flying it last year. He is the one in the right seat, not the one filming. Enjoy! Isafjordur Localizer Approach



VOR / DME Approach

Simply put, this approach is just cool. I mean, really, it is not every day that a pilot just follows an arc around to a runway. Whoever thought of this one is a genius! It’s pretty simple to explain. The IAF, SLOAF, is on the 334 radial from BAL, 14.7 DME. Then, all the pilot has to do is follow the arc around, descending to the proper altitudes at the proper times. It does not seem too challenging, but a whole lot of fun!

DCA’s River Visual 19

Now, this is not an IFR approach since it is a visual approach, but I just wanted to insert it in here because of the challenge factor.

River Visual RWY 19

It provides a great view of the DC area, plus presents a challenge to the pilot trying to stay out of the prohibited area next to the Roosevelt and Arlington bridges. If pilots get bored at their flight simulators one day, this might be a fun one to take a crack at. Plus, if the prohibited area is broken, F-16s do not actual kill on a simulator.

How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

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The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

More about Randy here: https://www.flyhpa.com/team/randy-delong/


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