IFR, what would you do?


Well-Known Member
Ok, so I'm going to limit what was done on this today, but will ask to see what y'all think.

Was sitting safety pilot today. Picked up IFR clearance, because there was a chance we may hit the edge of the clouds (we never did, but it was a just in case because of the angle). Anyhow, remained VFR but on IFR plan.

So chart says 2200 until the fix, then decend to 680 (this is for WVI LOC2 if anyone wants to take look at the California charts).

So the controller gave decend to 2000, which I though was worth questioning (though maybe he was confused since ILS10R MRY has a 2000 alt and is covered by the same controller). He confirmed it was 2000 he said. Then again after the steer to intercept, he gave 2000 NALLS, cleared approach.

So controller gave 2000, chart says 2200. I ask for clarification, and state the chart says 2200, and is there an update on the min. to what I have printed? He simply states, nope, what you have is correct (I had kinda hoped he was going to at least give an explain as to why he didn't use 2200)

We cancelled IFR at that time, before changing to CTAF, since it was nice in the area.

It was flown as given, at 2000.

What would you have done?


Oh, BTW, this controller knew we were going practice approaches, since this approach was immediately following the missed on another approach. It was not a busy time, maybe 1 or 2 others in his airspace.
It was kosher.

But if you're not comfortable, tell him you're going to maintain 2200 until crossing the marker and/or clarify.

Usually a really easy (read: diplomatic) is to kindly ask what the MVA (minimum vectoring altitude) is in the sector.
I would of intercepted NALLS at 2000 like instructed.. I have often been vectored below the intercept altitude and its really no big deal as long as ATC vectors you above the MVA its nothing to worry about..

A pilot adhering to the altitudes, flight paths, and weather minimums depicted on the IAP chart or vectors and altitudes issued by the radar controller, is assured of terrain and obstruction clearance and runway or airport alignment during approach for landing.
If I was IMC, I'd be sure to fly at the printed altitude that associated with any solid black line on an approach chart. Once you have an approach clearance, you can descend to that altitude. Since you were being radar vectored, I suppose a couple of hundred feet won't kill you. They do that to us sometimes going into BFI on the ILS 13R...give us 2000. Most of the time they give us 2200, though. I think they give us 2000 when they get into a jam with SEA arrivals and need us a 2000 for IFR seperation.
The controllers have a minimum vectoring altitude on thier scopes which may be lower than some published altitudes..

I ran into this a few times and asked the controllers when they werent busy... Thats the answer I got...

But I agree with the above, I'd much rather be on a published altitude.

And I'd be astonished if the published altitude gave you only 200 feet of terrain/obstacle clearance.
There's a group (maybe ALPA related?) that's pushing for the MVA charts to be published publically (I believe they already exist in a sectional type format that is given to controllers in addition to what's on the scopes) for all pilots to get ahold of.

Apparently hte FAA is resisting it - and I can see why. If you are flying an approach and you have an MVA out and it shows you could "technically" duck below the published MDA/DA/DH it's conceivable that some folks could get into trouble.

Do a search for MVA in google and you'll come across a Web site or two about it.
Ok, I've had controllers say before, on quite days, what the MVA is. And that is kinda what I was pushing this guy for. Though I've only had it come up when being vectored off some published course, such as when doing a number of practice approaches.

This one just kinda made me think.

As it has been said, the MVA is not published. If I didn't happen to know the area well, because it is my home airport (done the approach maybe 100 times) what is to say that something lower would not have been dangerous? Sure 200' may not kill ya, but CFIT is an issue to always keep in mind I think. There was an accident in the area about a month ago, guy being about 200' low of MDA when he met a few trees at 150kts or so (all 3 abord lived believe it or not), but then he wasn't IFR, just trying things on his own, so guess it is a bit different (but 200' higher would have likely got him to the airport)

So the thing is, in my case, controller gave decend to 2000. Then maintain 2000 til crossing NALLS. Just used to hearing it as 2200 or above til crossing NALLS.

It is only 200', but what if there was a 1000' or 1500' different between published and MVA? How do you know, without knowing the MVA?

When is it 'ok' to question a bit more? I guess I could just always refuse what was given if I was really worried
It is only 200', but what if there was a 1000' or 1500' different between published and MVA? How do you know, without knowing the MVA?

[/ QUOTE ]

That's the problem... you don't. They should make MVA charts available to pilots who want 'em IMHO. Doesn't even have to be something that's useable inflight, just something to look over for a ballpark... but they don't.


When is it 'ok' to question a bit more? I guess I could just always refuse what was given if I was really worried

[/ QUOTE ]

It's OK anytime you're uncomforatble! You don't know if that controller just broke up with his wife, got caught in an affair, got mugged 5 minutes ago, etc. And if he screws up... YOU're the one that buys the farm.

It's also easy to get lost while being vectored, especially after multiple turns. Set up boundaries with VOR radials or times, cross the radial or time and start bitchin.
I am not sure I understand. Are you saying they vectored you below the normal Alt,? For example, the App Plate has a 2200ft to intercept the Glide slope and he brought you in at 2000?

Or the MOCA on the Chart was 2200, and he had you drop to below MOCA on the airway?

If he was vectoring you off an airway, then the MOCA no longer applies. and it is also not uncommon to be brought in below (or well above) the GS intercept.
I pulled the charts as well as my Road atlas...

You skipped one very important part of the question.


Hell the controller could clear you AT THE MDA from the IAF (NALLS) and you would be safe.

He prob hgave ou the 2000ft because it is a round number and easier to 'hit.." so to speak.

The only requirement is you be at the MDA before you hit PAJAR, If you wanted to you could cross the IAF and then point the airplane at the ground pulling up at the MDA and cruise the rest of the way in....
I pulled the charts as well as my Road atlas...

You skipped one very important part of the question.


[/ QUOTE ]Ya know, I was just about to say that. (Just looked at the plate myself.) Outside of NALLS, CFIT just isn't an issue.

Of course, I'm sure Josh is speaking in generalities about being assigned lower than the charted altitude, though I think we've covered that with them MVA discussion.
Dont forget that approaches guarantee 1000 ft obstacle clearance on the initial approach segment, 500' on the itermediate segment and 190' on the final approach segment for a LOC, so even 200 ft wouldnt be a factor regardless of which approach your flying.

Good question of which there are a few answers.

1. The controller has the perogative to vector you at his MVA, he is doing this to help you. There are times the few hundred feet means the difference of getting the visual approach of haveing to do the full approach. In my airplane it cost $35 per minute to fly, so given the option I prefer a visuall approach. I will often ask for the MVA as they are not published, nor do they need to be.

2. If the controller assigns you an altitude ... do you need to fly that altitude? Not unless you accept the clearance. It is wise to querry any discrepancies you see, as controllers are human and prone to mistakes.

Any time you are being vectored for an approach take a moment and look at the MSA circle and know the navigation aid / waypoint it is based on, the sector altitude and the distance, if you have a problem going to that altitude could safe your butt.

Also keep in mind the remain within 10nm navaid point. Case in Point: Dark night being vectored for LDA Rwy 6 at ROA we were given an altitude (4500 if I remember correctly ), less than the procedure altitude of 5100', and less than the 5400' MSA altitude. Not a problem I'm in good hands ...right. We were semi on our toes that night and when I saw that the ATC vector was taking me out of the 10nm protected airspace I advised ATC and requested an immediate climb to the MSA, he apologetically approved it. Outside the 10nm protected / TERPed out airspace 200 feet COULD have an impact (no pun intended ) on your flight operation.

Maintain Vertical and Lateral Situation Awareness.

Yeah, so it is over the ocean. But the question is about what was done.

The only real issue was he said "cross NALLS at 2000" rather than the 2200 height given on the chart.

I can confirm from what everyone has said here that I did in fact do the right thing. I don't have an issue with that. But more of when to know when to question the controller. It appears keeping situational awareness is always the key. I would have been quite worried if I was not familiar with the area, and it was IMC I'm sure.

The reason I really ask is another local approach in the area. I quite often fly the LOCDME28 MRY, the ILS10 MRY, and they put you close to some imposing hills if you are off course a bit. Usually under VFR since it is practice, but it comes up as when to question things.

I think you did good. You weren't sure and you asked the controller...who had an answer for you. Don't ever feel bad about checking up on a controller...even if they throw a tissy fit. I could care less....

I've found very few low time pilots with the balls to qestion ATC.
Remamber also that as the pilot, you're responsible for tracking your position on the approach plate and double-checking all terrain clearance.