Landing without ILS

timwintle1979 Guest

I wondered if one of you seasoned professionals could tell me if it is possible to land say a 737 without an ILS approach or any approach plate information. I've ended up arriving at several airports only to discover there is no ILS. I figure that there must still be a way of accurately aligning with the runway but I havent got the first idea where to start.

Thanks Folks

10 Responses

Pro Member First Officer
Kurt Stevens (KurtPStevens) First Officer

Just use the "eye"LS. ( Eyeball Landing System) Line it up and set it down 😎

spuddi Guest

I guess your main issue is getting the aircraft lined up with the runway in the first place.
The atc should talk you to lining up roughly with the runway. if they do not then you have a few options:
if the airport has a DME then you can postion yourself so that you are heading towards the DME at the same radial as the runway heading, or you can head straight towards the airport and try to do a standard circuit, or you can dial up the airport from the gps and activate the approach. this will guide you in.

If your issue is how to do the actually landing without the aid of ILS then this is a bit trickier. It basically comes down to practice.

I practiced by doing circuits and bumps:
take off keep your flaps at 5 keep your gear down and don't go above 190knots, do a 90 degree turn to the left, fly for a minute do another 90 degree turn. You are now on what is known as the downwind leg. level off at 2,000ft, look to your left and the runway will be parallel with you.
When you fly past the end of the runway fly for a further 3 minutes, do another 90 degree start dropping the speed and increasing the flaps to 20. keep an eye in the left window on the end of the runway. when you look to be getting perpendicular to it turn the final 90degree turm and if you've judged the turn correctly you should be lined up with it.
From here you should make sure that your descent is no more that 600ft per minute.
as a visual aid for the glide slope there are 4 lights to the left of the runway, these are called the PAPI lights. The 2 on the left should be white and the 2 on the right should be red. if all 4 are white you are too high. if all 4 are red you are too low.
once you have landed, hit the throttles back up to take off power and try again. keep going around until your approaches get straighter, better approach speeds, and better glidesplope maintenance.

Once you have got this mastered, the correct approach profile will be imprinted in your mind and you will be able to apply it anywhere.

timwintle1979 Guest

Thanks for taking the time out to help me!

I think the main issue is just getting lined up with the runway.

You said about any Airport with DME - did you mean VOR station, DME from my very limited knowledge is not a bearing based system its just distance measuring to the airport or station that your tuned into.

Regarding using the GPS, I have tried this but 2 things confuse me about it, firstly what are all the different approaches ie NDB approach, VORDME approach, ILS approach etc and then their variations such as Bravo, Mike, Sierra etc etc.

The other thing that confuses me is that when I've used this function in the past, unike the ILS it doesnt align perfectly with the runway, the plane always seems to be over to the left or the right of the runway. You sound like someone with experience I expect you know and can explain the reasons for all this. Again thanks for taking the trouble to write.

Tim 🙂

Pro Member Trainee
FireFight862 Trainee

I kinda just made a post about the same thing, was curiuos of which approach to use and what the difference is. Plus do the words on say your approach mean anything.

I notice these letters come up in your Flight plan once you have actvitated you approach vectors and such.

timwintle1979 Guest

I think, and I must stress think! The different variations of the approach are to do with which waypoint you circle around. In real world I believe sometimes pilots are asked to hold in pattern at a certain waypoint, I can't be sure on this though (hence why I asked the question).

I think the say your approach thing is for smaller airports with no ATC of their own. really your broadcasting your position for the benefit of other pilots that may be approaching the same airport so you avoid any collision so you have to say when your on your downwind leg etc etc.

Gee I dont know the ins and outs but I'd sure as heck like to learn more - there's some ppl on here with a heck of a lot of knowledge, I'm just hoping one of them read these posts.

Pro Member First Officer
SoCalRick First Officer

KurtPStevens wrote:

Just use the "eye"LS. ( Eyeball Landing System) Line it up and set it down 😎

👏 Good one Kurt! ROFL

Pro Member Captain
nottobe Captain

as far as i know, you are never allowed to fly direct GPS over the east coast states in the US. you have to fly jetways above 18000 ft. what navigation system woulkd you use if its the case?

Don Wood Guest

From a practical standpoint, heavy iron is almost always on an instrument approach until they have the airport in sight, then they may fly a visual approach. The pilot-in-command also has experience flying into that airport, usually multiple times. Even though (in the US) Federal Air Regulations do not require IFR approaches in VFR weather, the procedures of most, if not all, carriers do. I think it would be fairly rare for heavy jets to be landing at a field that does not have any instrument approach.

Having said that, flying a visual approach into a FS9 airport is more difficult than doing it in the real world since the visual cues are much more limited than in a real airplane at a real airport. Probably the technique that would work best would be to fly a standard pattern (downwind, base, final). If you keep the pattern wide enough, you should be able to make the turns and still be able to keep the airport in sight. It will, however, take some practice to be able to do it reliably every time.

Guest Ed Guest

My method when flying to a strange airport with no ILS or VOR in FS09 is to use GPS. I enter the airport into the GPS "direct" window and fly at 90 degrees to the runway heading and about 20 miles out, but don't hit enter-- I just watch the course window and when that angle equals the runway heading, I hit enter and follow the GPS course in. For instance, if I want to land on runway 18, I fly a course of either 90 degrees or 270 degrees, and wait until the GPS will give me course of 180 degrees. Then I enter that course in the GPS, and that gets me flying towards the airport and on the runway heading. It's not perfect but it gets me to the airport and within +/-5 degrees of the runway heading, which is good enough to get me aligned until I can actually see the runway.

Totally unrealistic, but sometimes you have to allow for the limitations of the flight sim.


Pro Member Trainee
rifty Trainee

timwintle1979 wrote:

Regarding using the GPS, I have tried this but 2 things confuse me about it, firstly what are all the different approaches ie NDB approach, VORDME approach, ILS approach etc and then their variations such as Bravo, Mike, Sierra etc etc.

Tim 🙂

The objective of the different approaches is to get you to decision height lined up on the runway at the same time as
1. keep you clear of high ground and obstructions
2. keep traffic separated
3. comply with noise/environment rules
.... all assuming that you cannot see a thing.

The approaches are chosen depending on a match between working airfield nav equipment and working aircraft nav equipment, combined with the direction of arrival.

At London Stansted there is a published approach to the airport from Barkway VOR It is the same pattern for all aircraft from Barkway to Stansted, but how do you approach Barkway? . The letters after the approach indicate different approaches to get to that initial point. I might use Barkway 1A if coming from Ireland (West) or Barkway 1B if coming from Europe (East). So the approach planning has to start a long way out.

If you arrive at the airport to discover there is no ILS then ATC is not going to be pleased with you, unles it has broken down in the last 5 minutes.

If the airfield has ILS Cat III, VOR and DME you cant fly that approach chart if you only have an NDB sensor working on the aircraft, because the approach requires you to make altitude or heading changes at particular distances, and if you don't know the distances you cant comply.

Airports will have many approach patterns defined because they have to cope with aircraft arriving from all different directions with all sorts of different equipment and the pilots choosing different approach strategies.

The charts will be designed so that pilots can be on any or all of the approach strategies and still achieve the 3 primary objectives.

Approach patterns will include a compulsory hold and descent at a waypoint to allow the pilot time to descend or a discretionary one when ATC call for it to get all the "ducks in a row" for landing.

At London Stansted in UK there is a compulsory hold if you are approaching from Ireland, for example at Barkway VOR. This is because aircraft have to stay high to keep clear of the approaches to London Luton, then they arrive at Barkway which is quite close to Stansted. ATC realise 747 pilots cant descend 8000' in 4 miles without having 400 screaming passengers rioting in the aisles, so the aircraft is sent out on a hold pattern to the north to give it time to make a comfortable descent to loop around and establish on the ILS.

Is it possible to land the 737 without ILS and without approach plate information? Yes, of course. You have the GPS. It contains a surprising number of approach patterns for a surprising number of airports. Many are unrecognisable as official ones, but I havent found one that flies me into a mountain yet.

You are procedurally not allowed to use the GPS to fly approaches because it is not approved for height and the GPS doesnt give you height info, but the GPS will give you approach pattern info. If you select the destination airport and then click PROC on the GPS you will get a selection you have clearly spotted before. The approaches with NDB or VOR will give you the pattern. Select one of those and load them. Look at the GPS readout and you will see the key waypoints to follow ( remeber they are shown bottom up, earliest to latest) Read off the navaids and the heading to fly to/from any of them. Get the frequencies for the navaids - the FS9 MAP function can help. (when learning, judicious use of the pause key can help here)

By tuning in the correct track on the OBS bearing and the correct frequency on the NAV1( select NAV and use the COURSE setting - not HDG and HDG setting on the AP), you can follow the indications on the VOR instrument to keep to the pattern and make the turns at the correct time. The autopilot will follow the tracks and backcourses you put into the OBS bearings. How to fly a VOR approach is beyond the scope of a forum chat response, but once the autopilot has lined you up on the runway, you are on your own regarding descent angle, speed, and staying on line.

VORs give you track info to the VOR, not the runway, and if you track religiously to the VOR course all the way down you will find yourself landing on a small red shed near the airport, not on the runway. The GPS pattern, as opposed to a chart, doesnt show decision heights, so if you are descending in low vis on a VOR I would like be able to see the runway from at least 2 miles and 1000 feet up so I can make last minute adjustments.

Give yourself time, so get the speed right down early, flaps and gear out and approach carefully and slowly. ATC (on IVAO - not real) has often asked me to slow down, but never to speed up. You can tell them to get lost anyway - you are in control. 😂

Hope this helps.

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