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ILS Approach Guide/Tutorial

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Pro Member Chief Captain
99jolegg Chief Captain

UPDATE - 19 Mar 08 - Original post updated, to include clarification on certain parts, to add some common questions and answers to those questions and clarification about the GPS approach.


- Instrument Landing System (ILS) Guides:

1) If you have filed an IFR flight plan, you will receive mandatory instructions at around 70 miles from your destination airport. Follow these instructions.

...and a clearance from around 25 miles

Follow instructions carefully - try writing them down if you think you'll forget. Write down the airport dictated in that clearance (if you don't already know it) and the runway and type of approach, i.e. ILS (type of instrument approach) 9L (the runway).

2) You then need to go to your Map which is the little star like icon on the panel or go to the "World" menu at the top and click "Map".


You should see a purple line towards your destination airport from where you are:

...follow this line to your airport, and double click on a runway at that airport in the map, (Note, you might need to do this more than once, as sometimes it thinks you're trying to change the route).

3) From the map, there should be a list of runways with a line of information after them. Find the runway that you received in your clearance in Point 1. Write down the ILS heading i.e. 093 degrees, and the ILS frequency of that runway (110.30), as well as the Airport Elevation (80ft) which can be found in that same box above the list of runways.

ILS information:


4) After you have all of that information written down, close the map and open your Radio Stack....

Key in the frequency you wrote down using the inner and outer knob, into NAV1 and make sure it is in the primary position, meaning it is on the left as opposed to the right of the two displays. This can be done by pressing the <---> button in the middle of the two screens.

At the bottom of the radio stack, there should be a row of clickable buttons, namely COM1, COM2, BOTH, NAV1, NAV2, MKR, ADF, DME etc. Click the NAV1 button as to illuminate the light. This enables you to hear the morse code frequency to check you have the correct frequency...

Note: MKR, DME and ADF are not essential for an ILS approach.

5) Close the radio stack, and enter the runway heading you wrote down from the map, into the Autopilot panel (MCP), under the CRS section (Course). This will serve to position the ILS raw data display in line with the runway, as you can see in the two diagrams at Point 12.

**In some aircraft such as the 747, the CRS selector is found on the Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI) which is the compass on the panel, usually found under the Attitude Indicator.**

---You now have the approach set up, and should be flying towards your airport whilst descending. At about 30nm out, you should be around 9000 feet, descending at around 1500-1800 fpm with a speed of roughly 240 KIAS; aiming to reach 2800 feet by 15nm from the airport---

6) Once you reach the height and distance of 2800 feet AGL from 15nm out, you will now be hearing the ILS Morse code identifier and you should be roughly on course, according to the HSI (but only if you have remembered to type the ILS heading into the course selector). If you already have the GPS / NAV switch on NAV, you will soon see the glideslope becoming active - the point at which the bug / indicator starts to move from its bottom most position. You will need to be at a speed of 180 KIAS or less at this point.

7) At this point, or around 10nm out, at the same altitude, you should receive a clearance to land from ATC.

**************From here, you have two options:

- For Autopilot to control the descent on the ILS = Go to point 8
- To hand fly visually on the ILS = Go to point 12

--> For Autopilot to track the ILS...

8) Switch the GPS / NAV switch to NAV instead of GPS.

9) Make sure you have Autopilot on, your speed is at or below 180 KIAS, and you are at a height of 2800 feet or less. Press the APP button at around 10 nm out, and the aircraft will follow its path down vertically and laterally until you get to 500 feet AGL. Note that you don't need to disengage the altitude hold button if you have it engaged - the AP will do that for you when you engage the APP button.

10) You will have to control flaps, auto brakes, speed and gear on this approach. At 500 feet AGL, you must disengage the Autopilot and hand fly the last 500 feet.

11) Once you land, slow down and taxi from the runway.

--> For manual approach on the ILS...
12) On the attitude indicator on the right and bottom side or similarly on the HSI, white indicator lines shall appear, with a pink triangle on both the vertical and horizontal set of lines. The big line in the middle is the centre of the approach and is the correct glide slope.

If you are too high, the triangle on the vertical axis will be below the middle line and vice versa. If you are too far to the left, the line will appear to the right of the middle bigger line, indicating that you should turn to the right until it centres.

To put it simply, fly towards the lines as to centre them. Other visual forms of interpeting raw data that the ILS provides exists. for example, two moveable bugs on a horizontal and vertical axis. The method remains the same - fly towards the lines, just as you do the triangles:

In the above hand-flown example, I am slightly low and slightly too far to the right i.e. I need to maintain altitude for a few seconds and add some left aileron and rudder. It takes practice, but becomes easier after that practice. The result...

13) Do this all the way down to the runway threshold; making small movements on the control surfaces to centre the arrows / lines on the HSI or attitude indicator. You can use the autothrottle (A/THR) to control the speed if you find this easier. At the same time, you need to control flaps and gear etc.

Common Questions...

1) Why do I have to intercept the glideslope from below?

As you can see, the beam of the ILS extends to around 10-12nm. When the aircraft flies towards the runway, they are about to intercept the glideslope beam causing the vertical indicator to show the aircraft is on the correct descent gradient. From this point, the aircraft needs to start descending; below 2800 feet to stay in the centre of the 2 lines, which get closer and closer together until the threshold of the runway.

If you were much higher than this point, you can see that you'd miss the beginning of the GS and possibly encounter False GS Lobes which will provide misleading information.

2) Why when I engage the APP does the aircraft get a mind of its own?

In most cases, this is usually because you are engaging the approach hold button too early, or at too higher speed. You also need to make sure that you are near centered on both axes of the ILS before engaging the APP.

3) Why do I have to wait until the axes are centered before engaging APP?

Simple. The APP function of the autopilot is an approach hold feature. Therefore, it was only ever designed to hold an approach that the pilot has setup. It only follows that it won't do well in trying to track both the localiser and GS from scratch.

4) Can I perform an autoland using the ILS?

No. No default aircraft in FS9 or FSX is capable of landing automatically. The APP is only an approach hold function and must be disengaged along with the A/THR at Decision Height or above. Decision Height is the height above ground level, specified in the approach plate for that runway, that you must commence a go around if you don't have visual contact with the airfield and runway.

5) Why am I having trouble trying to centre the axes?

There is no simple solution to this. Practice in a smaller aircraft first. The example above is using a Boeing 737. Try out an ILS approach in a Cessna to get a feel for how much movement you'll need to stay centered on the approach.

6) Why do I end up 'missing' or 'over-shooting' the glideslope and localiser?

This is most probably down to poor handling of the aircraft or due to flying at too higher speed. Make small movements on the control surfaces and I suggest clearing the weather so you can see the airfield at all times. This will help you gauge how much you'll need to compensate with regards to control surfaces.

7) What is that damn annoying beeping noise when I approach the runway?

It's the morse code identifier for the NAV aid's frequency that you have tuned in NAV1. Cross-checking the morse code you hear with the morse code on the map / chart will confirm you are tracking the desired NAV aid.

8) Why do I need to turn the NAV/GPS switch to NAV?

The NAV and GPS settings relate to two different entities. Real world aircraft don't use the GPS like the sim does so this switch isn't in existence in the real world. Simply put, the GPS side of the switch simply slaves the autopilot to what is programmed into the GPS. The NAV side of the switch slaves the autopilot and instruments to any NAV aids you have the NAV radios tuned to.

9) At some airports, I've descended to 2800ft but am really close to the ground, or even worse, it is below the level of the ground. What's going on??

This is where the airport elevation part of Point 3 comes in. When descending to an airport of higher elevation than normal, you need to make sure you add the elevation of the airport to 2800ft to give you an interception altitude. In the example above, the airport is at an elevation of 80ft, making little to no difference. However, airports like Denver, Colorado have an elevation of 5000ft - descending to 2800ft AMSL, will leave you 2200ft underground - not a good position. Therefore, adding the airport elevation to 2800ft will make 7800ft, leaving you 2800ft above ground level.

- VHF Omni directional Range (VOR) Approach Guides

Read through the link below...,%20VOR%20Approaches.html


- Non-Directional Beacon NDB (Automatic Direction Finder) ADF Approach Guides


- Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) Approach Guide

The GPS approach will allow you to fly towards an airport or runway using the autopilot with NAV engaged and the NAV/GPS switch set to GPS. The tracking is only lateral so descent will have to be controlled by the pilot. Again, autopilot should be disconnected by 200ft AGL.

1) Open up the GPS.

2) Click the button on the right hand side at the top with "--->" on.

3) Click the right arrow on the inner knob on the bottom right hand side of the GPS once and enter the 4 digit ICAO code for the airport. For example, London Heathrow = EGLL.

4) Click "ENT" on the right hand side and then use the right arrow on the outer knob until the cursor reaches "Activate" and then click "ENT" again.

5) Now click "PROC" at the bottom of the GPS.

6) Click "ENT" when the cursor is over "Select Approach". Choose the approach you would like by moving the cursor by clicking the left or right arrow on the outer knob. For example, ILS 29L.

7) Click "ENT" and pick the waypoint from which you would like the approach to your selected runway to start from. If you would like it to start in a straight line from the runway about 15nm's out, select Vectors (Recommended).

8) Click "ENT". Click on the right outer arrow so cursor is on "Activate" and click "ENT".

9) Your flight plan will then appear. Click "PROC" twice and the approach will be set up.

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Last edited by 99jolegg on Mon Dec 11, 2006 7:37 pm, edited 7 times in total
Pro Member Chief Captain
RadarMan Chief Captain

I must applaud Clap the excellent job of gathering the information and the easy to read layout (with links) that 99jolegg did for us.
I know that it will be shown to posters that have any questions about "approaches" and related subjects.
Thank you Chief Captain!


Pro Member Chief Captain
Agus0404 Chief Captain

Wonderful work, Jon Exclamation This should be a Sticky so everyone with problems can read this link and solve their problems.

Clap I also thank you for this great job!

crosscheck9 Guest

Very Well put together. Amazing work. Thank you very muh. Laughing

Pro Member Captain
Jared Captain

Excellent job Jon. Now maybe when people have problems with their approaches, they will see this first.

Pro Member First Officer
verygom First Officer

Wonderful - the more I look the more I learn Very Happy
My "flying manual" gets thicker every time I enter the forums Very Happy

Pro Member First Officer
Michael_H First Officer

Very nice work Jolegg, thank you for posting that... Clapping

gazpode_l Guest

excellent! Very Happy I've wondered for ages what tha procedure thingie does on the gps sat nav system! Will give it "a bash" later Wink



Pro Member Chief Captain
SteveT Chief Captain

Amazing! I like a guy who puts alot of effort to put together a series of instructions for all of us here at Flyaway. I think that I speak on be-half the entire Flyaway community that this is a really thought - through and detailed piece of writing that should all help us with our approaches. - otherwise we'll crash and burn!! Thumbs Up!

Pro Member Chief Captain
SteveT Chief Captain

Yr da best radarman!

Pro Member Chief Captain
RadarMan Chief Captain

SteveT wrote:

Yr da best radarman!

Thank you but 99jolegg (Jon) wrote that very concise tutorial for our members, I had nothing to do with it.


Pro Member Chief Captain
Agus0404 Chief Captain

Actually, he wrote this post, but didn't write all this by himself.

The first guide is mine. The second one is FEM's guide, and the third one is his guide.

Pro Member Chief Captain
Fire_Emblem_Master Chief Captain

Yes...I suppose it was too difficult to ask for permission from Agus to use the guide, being that he went to me for permission to use my guide in his own guide, but hey, you gotta get popular any way you can right?

Pro Member Chief Captain
Agus0404 Chief Captain

but hey, you gotta get popular any way you can right?

Of course!! That's the point Laughing



I am here to ask some help. I am trying to learn more about flying and have been using the training in FS 2004, although he is not very patient! I try to follow his instructions, but, I gues maybe I over correct over and over and fail.

Anyway, I have used the GPS to fly the approach a few times but, it just "flies the approach" and then keeps flying! What I would like to see is an "auto land" if that is possible. I have read here about letting the GPS fly the legs and then switching to NAV mode from GPS, but, I seem to be missing something here.

What I have been doing is to take off from KCPS, climb to about 3000 to 3500 feet, and fly for several minutes. I try to make turns that will take me to around 20 miles out or so. Then, I go to the GPS, pull up KSTL, and then choose an approach such as ILS 30R, and then under Activate approach, I choose the point MOODS. At this point, I also program NAV 1 radio with the ILS frequency of the runway I have decided to land on. The other choice is Vectors, but, I don't really know what that does. I am doing this approach w/o ATC just to give myself one less thing less to worry about.

I seem to keep failing during the flying of the approach. What I just tried caused me to fly very low once lined up with the runway, so that the VASI was all red. I then turned off the autopilot, took over, and tried to keep the VASI red over white until I reached the runway threshold. Once I was lined up with the runway, I reached down on the panel and changed it from GPS to NAV. This is when I dropped too low. Am I switching the panel switch at the wrong time?

The aircraft I have been using for this practice is the Beechcraft Baron 58. Any help to get this plane to land itself is greatly appreciated. From what I have read here is that the autopilot should fly the approach and then lock onto the localizer and fly the glideslope down to the runway. Am I right about this, or totally off base?

Thanks in advance!

Pro Member Trainee
glen4cindy Trainee

The above post is mine, guess I forgot to login! Sorry!

Pro Member Chief Captain
99jolegg Chief Captain

It sounds as though you have set up the GPS with no problem, but you haven't set up the AP correctly.

1)The GPS/NAV switch must be set to NAV, otherwise the AP won't work.

2) Secondly, make sure you don't engage the APP button too early. Wait until you have the morse code identifier and clearence to land from ATC, (roughly 10nm out).

3) The APP isn't an autoland feature. At around 1000 feet AGL, you need to disengage the autopilot.

I don't think you have the autopilot set up properly, so it isn't capturing the glideslope. Make sure you follow the guides at the top of this post. Let us know how you get on Wink

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Pro Member Trainee
glen4cindy Trainee

This is really strange.

Right after I posted that question, I went and tried this again. That time, I took off from KCPS and engaged the autopilot, and flew heading 120 for like 5 minutes, then I turned away from downtown St. Louis and flew that for awhile, then, I programmed the GPS to fly to KSTL and right away, I hit the PROC button, selected ILS 30R, put the ILS freq into NAV 1, and as soon as I crossed the Mississippi River, I chose APP on the autopilot, and it took me all the way to the runway threshold. As of right now, I am not using ATC. I am just choosing a nearby airport, taking off from whatever direction I feel like, and then flying far enough away from where I want to go to allow the AP/GPS fly to and enter the approach procedure for me. I know this really isn't the best way to do it, but, I want to get this down first. Also, I have tried using ATC, but, unless I am in an IFR flight plan, ATC tells me things like enter the downwind pattern, resume own navation, etc., so that is why I have left them out of these things! Smile

I tried to repeat this 3 more times for 3 different runways, 12L, 30L, and 24. All three times, the airplane flew the entire approach, but, never captured the glideslope as it did for 30R above. It just kept flying above the airport from the last waypoint in the approach procedure and continued right over top of the runway! Why it took me all the way to the runway threshold the first time, I am not sure. It seemed to fly down to the ground perfectly according to the VASI.

I was flying the Beechcraft Baron 58 for these attempts, BTW. Thanks again for the help, I am going to try this again!


99jolegg wrote:

It sounds as though you have set up the GPS with no problem, but you haven't set up the AP correctly.

1)The GPS/NAV switch must be set to NAV, otherwise the AP won't work.

Let me make sure of one thing. When you speak of GPS/NAV switch, you are talking about the AP? In the AC that I have been flying, there are these buttons: AP FD HDG ALT NAV B/C APPR YD.

I have been using the GPS to program the approach i.e. ILS30R for KSTL with the NAV button selected. The only place there is a GPS/NAV switch is on the HSI. If I flip this to NAV while the AP is flying the approach, the AC turns away from the proper course.

I have been waiting until I have the runway in sight, then selecting the APPR button on the AP, slowing to about 140 (Beechcraft Baron 5Cool, dropping the gear, and then I flip the GPS/NAV on the HSI to NAV. At that point, the AP seems to lock on the GS and the ALT begins to drop down to MSL at which point during 2 attempts, I have been at the runway threshold.

This last time I attempted this, the AC did not seem to capture the GS properly, because I was dropping altitude too soon, even the VASI was red over red, and I had to pull up to keep from dropping too soon.

Now, if I could get popular warnings like: TOO LOW TERRAIN, TOO LOW GEAR, GLIDESLOPE etc! Smile

Pro Member Chief Captain
99jolegg Chief Captain

I am referring to the NAV/GPS toggle switch. It just toggles between the two. This has to be on NAV before you engage the APP button. Make sure you have the identifier and that on the GPS, you are around 10nm away. Switching to NAV, should show you the glideslope on the HSI, so you know you have caught it. Then engage the APP button. That should work fine. I think the problem your having is 1) You don't have it on NAV before you engage APP and 2) You are engaging APP too early.

Let us know how you get on Wink

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Pro Member Chief Captain
99jolegg Chief Captain

Sorry, one more thing. It could be that you are going too fast (probably unlikely in a Baron) or it could be that you are not on the glideslope first. You should try and centre both axis' before you engage APP. This is because, the AP doesn't do a good job when it comes to flying you towards the glideslopel; it tends to overcompensate a lot. Once you are 10nm out, centered on both axis', have all the NAV correctly set up, have NAV/GPS on NAV and then engaged the APP, there is no reason why it shouldn't work.

Hope it all works Wink

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Don Wood Guest

Glen4cindy wrote: "I have tried using ATC, but, unless I am in an IFR flight plan, ATC tells me things like enter the downwind pattern, resume own navation, etc..."

That is how it works in the real world also. The only times ATC gives VFR pilots precise instructions about turns are:

1. On departure, long enough to get clear of the immediate airspace around the airport and then usually only in general terms.
2. On arrival when it is necessary to vector you to fit into traffic flow. Even on arrival, it is usually a general instruction like "Enter left downwind for Rwy 23". ATC will also provide vectors to set up for the final approach course when requested by the pilot, workload permitting.
3. For traffic conflict avoidance. Sometimes such instructions will be a vector but usually they are a general instruction for a turn, climb, or descent.

One of the drawbacks in FS9 is the inability of the "pilot" to communicate with ATC in other than programmed ways so the ability to request vectors and so forth does not exist in this sim world.


Yeah..One thing that will revolutionize MSFS in the rather distant future is when you can have realistic artificial voices, so you don't have to record hours of playback, allowing for hundreds of more ATC interactions, since you won't have to spend precious time and money recording the voices.

Corgi Guest

May I congratulate 99jolegg for the time and effort he put into his approach guide. I'ts great to have people like him around.

Well done 99jolegg. Very Happy


Thanks for the guide, was very helpful. My question is......

1) on the 747 i think ive got most of it right. But where ive circled with a yellow box, if i read correctly in the first post, you are supposed to enter the heading of the ILS somewhere, so the purple lines will show going straight up, not angled as i have there?

2) Also the 2 purple dots that are on the outside of the center line, right now theyre lined up so they sit directly in the middle of the 4 white dots. Do they ever move to the side, so they dont sit directly in the middle of the 4 white dots, and if so why?

3) After ive caught the heading properly on autopilot, and your under the glideslope, hitting the Approach button does nothing. Is this normal or do you have to be above the glideslope?

Sorry for the noob questions, im just trying to learn the ILS approach properly, without having to let autopilot take over, or using the red boxes.


One more question...

4) If i understand correctly ILS glideslopes at different airports work on different angles. Is there a way to find out, say for example at such and such an airport what height i should be 20nm out to intercept the center of the glideslope with ILS, or is there a rule of thumb at what height you should be?

Pro Member Chief Captain
99jolegg Chief Captain


1) You should change the course number, to that of the runway heading, which means that if you are in line with the runway, the purple lines will face straight ahead. The heading of the runway can be found on the FS Map.

2) If you have the course set to the runway heading, then those two purple areas at the end of the middle line, will face forward and never move. This is just to show you when the middle line is perfectly centered, because it will line up with the two purple dots above and beneath the line. Without them, it would be harder to see when you are exactly centered. So, no they never move.

3) You must always be under the glideslope when establishing, as you are doing so at the moment. Make sure you have the course heading entered into the appropriate course section of the AP, make sure you have the NAV/GPS switch to NAV and make sure you aren't going too fast, i.e. should be around 170-180 at that stage.

4) I'm pretty sure that you can't find out your exact height at a certain distance easily. But, as a rule of thumb, most ILS glideslopes are at a 3 degree angle (I think) so if thats any use.... However, some airports such as EGLC (London City Airport) have a lot higher glideslope angles because you have to avoid big buildings such as Canary Wharf

Hope that helps Wink

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Cheers that helps.

1) You should change the course number, to that of the runway heading, which means that if you are in line with the runway, the purple lines will face straight ahead. The heading of the runway can be found on the FS Map.

But where do i put the course number, as in, where do i enter it in?

Thanks a heap for your help

Pro Member Chief Captain
99jolegg Chief Captain

Well it depends what aircraft you are flying and what panel you are using. In the default 747 panel, you should be able to change it on the Autopilot panel. There should be a selector with a 3 digit number in, with CRS or Course written next to it. You can change that to the runway heading. If not, it could be that you have to change it on the HSI, (the thing in your picture). In the top right hand corner of you little display, is says CRS 340. Hover your cursor over it and see if you can change it that way. Its set at default north, but should be runway heading.

Hope it goes well Wink

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Pro Member Trainee
YellowC4S Trainee

Thank You Jon!

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