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Sometimes air traffic controllers at airport tower or radar approach control unit have confused what aircraft approach category must be applied for an aircraft under instrument approach procedures flying.
As you know, the circling approach minimums are specified for various aircraft approach categories based upon a value 1.3 times the stalling speed of the aircraft in the landing configuration at maximum certified gross landing weight. In 14 CFR Section 97.3(b) categories are listed as follows:
Category A: Speed less than 91 knots;
Category B: Speed 91 knots or more but less than 121 knots;
Category C: Speed 121 knots or more but less than 141 knots;
Category D: Speed 141 knots or more but less than 166 knots; and
Category E: Speed 166 knots or more.
Aircraft approach categories are also discussed in the U.S. Terminal Procedures (commonly called approach plates), which states, among other things, that "An aircraft shall fit in only one category. If it is necessary to maneuver at speeds in excess of the upper limit of a speed range for a category, the minimums for the next higher category should be used." If it is necessary, while circling-to-land, to maneuver at speeds in excess of the upper limit of the speed range for each category, due to the possibility of extending the circling maneuver beyond the area for which obstruction clearance is provided, the circling minimum for the next higher approach category should be used. For example, an aircraft which falls in Category C, but is circling to land at a speed of 141 knots or higher should use the approach category "D" minimum when circling to land.
Who and how decide the aircraft approach category during the flight, the captain pilot of the aircraft or the air traffic controller at airport tower/approach control unit controlling the aircraft?
The pilot in command is responsible. Most controllers are well aware of the capabilities of the aircraft they are working, but most are not pilots or, if they are, are not rated in the aircraft they are controlling. Thus, they may not be aware of the aircraft's requirements for safe flight. If there is any confusion, the PIC must take the safest course in flying the airplane, while communicating the necessary information to ATC.
Hope this helps.
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