Flying an Instrument Approach to Touchdown Becomes Possible Next Spring

New EFVS rule will also offer operators improved takeoff capabilities.

Enhanced Flight Vision System
Pilots will soon be able to fly an instrument approach to touchdown using EFVS, which can be shown on a head-up display like the one pictured.Rockwell Collins

The FAA plans to update aviation’s general flight rules section — Part 91.176 — with new performance-based guidelines aimed at improving flexibility for operators of aircraft equipped with an Enhanced Flight Vision System (EFVS). The rule, effective March 13, 2017, will allow aircraft on an IFR flight plan in most categories to fly a straight-in approach all the way to touchdown, provided the aircraft is properly equipped and the crew trained to EFVS standards. The FAA said the new certification provides a level of safety to flight operations equivalent to what pilots currently experience. Currently, the lowest instrument approach minimums allow for a final descent to the surface from 100 feet AGL if the pilot can visually capture some aspect of the runway or the landing environment with their own eyes.

Operators eligible to use the new rule, such as some Part 121, 125 or 135 departments, should also see added benefits because their EFVS-equipped aircraft can be dispatched for takeoff in weather conditions as low as 600-foot visibility. The FAA plans to update Part 91 language to reflect EFVS changes related to Category II and Category II landings. The rule also details pilot training standards and recent flight experience requirements for EFVS operations.

The EFVS uses an infrared camera installed in the nose of the aircraft to offer images to the pilot considered to be of better quality than what the human eye might encounter in low clouds and poor visibility conditions. The image can then be delivered either to a head-up display (HUD), or another video screen mounted on the instrument panel.