Any Pilot Can Fly an ASR Approach
May 1, 2018
Have you ever flown an ASR approach? Have you ever even heard of it? Most pilots haven't, and that's a shame because it could save your life. ASR is a Surveillance Approach that is offered by an air traffic controller utilizing a terminal radar (meaning you can only get it from an approach control and not a center controller). The controller is using the radar to talk you through the non-precision approach.
When might you use this? Well, in an emergency is the most common time. This type of approach can be used no gyro as well.
If you are a VFR pilot that gets stuck in IMC or if you are an instrument pilot that may be having equipment problems, and ASR approach could be just what you need. Call ATC and tell them your situation and ask for an ASR approach. The controller will then give you specific headings to fly and minimum altitudes to descend to as you work your way towards the airport. The controller keeps you informed as to your position and continually vectors you as close to the runway centerline as they can.
By now you may be wondering if or how you can practice these? I do recommend people practice them, as you don't want the first time you try a new approach to be under emergency conditions. Practice ASRs are limited by controller staffing, as you basically get your own personal controller for the approach.
Approach controllers must log so many ASR approaches given to keep their currency and often end up having to do that in the simulator. The controllers I've talked to about this all liked when people came to practice because it kept them current as well.
You can practice these either regularly or with no gyro vectors. No gyro vectors means you will be told when and in which direction to turn and when to stop. The verbiage will be something like "N12345, this will be a no gyro vector, turn left." You would initiate a standard rate turn left (half standard rate on final approach). "N12345, stop turn" would mean you then level the wings.
I typically go to either Rochester (KRST) or Duluth (KDLH) to practice these and consider it part of my annual recurrent training. Bring a safety pilot or instructor with you and log some hood time as you follow the controllers instructions.
Do a couple trips around the pattern and ask to see the light gun on one of them so you know what that's supposed to look like as well. That sounds like a fun and educational flight to me!