I-7 Rating



Pilot will fly IFR from KSNA to KAVX and shoot the VOR/DME-B approach from SXC

Learning objectives

  • understand how to fly a full VOR approach using many of the skills that were learned in the previous rating
  • understand how to perform an approach which only contains circling minimums
  • understand the need to manually cancel IFR prior to or upon conclusion of the flight when using a non-towered destination

Flying the Rating

To successfully complete this rating you must accomplish the following tasks:

  • Inform ATC on initial contact at KSNA that you are performing the I-7 Rating
  • Copy and read back the IFR clearance to KAVX
  • Conduct IFR flight from KSNA to KAVX, requesting the full VOR/DME-B approach from SXC.
  • Swap to the published CTAF when released from Socal approach and make appropriate announcemnts for the arrival at KAVX.
  • Remain within 3nm of the airport or less while on the circling portion of the approach (even if IFR has been cancelled prior to this point).
  • Cancel IFR in the air or on the ground, but no earlier than the final approach fix
  • Meet the I Ratings Practical Test Standards

Rating Description

Pilot will fly IFR from KSNA to KAVX and shoot the VOR/DME-B approach from the Santa Catalina (SXC) VOR, filing SLI V21 SXC (for piston and turboprop aircraft) or SXC (for jet aircraft) for the route and an appropriate altitude for their flight.

Flying a Full Non-Precision Approach with Circling

Many pilots will go through their entire online flying careers utilizing only ILS approaches, or the occasional visual approach. Visiting smaller, and considerably more interesting airports, however, can leave the pilot with no choice other than a series of non-precision approaches. This article explains how to fly a non-precision approach, and how it differs from a more common precision approach.

We’ll use the Avalon VOR/DME-B approach as an example. Consider printing the chart, or opening it in another window so you can follow along.

This assumes you are already familiar with the concept of a feeder route that was introduced in the previous rating.

VOR/DME-B? Which runway would that be?

Approaches are often aligned with specific runways at airports, allowing for ‘straight in’ minimums to be published. In such cases, the descent gradient to the field will be very reasonable, and the final approach course will be aligned within 30 degrees of the runway for which the approach was designed. If EITHER of those two conditions are not met, the approach will NOT have a specfic runway designated in the name, but will instead have a letter, such as A, B, C, etc.

In our case, the VOR/DME-B approach into Avalon is either not aligned with a specific runway, or requires too step a descent to be considered a straight in approach. For this reason, there are no straight-in minimums published for the approach, only CIRCLING minimums. Prior to reaching the missed approach, we will either have the runway environment in sight, or we must execute a missed approach. If the field is in sight, we can descend below the circling minimums, and maneuver (circle) to land on the runway of our choice.

About face! Flying the procedure turn

The previous rating covered a hold in lieu of procedure turn (HILPT). The VOR/DME-B chart doesn’t depict a hold for the course reversal at the IAF (RIGLI). Instead, a procedure turn is used. This provides substantially more flexibility for the pilot.

Outbound from RIGLI (heading north) the chart calls for a course reversal to the left. It’s actually legal for the pilot to make the course reversal in any manner he chooses, so long as it is done within 10nm of RIGLI. The amount of space guaranteed to provide terrain separation is slightly higher if the course reversal is performed on the side depicted by the chart, however, so it’s always good practice to fly it as shown.

So, how to fly the procedure turn? Any time after RIGLI, make a left 45 degree turn and proceed outbound for 60 seconds. Make a right 180 degree turn and join the final approach course inbound. That’s it!

With that in mind, let’s fly the approach.

Flying the approach from SXC

Note: The procedure has since been updated to use 3400ft, rather than 3200ft for the Feeder and Initial segments, and 2300 instead of 2100 for the Final segment, but is otherwise identical.

SXC is a feeder for this approach. Assuming we’re on a random route, arriving at AVX from the east and are told the following, “Cross SXC at or above 4000, cleared approach. Report RIGLI, inbound”

The first task is to depart SXC hdg 352 and join the SXC R-352 outbound, descending to 3200. The controller might have vectored you south and east of SXC prior to sending you direct SXC, making the the task of intercepting the radial fairly straight forward. Or, you might be arriving via V21, or on a random route after being given direct SXC shortly after talking to Socal, in which case you’ll be arriving from the northeast with a lot of maneuvering to do to join the radial. Either way, start the turn just prior to SXC to join the radial outbound, do not initiate a course reversal using a procedure turn.

Passing SXC 5 DME (RIGLI), we excecute our procedure turn, turning left to heading 307 for 60 seconds. During that outbound leg, set the NAV OBS to the inbound course of 172. After 60 seconds on the 307 hdg, turn right to heading 127 and join the final approach course as the CDI (the needle) on the NAV radio begins to center. Make a right turn to join the final approach course. Once established on the radial inbound, start the descent to 2100ft.

Reaching RIGLI, report the position to ATC as instructed. ATC will likely release you to the advisory frequency, so you can announce your position on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF), to sequence yourself with VFR traffic that may be at the field. Remain at 2100ft until reaching the missed approach point (SXC 2.8 DME), or until the field is in sight, whichever happens first.

Unlike a precision approach, which provides vertical guidance and an altitude at which a missed approach must be declared (the decision height), non-precision approaches have a minimum descent altitude. This is an altitude which is maintained until reaching the missed approach point, which is either identified using DME, GPS, or by flying for a precise amount of time from the final approach fix. Most ILS (precision) approaches, can also be flown as a non-precision, localizer approach, using different minimums and with a published minimum descent altitude rather than a decision height. In fact, while flying a precision approach, if the glideslope is not received, or fails during the approach, it is legal to fallback to a non-precision approach, unless specifically prohibited by the notes in the approach.

Back to our approach, assuming we do have the field in sight, we circle to land on the runway of our choice. If the weather is VFR, then we would make an effort to enter the pattern in a fashion that is compatible with other VFR traffic in the area. Options include entering on a right base for runway 22, or maneuvering west of the field to enter a downwind for runway 22. If the wind conditions are not known, it is possible to cross overhead the field above pattern altitude and then maneuver for the appropriate pattern entry. If the weather is below VFR minimums, then by definition, there shouldn’t be any traffic in the pattern and you can maneuver as needed to become aligned with the runway of your choice.

Canceling IFR

Once you’ve landed safely on the ground, don’t forget to contact ATC to cancel IFR. That way, they can allow other IFR traffic in or out of the field. Until you cancel, ATC will not allow any other IFR traffic in or out of that non-towered airport. If the weather is good, it’s considered to be courteous to cancel IFR prior to being changed to the advisory frequency by ATC, that way he won’t have to ‘shut down’ the airspace while awaiting your cancellation. When landing at a towered field, ATC manages your IFR cancellation automatically. So, if you hear “cleared to land”, you don’t need to cancel IFR after you’re on the ground.


N132KT: John Wayne Clearance, Meridian 132KT, IFR to Avalon with Alpha.

SNA_DEL: Piper 132KT, John Wayne Clearance, good morning, cleared to the Catalina airport, fly heading 175, expect radar vectors SLI then as filed, maintain 4000, departure frequency 128.10, squawk 1314.

N132KT: Piper 2KT cleared to Catalina, heading 175, vectors SLI, V21, SXC direct. Maintain 4000, 128.10 and squawk 1314

SNA_DEL: Piper 2KT, readback correct.

Call ground when we’re ready for taxi.

N132KT: Ground, Piper 132KT, east ramp, taxi with Alpha.

SNA_GND: Piper 132KT, John Wayne Ground, runway 20L at Kilo taxi via Alpha, Hotel and Charlie.

N132KT: 20L at Kilo taxi via Alpha, Hotel and Charlie, Piper 2KT.

Reaching the runway, we contact the tower.

N132KT: John Wayne Tower, Piper 132KT, 20L at Kilo, ready for IFR departure.

SNA_TWR: Piper 2KT, John Wayne Tower, wind 200 at 9, rwy 20L cleared for takeoff.

N132KT: runway 20L at Kilo, cleared for takeoff, Piper 2KT.

SNA_TWR: Piper 2KT, contact Socal departure, good flight.

N132KT: so long, Pipe 2KT

Swap to 128.10…

N132KT: Socal Departure, Piper 132KT 900 climbing 4000

SNA_DEP: Piper 2KT, Socal Departure, radar contact, John Wayne altimeter 29.95. Reaching 2000 turn right heading 230, join V21, then resume own navigation

N132KT: At 2000, heading 230 to join the airway, N2KT

SNA_DEP: Piper 2KT, Catalina reporting wind 230 at 15, ceiling 2200 overcast, temperature 10, dewpoint 8, altimeter 29.87, say approach request

N132KT: N2KT, VOR/DME Bravo full approach from SXC

SNA_DEP: Piper 2KT, expect that

As we approach SXC, we get the clearance.

SNA_DEP: Piper 2KT, cross SXC at or above 3600, cleared approach, report RIGLI, inbound

N132KT: cleared approach, we’ll report RIGLI, inbound, Piper 2KT.

We fly the approach and report when we reach RIGLI after the procedure turn.
N132KT: 2KT is RIGLI, inbound, looks like the weather is clearing up, cancel IFR

SNA_DEP: cancellation received, squawk VFR, freq change approved

N132KT: 2KT, g’day

Swap to the CTAF (122.70)

N132KT: Catalina Traffic, Meridian 132KT, 7 northwest at 2000, planning a right downwind runway 22, Catalina.

We widen out to the west, continue the descent, then make a left turn to enter RIGHT traffic (as published) for runway 22, Catalina

N132KT: Catalina Traffic, Meridian 132KT, entering right downwind on the 45 for runway 22.

Then turning base…

N132KT: Catalina Traffic, Meridian 132KT, turning right base for runway 22, Catalina.

Then turning final…

N132KT: Catalina Traffic, Meridian 132KT, turning final runway 22, Catalina.

Then once clear of the runway…

N132KT: Catalina Traffic, Meridian 132KT clear of runway 22, Catalina."

Transcript Alternate Ending

Alternatively, had the field NOT not been in VFR conditions, we would NOT have canceled IFR and instead it might instead have gone like this….

Socal: “Piper 2KT, report cancellation of IFR on this frequency, radar services terminated, change to advisory frequency is approved.”

N132KT: “Wilco, N2KT.”

Swap to 122.70….

N132KT: “Catalina Traffic, Meridian 132KT, 10 NW, will be circling west for runway 22, Catalina.”

If the field is below VFR minimums, there isn’t going to be VFR traffic at the field. If you’re able to descend in time, you can drop in on the right base for runway 22.

N132KT: “Catalina Traffic, Meridian 132KT, entering right base runway 22, Catalina.”

Make the final call and clear of runway calls as before, then call Socal on the previous frequency.

N132KT: “Socal Approach, N132KT cancel IFR.”

Socal: “N132KT, Socal Approach, cancellation received. Good day.”

Required Materials

  • KSNA airport diagram
  • low enroute chart depicting SLI V21 SXC
  • approach plates for KAVX

Related Materials

PilotEdge Workshop: Instrument Approaches Part 2
Workshop describing non-precision approaches

PilotEdge Workshop: Instrument Approaches Part 4
Workshop describing circling approaches

ASF Presentation on Non-Towered Operations

A Practical Guide to Circling Approaches