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10 Of The Worst Mistakes You Can Make On An Instrument Approach

Instrument approach procedures are meant to keep you safe in the clouds, but if you make a mistake, you're opening yourself up to risk...

1) Choosing the wrong approach minimums.

You quickly look down at your approach plate and choose the wrong minimums. If you're flying a non-precision approach and descend to the minimums for a precision approach, you're no longer guaranteed terrain avoidance.


2) Not adjusting approach minimums for inoperative equipment.

Identifying approach lighting will help you get on the ground.

3) Failing to identify a navaid.

How else would you know if the needle you're following is indicating correctly?

4) Forgetting to check the current weather.

Incorrect altimeter settings can cause deadly altitude deviations.


5) Flying an un-configured approach.

It's a great way to forget necessary flap, mixture, and gear positions as you break out of the clouds.


6) Reconfiguring late in the approach.

It could destabilize your descent so much that you risk getting a full-scale deflection of the CDI or glideslope.


7) Losing awareness of your location.

If you forget where you are along an approach, you could miss a step-down fix or descend too early.


8) Getting an off-scale deflection and staying there.

It's time to go missed and start the approach again if your CDI goes full scale. You no longer have a guaranteed safe path to the runway.


9) Forgetting radio calls for VFR traffic.

Don't forget other airplanes might be in the pattern at non-towered airports. Make sure you're talking to them.


10) Descending below MDA or DA/DH.

If you don't have the required items in FAR 91.175 to descend below MDA or DA/DH, you can't keep descending. Dozens of accidents occur each year when pilots don't go missed when they should.

Have you ever had an instrument approach go wrong? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He holds multi-engine and instrument ratings, and is an aviation student at the University of North Dakota. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures at

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