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5 Ways To Join Final On An Instrument Approach

Here are the most common ways you'll join final on an instrument approach.

1) Radar Vectors

The most common way to join an instrument approach is by radar vectors. ATC will direct you to the final approach course with a series of headings, before issuing you an intercept heading and approach clearance.


2) Present Position Direct

ATC can clear you direct to a fix along an RNAV approach. Once established inbound, you can continue on the final approach course.


3) Procedure Turns

When you read an instrument approach chart, you'll often find a published procedure turn. It's a course reversal to help you line yourself up on the final approach course of an instrument approach. These procedure turns are flown in the direction indicated by the graphically depicted barbed arrow.

4) Arcs

With the arc, you don't need to worry about combining turns and descents like a procedure turn. Things also happen at a slower pace on the arc, because in almost all cases, you're covering more distance on the arc than you are in the procedure turn. That means you have more time to fly the plane and prepare for your next turn and course intercept.

5) STAR To Approach

In Cleveland, for example, the TRYBE TWO RNAV STAR spits you out at a fix called BUDRW. This also happens to be an initial approach fix on the Runway 24R ILS and RNAV approach. In this case, the STAR and transition route align you with the final approach course.

What else? Tell us about an interesting instrument approach in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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