What you are saying is that you can begin the approach at some other point OTHER than an IAF, correct? ERIES is not an IAF and there are no IAFs after ERIES; both approach clearances are flawed and the second one is illegal and potentially dangerous. See the FAA Legal Counsel interpretation copied below that addresses this very issue.
The approach must start at either of the two radial IAFs or at BZM (not before and not after). If the approach clearance were direct to BZM (an IAF), there’s absolutely no reason to intercept any arc. That would be a straight in approach using the 121Â° radial. In fact, if you select BZM on the Garmin and activate the approach, you would not be shown the arc on the approach. The next waypoint would be ERIES, not D055G or D203G. Besides the point I make above, the first clearance you mentioned is bad because you are being told to go direct to BZM and intercept the arc. Since this is not a published transition, how do you comply with the minimum altitudes for IFR operations? As a result, you would have to comply with FAR 91.177. They told you to maintain 4000, but you are not being radar vectored to the arc, you are under your own navigation. As a result, ATC is NOT maintaining terrain separation for you since you are not being radar vectored and you have absolutely no way to know what the minimum altitudes are in this area. That’s dangerous. In fact, the MSA is 5700 ft (which is an emergency only altitude and should never be used in this situation, but does drive home the fact that there are obstacle alligators out there to get you).
The second clearance is flawed and just as dangerous because you must always start the approach at the IAF (D055G or D203G). Instead, ATC should have given you radar vectors to either one of these points and cleared you to intercept the arc at the 055 or 203 radial. In fact, in order to be established on the arc you must be within 1 DME of the arc at this point (it may take you a couple of degrees on the radial to get established).
If you are getting a clearance that it is okay to intercept the arc after these points over and over, I’d speak to a supervisor at the center and let them know that this is incorrect.
Regardless of their willingness to correct their mistake, I’d file an ASRS form and also make that statement.
Remember that controllers are NOT instrument approach experts. Their job is simply to clear you to an IAF (maybe via a transition) or vector you to final (in a radar environment). When they clear you for the approach, essentially they are saying that the airspace is at your sole use and there are no other IFR aircraft to interfere. They DO make mistakes and will continue to issue the same bad clearances over and over if not told otherwise. Unfortuately, there are pilots that die because of these mistakes.
AIM 5-4-7 (e) -
Except when being radar vectored to the final approach course, when cleared for a specifically prescribed IAP; i.e., “cleared ILS runway one niner approach” or when “cleared approach” i.e., execution of any procedure prescribed for the airport, pilots shall execute the entire procedure commencing at an IAF or an associated feeder route as described on the IAP Chart unless an appropriate new or revised ATC clearance is received, or the IFR flight plan is canceled.
AIM 5-4-7(b) -
b. When operating on an unpublished route or while being radar vectored, the pilot, when an approach clearance is received, shall, in addition to complying with the minimum altitudes for IFR operations (14 CFR Section 91.177), maintain the last assigned altitude unless a different altitude is assigned by ATC, or until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or IAP. After the aircraft is so established, published altitudes apply to descent within each succeeding route or approach segment unless a different altitude is assigned by ATC. Notwithstanding this pilot responsibility, for aircraft operating on unpublished routes or while being radar vectored, ATC will, except when conducting a radar approach, issue an IFR approach clearance only after the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or IAP, or assign an altitude to maintain until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or instrument approach procedure.
Nov. 28, 1994
Mr. Tom Young, Chairman
Charting and Instrument Procedures Committee
Air Line Pilots Association
535 Herndon Parkway
Herndon, VA 22070
Dear Mr. Young
This is a clarification of our response to your letter of August 23, 1993. In that letter you requested an interpretation of Section 91.175 of the Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) (14 CFR Section 91.175). You address the necessity of executing a complete Standard Instrument Approach Procedure (SIAP) in a non-radar environment while operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). Our response assumes that each of the specific scenarios you pose speaks to a flight conducted under IFR in a non-radar environment.
Section 91.175(a) provides that unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, when an instrument letdown to a civil airport is necessary, each person operating an aircraft, except a military aircraft of the United States, shall use a standard instrument approach procedure prescribed for the airport in Part 97.
First you ask whether an arriving aircraft must begin the SIAP at a published Initial Approach Fix (IAF). A pilot must begin a SIAP at the IAF as defined in Part 97. Descent gradients, communication, and obstruction clearance, as set forth in the U.S. Standard for Terminal Instrument Approach Procedures (TERPs), cannot be assured if the entire procedure is not flown.
You also ask whether a Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) arc initial approach segment can be substituted for a published IAF along any portion of the published arc. A DME arc cannot be substituted for a published IAF along a portion of the published arc. If a feeder route to an IAF is part of the published approach procedure, it is considered a mandatory part of the approach.
Finally, you ask whether a course reversal segment is optional “when one of the conditions of FAR section 91.175(j) is not present.” Section 91.175(j) states that in the case of a radar vector to a final approach course or fix, a timed approach from a holding fix, or an approach for which the procedures specifies “no procedure turn,” no pilot may make a procedure turn unless cleared to do so by ATC.
Section 97.3§ defines a procedure turn, in part, as a maneuver prescribed when it is necessary to reverse direction to establish the aircraft on a intermediate or final approach course. A SIAP may or may not prescribe a procedure turn based on the application of certain criteria contained in the TERPs. However, if a SIAP does contain a procedure turn and ATC has cleared a pilot to execute the SIAP, the pilot must make the procedure turn when one of the conditions of Section 91.175(j) is not present.
If you have any questions regarding this matter, please contact Patricia R. Lane, Manager, Airspace and Air Traffic Law Branch, at (202) 267-3491.
Patricia R. Lane
for Donald P. Byrne
Assistant Chief Counsel