• How To Fly An ILS--A Progressive Tutorial

    For The New "Heavy Iron" Pilot:
    How To Intercept, Capture And Fly An ILS Approach - A Progressive Tutorial

    By Ron Blehm (21 May 2004)

    After successfully flying our Flight Of The Month from Salina Chan, "Queen of the Heavies" (www.toomuchfs.com) I decided that maybe some of you would benefit from a tutorial about capturing and flying an ILS approach - better late than never, right?

    FlightSim.Com has featured writings on this topic in the past but you might find this approach a bit easier to get your head around. My goal here is to get you flying successfully, I'm not trying to make commercial pilots out of you and we are NOT necessarily following any documented or "proper" procedures - the hard core simmers can tune out now.

    First of all some basics I used to get things going:

    1. You'll need to have a basic understanding of using VORs and NDBs to navigate the world. Try this link for some good help.
    2. You'll need to know how to set your radio stack to change frequencies.
    3. You'll need to know how to set and program your default (or otherwise) autopilot including NAV versus GPS settings, using HDG, CRS, speed and ALT hold, etc.
    4. You'll need to know how to use at least the default flight planner to get from point A to point B. (We are not covering that here).

    If you are NOT up to speed on all this stuff you are really not ready to try this so you'll need to go do some study and check back with me later. You can also follow this link for some flight help that is a few years old but very, very good.

    Situation 1:

    Install the files from ILS1.ZIP into the following FS folder:
            Program Files > Microsoft Games > FS2002 or FS9 > Flights > Myflts

    Then, fire up your sim, go to FILE > SELECT FLIGHT and choose ILS1. You will start out in a default 737 approaching London's Stansted airport. Everything should be configured to make a gradual intercept of the ILS. Some things to note while you cruise closer:

    • NAV1 is set to the ILS frequency (110.50).
    • CRS setting on H.S.I. and autopilot are aligned with the runway heading (it will pick up the track anywhere but it helps your situational awareness if you align it to the runway) which is 228 degrees.
    • The ADF radio is set to pick up a local NDB (429) but this, again, just helps your situational awareness and isn't as critical to THIS approach.
    • You should be holding 3500 feet.
    • I have not engaged the APProach hold setting on autopilot and my reasoning is, I think, important! Back in FS2K you could (basically) get close to your ILS, hit APP and the plane would fly itself right down onto the runway. Fun to watch but inconsistent and in FS2002 or FS2004 it is much harder (more realistic) to "capture" that ILS beam. Also, just hitting APP and going out for coffee isn't as challenging, it's less pilot-like, so we ain't going to do that!
    • You will need to confirm your flap settings and I have not lowered your landing gear!

    So here's my plan for starting out: You are going to use your HDG, ALT and your IAS settings on the autopilot to control your plane all the way down to the runway. Simple mouse clicks for now, you won't even need your stick/yoke! Then, as you practice and get better you will be encouraged to TURN OFF YOUR AUTOPILOT at earlier and earlier stages of the approach. Soon you should be flying the last 30 miles by hand!

    Back to the flight, if you can find the gauge that shows you your DME to the NAV1 you can watch for the needle on the H.S.I to start centering about 14 miles out (picture right). It is not uncommon for a 30 degree intercept angle which means as that needle starts in you need to make a 30 degree turn to match the runway heading. We'll get to that, but this time, more like 10 degrees. Anyway, as that needle centers you'll need to click the autopilot's HDG setting until you are aligned the same as the CRS setting (which you'll recall matched the runway heading of 228 degrees). If the needle is slightly left you'll need to lower the HDG setting one or two degrees. If the needle is slightly right you'll need to increase your HDG setting, just a couple mouse-clicks.

    While you are here go ahead and drop your airspeed setting to 160 knots, make sure you have about 15-20 degrees of flaps.

    Now, take note of the little arrow or diamond down the side of the H.S.I. (for me was about 11 miles DME) that starts dropping as your flight path crosses (from below) into your glideslope. When that little arrow gets to the middle, set your ALT setting on autopilot to 0000 (picture left). That's right, sea level or at least -200 below airport elevation to be safe. Airport elevation is 348 feet. Then you can adjust your rate of descent, vertical speed to match that little arrow. I usually start at about -700 fpm but that depends on your airspeed. If the arrow gets a notch or two ABOVE you need to decrease your rate of descent, maybe to -400 or 500 fpm. If it drops low (as it will) you'll need to increase rate of descent maybe even to -1000 fpm. Let's see, when I flew this my DME was now 7 miles. Drop IAS (still, you're only working on the autopilot, nothing else at this point) to 150, add more flaps too.

    Okay, your mousing finger is warmed up, you should be 5-7 miles out and all lined up. All you need do now is use your right hand to click IAS (slower), HDG (up or down slightly) and VertSpeed (up or down slightly) to follow the arrows of the ILS. Use your left hand to progressively drop in flaps. I look for landing gear about 7 miles out, full flaps by 4-5 miles out, IAS to about 130-140 by 3-4 miles out. Now comes the hardest part, which is little more than faster mouse clicking (picture right). Make sure at this point that your NumLock key is OFF or your stick/yoke is handy for ground steering. As you get down to the last 500 feet or so above the ground you'll want to decrease your rate of descent and IAS (picture left). I cut IAS to 80-90 knots and try to get rate of descent to -100 fpm (if your autopilot lets you do 50 fpm that's great). This is your flare and as soon as the wheels hit you should pop up the spoilers and disconnect AP and start hitting F2 for reverse thrust. Now that autopilot is disconnected you'll need to use your stick or keypad for ground steering as noted above. It may take you a few runs at this to get your timing down but then again, timing is everything isn't it?

    Situation 2:

    Okay, lets make that a bit tougher. Load up ILS2.ZIP as you did above: This time you are a bit further out on approach to Mumbai, India. While all looks good now I'll tell you that under 4500 feet visibility is limited to 5 miles. Run the approach basically the same way, set IAS to 160, confirm HDG at 085 degrees and lower your ALT to 4000 feet. Add in your flaps and gear at the appropriate times; if you did this link you shouldn't need me to keep telling you this stuff, we're moving on! You will see that I dialed up an NDB (345) which is along your approach path as well as the airport's VOR (NAV2 = 116.60) so try to get your little ADF needle pointing the same way as your CRS or course setting on H.S.I. In other words, fly to the NDB first, then look for your ILS. If you turn to the NDB right away you'll have a sharper angle to intercept the ILS. If you wait until that ADF needle turns a bit and round your corner (picture right) it'll be easier. (See we only added one little component this time). As your ADF and ILS needles center up you'll need to adjust your HDG setting on autopilot to turn you into proper alignment (runway heading is 269 degrees, ILS frequency is 110.30). Again, as your glideslope arrow/diamond thing drops set your ALT to 0000 or lower, and adjust your VertSpeed as needed to keep centered. (I intercepted at 8 miles DME) Airport elevation is 27 feet. Visibility drops...you watch your alignments...(picture left) about 500 feet above ground you decrease rate of descent, about 200 feet you cut IAS to 90 knots, nose rises, speed drops, rate of descent -100 fpm...SQUEEK! You've done it again, congratulations.

    One note here on missed approaches: Logically you'd like to have your AP all set to bail you out if you have to go "missed", HDG set, ALT about 5000 feet, IAS to 240 knots, etc. then if you abort landing you hit TOGO on your throttles, engage AP and once you are climbing you clean up. Well, you can't really do that with this technique so you either land the thing or if you MUST go missed you disconnect AP, firewall the throttles and pull back on the stick/yoke/trim. I figure anyone trying to learn to fly "irons" can make a plane climb so fly first and set the AP for go around later!

    Situation 3:

    Here's the next one, really no tougher than last time; some say easier, just longer (ILS3.ZIP). We'll say that you are piloting a 777 into Taipei, Taiwan. Airport elevation is 107 feet. This time you are well away from the airport but heading down out of your cruise. NAV1 is tracking the radial into a southern Taiwan VOR (115.20) and NAV2 is set to the airport (114.30). Your NAV2 needle should point the way home. Go ahead and turn your HDG early if you like, then fly the 045 degrees radial outbound for 100-110 miles while you descend into the clouds (picture right). At about 100 miles DME from MKR adjust your radio NAV1 frequency to the ILS which is 111.10 and set CRS to runway 5L, which is 052 degrees. See that, only a 7 degree turn to final--easy!

    Obviously you can't see a lot out there as I've added some cloud layers and turbulence to your Far East arrival. You'll want to be about 5000 feet by 15-20 miles out, the H.S.I. will tell you if the runway is to your left or right so adjust HDG to turn into it, catch the glideslope arrow and set ALT to -200 adjusting VertSpeed as needed to stay centered. This time, with the wind, rain and turbulence you'll need to constantly play with your HDG and VertSpeed, you may also want to keep IAS a bit higher as you don't want a big gust of wind to stall you out - speaking of faster, a notch or two less flap might help with that but there's also autobraking if you'd like to dial that in (I don't). Don't worry, I'll let you catch a glimpse of the airport before the ground but at this point you shouldn't need that, just fly your panel! (picture left).

    Situation 4:

    Okay, load up ILS4.ZIP as before. You're getting the hang of this now! One more default plane, the 747, but the same principles! You're approaching Victoria, BC on your way into a rainy Seattle, WA (typical huh?) This time I've added a couple of steps for you to work through: You are tracking NAV1 into the 088 degree radial for the VOR at 113.70, but also notice that the ADF is pointing to an NDB up ahead (240) and NAV2 is set for Paine, which is 110.60.

    Cross Victoria at about 21,000 feet and while you fly 088 degrees drop to 14,000 feet before the NDB. From the Skagit NDB turn right to HDG 150 now tracking NAV2 into Paine. On the radio stack set NAV1 for the ILS 110.30 with CRS moved from 088 degrees to 161 degrees (picture right). Drop to 7000 feet and slow down!

    Once your ILS beam on the H.S.I. comes alive you can set your NAV2 radio to Seattle's VOR at 116.80. Watch your DME reading, progressively slowing and dropping in your flaps until you can intercept that ILS beam and glideslope. I think I was about 4800 feet when that thing centered up. This time, since we started further out, you may be left or right of the beam so HDG may need to go either way to intercept that sucker. Airport elevation is 429 feet. I look for speed on short final around 150 dropping to 100 knots after 400 feet or so. Again, you may need to run this situation several times to get smooth. You'll also notice that I've added in some wind. This technique works less well with more wind, but you can still deal with a bit of slip/wind correction with this method. (picture left) I flew this situation twice to confirm my settings and had smooth landings, spot on, both times with my HDG about 163-165 degrees.

    Situation 5:

    Moving on, next up is ILS5.ZIP. This time you are into the Learjet 45 in Valencia, Venezuela. As you can see, the GPS window is open now but this is ONLY to show you that I have set in a flight plan. You will set the NAV / GPS switch on your autopilot to GPS, add one notch of flaps, release brakes and away you go! Once you have a positive rate of climb engage the ALT setting on AP (14,000 feet), engage A/T and IAS to 220 knots, and select CRS. This should fly you along the prescribed route (picture right).

    While you are flying I want you to set your radios as follows: ADF to 267, NAV1 to 110.10, NAV2 to 114.90. Now you are set for an ILS into Maracaibo, and here is how that will shake out:

    Even though your AP is tracking your GPS route or flight plan, your NAV2 / VOR radio will pick up the VOR at 114.90 (set your DME to follow it in - that's DME2). As you near the VOR (like 10 miles or so) set your HDG on AP to match your ACTUAL, current heading. Click HDG on and CRS off. Then switch that NAV / GPS lever back to NAV. Now set CRS for 026 degrees, that's the runway heading! Drop IAS to 160 knots and decrease ALT to 3700 feet. After you cross the VOR turn HDG to -12 degrees and set NAV2 for the airport, which is 115.70. Elevation is 235 feet, by the way. Now it's the same old drill, watch the needle center up, adjust HDG to turn towards the runway, slowing down and adding flaps at the appropriate times...small clicks left or right, up or down to follow the needles into a smooth and safe landing.

    Situation 6:

    ILS6.ZIP puts you in a Learjet 45 headed into the offset ILS at Tivat, Bosnia. Now, offsets are a bit of a different story because you can't always time the turn well by using the HDG setting and turning changes your rate of decent too. So you use this technique to the Missed Approach Point, then you disconnect HDG and ALT and fly it yourself. If you'd like to keep A/P in control of speed you are welcomed to do that but once I stop clicking and start flying, I fly the whole thing! So, cross the NDB (345) at 3300 feet. Track the ILS heading 337 degrees dropping slowly to 1800 feet by 3 miles DME. The runway is to your left, 11 o'clock on a heading of about 320 degrees (that's a 17 degree turn on short final!) Airport Elevation is 25 feet. Good luck (picture left)!

    Situation 7:

    "Man, how many more can this guy come up with?" Well, this is truly the last one (ILS7.ZIP). We're back into the 737, climbing out of Arequipa in southern Peru this time. Set cruise for about 27,000 feet. We're looking at a short flight into Julianca, Peru. Why there? Well because one, the airport is at more than 12,500 feet ASL so you'll have to deal with some density altitude problems here and two, because there's no ILS at the airport. So how does this make it into an ILS tutorial? Well, this is a "new heavy iron" tutorial and not every airport will have an ILS.

    So, turn NAV1 and NAV2 to 115.50 and adjust your heading to fly towards that little arrow. When you are about 12-15 miles DME from the airport turn HDG to 115 degrees, slow IAS a bit and reset ALT to 20,000 feet. Add in some flaps as you go but fly this heading maybe 20 or more miles AWAY from the airport before turning left to 320 degrees or so. Set CRS for 290 degrees which will have you flying kind of toward the runway 11/29. (320 minus 290 equals your 30 degree intercept!) (picture right) Hold 20,000 feet until exactly 15 miles DME and then set your ALT to 10,000 feet (or so). If your speed is 180 set rate of descent to 1900 fpm. If your speed is 160 set rate of descent to 1700 fpm. If your speed is 140 set rate of descent to 1500 fpm. I came in a bit too fast and with full flaps, starting at 160 and slowing to 140 should do you just fine, even at 12,500 feet - the runway is just a notch under 14,000 feet long so you don't have to put down on the stripes!

    Now here's the tricky part: The VOR may not be in the middle of the threshold so your descent profile or your heading may need to be adjusted as the runway comes into view (unless you wanted to land ON the VOR station?) Like I say, I was coming in a bit too fast and had to really dump my airspeed and altitude the last 5 miles but still, just mouse clicks on the autopilot and I landed safely. (Although a picture will show my spoilers up early to help bleed off the speed!) (picture left)

    Now, some will may work through this and be so excited to be flying those big jets that they never graduate beyond using the autopilot and while that's okay (I guess) it really isn't "flying" and this is a "Flight Simulator" not a mouse-clicking game so...learn to turn that sucker off, first at 3 miles out, then 5 then 10, 15, 30 or a hundred miles out, then you'll be FLYING the heavies just like the big boys! (I flew Situation 3 again with no autopilot just to prove my point. While my descent profile wasn't as smooth down to 5000 feet and I landed a bit long, my landing was actually a bit better when flying by hand because I could cross-control the rudder/ailerons a bit.)

    So, get to working on this and then, let me know how you do with becoming an "iron sim pilot."

    Ron Blehm
    [email protected]">[email protected]

    Still need more help? The read this follow-up article.

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