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ZAB and Visual Approaches

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MarkHargrove View Drop Down
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Joined: 09 Jan 2016
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    Posted: 13 Jan 2016 at 1:57am
Flights arriving from the east into the ZAB TRACON are often easiest (for me, anyway) to send to RWY 3 when the airport is VFR and operating east.  They enter the sector on a heading that is roughly parallel to and south of Rwy 8/26 and are easy to vector into a sort of downwind entry to a Rwy 3 visual.  On the way towards ABQ, though, the planes very often will call "airport in sight" while still flying a (roughly) 260 heading before I give them their "downwind" turn for Rwy 3.  

Just for fun, during one session I gave several planes a "cleared visual approach runway 3" when they called "airport in sight".  The plane accepts the visual clearance -- makes the left turn I'd expect -- but then meanders off to the south and will continue completely off the map if you let them.

Now I know that to accept and fly a visual approach, the pilot has to both have the airport in sight when accepting the clearance and must maintain visual contact with the field at all times afterwards, so I would not have been surprised at all if the pilot had told me "unable" when given the visual approach clearance at that point because it's actually not possible to land on Rwy 3 from that location and maintain visual contact with the field.  What I did not expect was for each and every pilot (in multiple aircraft types) to go insane in the same way and just head towards Mexico.

It's kinda like:  "visual clearance?  I'll give you a visual clearance!  Adios amigo!"

-M.
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