What constitutes a vector to final?
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Joined 02/13/2020 - 1 Posts
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I know headings count as vectors to final, but does ATC descending you via altitude assignments count as well? The Instrument Flying Handbook says a combination of headings and altitudes given by ATC, but just wanted to make sure. Thanks in advance!
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Joined 06/11/2017 - 617 Posts
"Vectors to final" is a procedure whereby ATC gives you headings and altitudes to place you within parameters specified in the ATC Handbook which allow you to intercept the final approach course, intercepting the FAC at no more than 30 degrees, outside the "final approach gate" (which is a zone depicted on the controller's scope about a mile or two outside the FAF), and intercepting the glide slope from below.  You know you're receiving vectors to final when the controller says something like "turn left heading 220, vectors to final for the ILS 36 approach."  You will eventually be given a final vector that is no more than 30 degrees angle to the FAC along with an altitude to maintain until established and the clearance for the approach.  At that point, you're on your own to intercept the final approach course (localizer, VOR course, GPS segment, etc), and proceed inbound, descending as charted.

Unless the controller says the exact words "vectors to final", you may not be receiving vectors to final.  On RNAV(GPS) approaches, you may be told "Turn left heading 220 vectors for the RNAV 36 approach", in which case you may be sent direct to an intermediate fix (IF) on the final approach course and "cleared straight in" for the approach.  In that case, you proceed direct to that IF and then straight in from there bypassing any depicted course reversal like a holding pattern in lieu of procedure turn.

For more detail on this procedure, see the ATC Handbook, Section 5-9-1.
https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Order/7110.65Y_Basic_w_Chg_1_1-30-20.pdf