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G/S Interception From Above

G/S capture is normally performed from below the G/S. In this case the capture (G/S* or G/S on the FMA) is
completed by the Autoflight system with appropriate orders and guidance to the AP/FD system.
• On the Airbus you MUST have either LOC* or LOC in green on the FMA (i.e. LOC capture) prior to G/S* or G/S
(i.e. G/S capture). The Airbus system on our aircraft will NOT allow G/S capture prior to LOC capture.
G/S interception from above is an infrequently performed manoeuvre and is NOT completed by the Autoflight
system and thus requires significant (and in most cases prompt) input from the PF. Both the PF and the PM workload
increases rapidly to high levels; especially if you are not anticipating the G/S interception from above.

Reasons For G/S Interception From Above


Situations which may result in capturing the G/S from above are:
• Mis-managed vertical descent profile resulting in getting too high (and possibly fast).
• Being cleared initially to intercept the Localiser and selecting the LOC Pb on the FCU and when cleared for the
ILS approach forgetting to arm APPR when in ALT or ALT*. In this case the aircraft will track the LOC and not
capture the G/S (usually you will fly through the G/S).
• Being caught out by ATC and not anticipating a tight radar vector, resulting in reduction of actual track miles
and thus get high on profile.
• Getting a tight vector by ATC which results in flying through the G/S prior to incepting the LOC.

Potential & Kinetic Energy


Energy in a simplistic way for the G/S interception from above case can be thought of as:
• Potential Energy (Altitude or vertical profile), and
• Kinetic Energy (Speed or IAS).
All of the above reasons for G/S interception from above result in an excess of energy (too high – Potential Energy
and usually too fast – Kinetic Energy).
By increasing the normal RoD to intercept the G/S from above you will lose altitude at a greater rate and reduce
your Potential Energy.
• Potential Energy is reduced by using higher than normal V/S to decrease altitude.
By increasing drag with configuration change at low power (Flap, LG or Speedbrake) IAS will decrease and so
Kinetic Energy will decrease.
• Kinetic Energy is reduced by drag.
Complicating the issue is the very likely possibility that you may trade excess altitude for speed by accelerating. This
will decrease Potential Energy but increase Kinetic Energy. An old aviation adage is “You can Go Down OR you can
Slow Down, but you can’t Go Down AND Slow Down”.

Manage Excess Energy (Increase Drag)


G/S interception from above occurs in a “non-normal” situation requiring correct and prompt action (so both the
PF and PM’s work load increases) and you still have to satisfy the Stabilized Approach Criteria (i.e. be in the landing
configuration and stabilized on the G/S ideally by 1,500’ AAL but no later than 1,000’ RA).
To intercept the G/S from above you have to ensure that you are established on the Localiser (i.e. have LOC* or LOC in
green on the FMA) and then:
• Manage the excess energy which usually requires changing the aircraft configuration to increase drag
(speedbrake, LG, Flap), and
• Promptly and correctly apply the FCTM procedure to intercept the G/S from above.

Lasted Updated 18 Sep 09 Page 1 of 3 © 2009


The FCTM recommended configuration is achieved with the LG down, Flaps 2 and a speed of VFE-5. Speedbrake
can also be used. As you will most likely have Flap 2 selected at his stage VFE will be 196 Kts with an initial target
speed of 191 Kts. You only have a five knot buffer until you reach the red and black VFE and after that go into the
overspeed range.
This may be a factor in gusty or turbulent conditions. If the situation permits consider using LG down, Flaps 1 and
speedbrake to give a higher VFE (240 Kts A333, 255 Kts A343) with a higher target speed giving a wider margin of error
to VFE. This is only practical if you have enough track miles remaining to subsequently slow down and then configure
after G/S capture to achieve the Stabilised Approach Criteria. It’s all a trade off.

Limited IAS Range Available


Remember that at VFE + 4 you will get an Overspeed Warning. Also High Speed Protection (in Normal Law) will be
activated, which will result in the AP disconnecting, the aircraft pitching up, sidestick pitch down authority being
reduced, pitch trim frozen and with the sidestick at (roll) neutral the aircraft rolling to 0° AoB. This will definitely make
the situation worse!
The speedbrake is more effective at higher IAS. The effectiveness of the Airbus speedbrake when used at the
lower IAS associated with Flap is greatly reduced.
Using speedbrake will also increase VLS. Ensure that the IAS remains above VLS at all times. In some situations
you may have to reduce the amount of speedbrake to achieve this.
With a target speed of VFE-5 Kts (near the overspeed range) and full speedbrake (increased VLS), the range of IAS
available can become very restricted and this will limit your options to manage the vertical profile, achieve the
Stabilised Approach Criteria and greatly increase your workload.
If you do accelerate and recognise that VFE may be exceeded it may be necessary to disengage the AP and
manually pitch up to contain the speed. You are now conducting a G/S interception from above, at close to the
overspeed limit, while manually flying the aircraft and now you’ve pitched up to diverge from the G/S capture profile!
Start to think (if you can think at this overload stage!) of a Go Around. If it gets too hard, you lose SA and it’s all going
pear shaped – Go Around and do it safely the next time.

G/S Interception From Above Procedure


While you are managing the excess energy you will also have to promptly and correctly apply the G/S interception
from above procedure. Everything will happen quickly, during a period of high workload – ensure you are thoroughly
conversant with this procedure.
Ensure you are established on the Localiser with either LOC* or LOC in green AND G/S in blue on the FMA.
Select an altitude in the FCU ALT window that is above the current aircraft altitude. This will ensure that the
Autoflight system will not capture the selected altitude. The aircraft levelling off is not what you want. If you are
below the missed approach altitude, consider setting the missed approach altitude in the FCU now. This is one less
thing to forget (especially if a Go Around is executed later due to an Unstable Approach).
• Only by having LOC capture active (LOC* or LOC green) will you have lateral tracking established. With G/S
capture armed (G/S Blue) (and the G/S capture function will only become active if LOC* or LOC is green on
the FMA and you achieve the capture criteria) you will now have a low level altitude protection feature
enabled as the FCU Altitude will be above your current altitude and provide no protection at all.
Select V/S of 1,500’ RoD initially (2,500’ RoD maximum). Generally a V/S of greater than 2,000’ RoD will cause the
speed to increase towards your target speed (VFE -5 kts). V/S is used rather than OP DES to ensure the A/THR is in
SPEED mode rather than THR IDLE (but depending on the V/S selected THR IDLE may be reached – as indicated on the
E/WD).
Monitor the capture by reference to raw data.
Once G/S* (and then G/S) in green is annunciated on the FMA normal procedures can be used for the remainder of
the approach.
Speedbrakes may need to be left extended to decelerate. Approaching Managed Speed, retract the speedbrake
and then select the remainder of Flap as per normal. Ensure the missed approach altitude is set on the FCU.

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Think About It – Before It Happens To You!
This all seems pretty easy, but be aware that at some stage you still have to slow down and extend flap and comply
with the Stabilised Approach Criteria. High IAS may be good to capture the G/S but it may prevent selection of flap
due to being above VFE Next.
The Airbus being pretty slippery is hard to decelerate when tracking a 3° G/S with a relatively ineffective
speedbrake.
Most places we go to get you on the Localiser quite close in so you haven’t got a lot of track miles to accomplish
the G/S interception from above and then get the speed under control.
It is a high work load, fast paced, dynamic environment for both the PF and PM. Avoid G/S interception from
above and if you can’t avoid it have enough SA to be able to recognise that you may have to execute a G/S
interception from above and mentally prepare for it!
Be able to instantaneously and correctly apply the procedure. When it happens for real you won’t have too much
time to think about it!

Unstable Approach
This situation can often result in the aircraft not meeting the Stabilized Approach Criteria by 1,000’ RA at the latest.
If at any time it is apparent that the Stabilized Approach Criteria will not be met, Go Around (and it is probably better
if the profile is grossly mis-managed to Go Around earlier rather than persevere down to 1,000’ RA in the vain hope of
salvaging the approach).
Your workload will already be quite high and will become even higher if a Go Around is required. Pre-brief the Go
Around actions if possible. Remember to retract the speedbrake if it is out. Ensure the missed approach altitude is set
in the FCU.
As soon as you recognise that you are getting close to or are in a G/S interception from above situation you should
review the Go Around procedure, as the potential for a Go Around is increased greatly.

References
Glideslope Interception From Above .................................................................................................................. FCTM 6.4.1
Stabilized Approach ................................................................................................................................ FCOM 3.03.01 P18
High Speed Protection .............................................................................................................................. FCOM 1.27.20 P6

Lasted Updated 18 Sep 09 Page 3 of 3 © 2009