Isavia ANS ehf., Reykjavíkurflugvelli, 102 Reykjavík /
Isavia ANS, Reykjavik Airport, IS-102 Reykjavik, Iceland
Sími / Telephone: + 354 424 4000 

AIC A 016 / 2020
Effective from  03 DEC 2020
Published on 03 DEC 2020
Sjónaðflug - Sjónflug /
Visual approach - VFR flight

Content Responsibility:  ISAVIA ANS

1 Introduction

This AIC is meant to explain what visual approach is and the difference between VFR and visual approach.
Conditions for an aircraft to commence a visual approach and how separation is applied during visual approach.
Rules for visual approach into Reykjavik Airport (BIRK) are explained. Finally, the difference between missed approach of visual approach flights and instrument approach flights in visual meteorological conditions is explained.

2 Visual approach and VFR flight

2.1 Visual approach

Visual approach is an approach by an IFR flight when either part or all of an instrument approach procedure is not completed and the approach is executed in visual reference to terrain.

This means that the aircraft is flying IFR and separations is applied as to any other IFR flight. The Pilot sees the ground and therefore it is not necessary for the aircraft to follow the IFR approach procedure all the way and the approach can be completed with visual reference to the ground.

2.2 VFR flight

VFR flight is a flight conducted in accordance with visual flight rules.

3 The difference between visual approach and VFR flight

The difference is that when executing a visual approach, the IFR approach procedure is followed but when flying VFR that is not necessary. A pilot executing visual approach has permission to take a shortcut provided he has visual reference to the ground.

4 Conditions for visual approach

An IFR aircraft may request to execute a visual approach, ATC may also offer the aircraft to do a visual approach if the following conditions are met.

Conditions for executing a visual approach:

  1. there is an approved functioning instrument approach for the aerodrome
  2. the pilot can maintain visual reference to the terrain, and
  3. the reported ceiling is at or above the initial approach level of the beginning of the initial approach segment for the aircraft so cleared, or
  4. the pilot reports at the level of the beginning of the initial approach segment or at any time during the instrument approach procedure that the meteorological conditions are such that with reasonable assurance a visual approach and landing can be completed. A request from the pilot for a visual approach is considered to fulfil this requirement.

Even though an aircraft is executing a visual approach it is still IFR since it has not cancelled IFR, visual approach is one way of flying IFR. Beware not to confuse visual approach and VFR. If a pilot wants to cancel IFR he shall report that to ATC.

5 Separation

ATC shall maintain separation between aircraft.

The responsibility may be transferred to the pilot of an aircraft executing a visual approach if the pilot confirms that he has the preceding aircraft in sight. The confirmation is regarded to be equal to acceptance of responsibility for maintaining separation by the pilot. He shall then also avoid wake turbulence from the preceding aircraft if needed.

Observing the preceding aircraft on ACAS/TCAS is not considered a confirmation of having the traffic in sight

6 Rejection on a clearance for visual approach

ATC shall deny requests for a visual approach if meteorological conditions are such that  a safe  completion of the visual approach is impracticable. A request for a visual approach can also be denied due to traffic.

7 Visual approach at Reykjavik Airport (BIRK)

Aircraft conducting a visual approach into BIRK shall not descend below 2000 feet until so cleared specifically.
Clearance for visual approach does not include a descend clearance below 2000 feet, unless specifically stated. (BIRK AD 2.22.6).


Within Reykjavik CTR twin- and multi engine VFR aircraft shall not be flown below 2000 feet without clearance from tower (BIRK AD 2.22.6).

9 Missed approach

9.1 Missed approach before reaching final

If an aircraft must cancel its visual approach before reaching final, it shall report so to ATC and await instructions

9.2 Missed approach procedure in VMC

An aircraft that is required to go around from a visual approach in VMC must initially climb on runway track, remain visual and await instructions from ATC.
If the aircraft can not clear obstacles on runway track, the aircraft may turn.

9.3 Missed approach procedure in IMC

If an aircraft is required to go around from a visual approach, after reaching final and is not in VMC, the aircraft must carry out a published missed approach procedure for the instrument approach being flown, report to ATC and await instructions.

10 Definitions
(ICAO Annex 2, ICAO PANS ATM, ICAO Doc 9426)

Airborne collision avoidance system (ACAS) - An aircraft system based on secondary surveillance radar (SSR) transponder signals which operates independently of ground-based equipment to provide advice to the pilot on potential conflicting aircraft that are equipped with SSR transponders.

IFR flight - A flight conducted in accordance with the instrument flight rules.

Wake turbulence - The effect of the rotating air masses generated behind the wing tips of large jet aircraft.

Visual approach - An approach by an IFR flight when either part or all of an instrument approach procedure is not completed and the approach is executed in visual reference to terrain.

VFR flight - A flight conducted in accordance with the visual flight rules.

11 Further Information

For further information, please contact:

Netfang / Email:


AIC hereby cancelled:  



NOTAM incorporated in this AIC: