Aircraft approach category

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An aircraft approach category is a grouping differentiating aircraft based on the speed at which the aircraft approaches a runway for a landing.


Specifically the VRef,of a given aircraft, at the maximum certificated landing weight (if VRef is not specified, the approach speed is given as the VS0 multiplied by 1.3) . VRef, VS0, and the maximum certificated landing weight are those values as established for the aircraft by the certification authority of the country of registry. An aircraft shall fit in only one category. If it is necessary to maneuver at speeds in excess of the upper limit of a speed range for a category, the minimums for the next higher category should be used. For example, an aircraft which falls in Category A, but is circling to land at a speed in excess of 90 knots, should use the approach Category B minimums when circling to land.[1] The categories are as follows:

  • Category A: Speed 90 knots or less.
  • Category B: Between 91 and 120 knots.
  • Category C: Between 121 and 140 knots.
  • Category D: Between 141 knots and 165 knots.
  • Category E: Speed 166 knots or more.

Category E contains only certain Military Aircraft.

Aircraft Approach Category (ICAO)[edit]

While the speed ranges used to determine an aircraft's approach category are identical to 14 CFR 97.3 (ICAO Doc 8168 PANS-OPS Vol 1, Section 4, Paragraph 1.3.5), the maximum permitted speed for visual maneuvering is significantly higher. The method used for determining the approach category speed is slightly different: VAT = speed at threshold based on 1.3 times VS0 or 1.23 times Vs1g at maximum certificated weight. Additionally, speed ranges are specified for other segments of the approach: (ICAO Doc 8168, Vol 1, Section 4, Table I-4-1-2).

The following ICAO table indicates the specified range of handling speeds (IAS in Knots) for each category of aircraft to perform the manoeuvres specified. These speed ranges have been assumed for use in calculating airspace and obstacle clearance for each procedure.[2]

Aircraft category VAT Range of speeds for initial approach (and reversal and racetrack procedures) Range of
final approach speeds
Maximum speeds for circling Maximum speeds for intermediate missed approach Maximum speeds for final missed approach Typical Aircraft in this Category
A <91 90 - 150 (110*) 70 - 100 100 100 110 small single engine
B 91 - 120 120 - 180 (140*) 85 - 130 135 130 150 small multi engine
C 121 - 140 160 - 240 115 - 160 180 160 240 airline jet
D 141 - 165 185 - 250 130 - 185 205 185 265 large jet/military jet
E 166 - 210 185 - 250 155 - 230 240 230 275 special military

VAT —Speed at threshold based on 1.3 times stall speed in the landing configuration at maximum certificated landing mass.

'*' Maximum speed for reversal and racetrack procedures.

Category E contains only certain Military Aircraft and is usually not included on commercial aeronautical charts.


  1. ^ 14 CFR Part 97.3
  2. ^ ICAO Doc 8168 PANS-OPS Vol 1

External links[edit]