There’s something truly mystical about disconnecting the automation and holding thousands of pounds of heavy metal and thrust in the palm of your hand. For every pilot, the chance to truly “fly” an airplane is a blessing; the chance to do it without the constraints and restrictions of your typical localizer and glideslope while meeting the aspects of safety/regulation? Priceless. Yanking and banking into LaGuardia (KLGA) on the Expressway Visual 31 is just one of the few visual approaches that affords an aviator the chance to become one with the machine…and with a view!
Billy Joel said it best, “I don’t have any reasons, I left them all behind. I’m In a New York State of mind…” As the concrete jungle boasts its skyscrapers to the left side, your eyes dart back and forth between instrumentation and visual cues.
Twin white tanks are typically the iconic landmarks for pilots to initiate a right turn and begin their shallow descent to Runway 31 at LGA via the Long Island Expressway and Flushing Meadow Park. As Citi Field comes into view, you dip your wing left and wave to the Mets as you roll out and transition to final for 31. Configured, confident, and still questioning how they let you do this for living…you smoothly make those final adjustments with pitch and power, letting that rubber on your wheels smoothly kiss the pavement. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to NYC.
Awesome video posted to YouTube by John Thompson.
Flying Into LaGuardia Takes Preparation and Planning
As with every approach, essential planning and preparation is key. Timely configuration must be accounted for in an effort to reduce the chance of ‘falling behind the aircraft’. Crossing DIALS higher than 2500’ feet sets the stage for a high final and subsequently high sink rates, excessive control inputs and a fairly unstable approach (GO AROUND!) Moreover, it is imperative to continue the descent and avoid the tendency to slightly ‘level off’ as you bank left around Citi Field. When you factor in some wind, minimal separation, and speed constraints…you’ve certainly got your hands full!
In an age of automation and regulation, gone are the days of ‘Cowboy Flying’ where stabilized approach criteria never existed, and go-arounds were only for the weak. With safety at the forefront of everything we do, unleashing the inner desire to truly manipulate the controls can often be restrained and frankly frowned upon.
Nevertheless, it is approaches like the Expressway Visual 31 that remind us that we are indeed commanders of our ships. As we guide our hands back onto the yoke and slip our thumbs over the autopilot disconnect button, as the altitude alerter chimes and NY Approach tells us to transition to Tower frequency, there’s a brief lapse in time where everything seems to trickle to a halt. And In that final turn, as Runway 31 comes into grand view, you can’t help but crack a smile and realize…you’ve got the best job in the whole world.