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Safety Subject: Visual Departure Procedures at Night
Origin: European ANSP
Date: 2 December 2015
Distribution: Aviation Safety Professionals

Visual Departure Procedures at Night


An ANSP reported that, “due to NAVAIDS (e.g. VOR/DME) outages, the instrument procedures were not possible and could not be executed at a number of airports with no ILS and where radar service is not provided, especially at night.”  These circumstances resulted in a number of cancelled flights and subsequent requests from some aircraft operators for the ANSP to “implement visual departure procedures at night” as a contingency arrangement.
Understanding that special consideration should be given to this type of departure, it is necessary to conduct an aeronautical study before such measures are introduced.   
To assist in this process, the ANSP concerned is seeking useful information, experience and ‘best’ practice about night-time visual departure procedures.

ICAO Provisions

ICAO Doc 7030: Regional Supplementary Procedures (EUR):
 “6.5.4 Visual departures A visual departure is a departure by an IFR flight when either part or all of an instrument departure procedure (e.g. standard instrument departure (SID)) is not completed and the departure is executed in visual reference to terrain. (EUROCONTROL bold and underline emphasis) An IFR flight may be cleared to execute a visual departure upon request of the pilot or if initiated by the controller and accepted by the pilot. To execute a visual departure, the aircraft take-off performance characteristics shall allow them to make an early turn after take-off. When implemented, visual departure shall be applied under the following conditions:
  1. the meteorological conditions in the direction of take-off and the following climb-out shall not impair the procedure up to an altitude to be established and published by the appropriate authority, e.g. minimum flight altitude (MFA) or minimum sector altitude (MSA);
  1. the procedure shall be applied during the daytime. The procedure may be considered for application at night following a separate aeronautical study by the appropriate air traffic services (ATS) authority; (EUROCONTROL bold and underline emphasis)
  1. the pilot shall be responsible for maintaining obstacle clearance until the specified altitude. Further clearance (route, heading, point) shall be specified by ATC; and
  1. separation shall be provided between an aircraft cleared to execute a visual departure and other departing and arriving aircraft. Prior to take-off, the pilot shall agree to execute a visual departure by providing a read-back of the ATC clearance. Any additional local restrictions shall be agreed on in consultation between the appropriate ATS authority and operators.
13.2.1 Visual procedures Information essential for the conduct of visual departures and visual approaches (e.g. significant obstacles, topographical and cultural features), including any specific limitations as prescribed by the appropriate authority (e.g. designated airspace, recommended tracks) shall be displayed on the visual approach chart and standard instrument departure (SID) chart or standard instrument arrival (STAR) chart, as appropriate.” 

Support Requested

Air navigation service providers are requested to share information related to their use - or otherwise - of night-time visual departure procedures, namely:

  • Details of the procedures and how they are applied and promulgated, for example:  
    • Procedural control.
    • Copies of orders, instructions, SOPs etc.
    • Entries in AIP, NOTAM, commercial aeronautical charts etc.  
  • The assessed risks and liabilities associated with a visual departure at night.
  • The results of the aeronautical study and/or safety assessment undertaken to support night-time visual departure procedures.  

Please send responses and details to the EUROCONTROL Safety Alerts Coordinator, Richard Lawrence, at: Richard Lawrence


© European Organisation for Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) December 2015. This alert is published by EUROCONTROL for information purposes. It may be copied in whole or in part, provided that EUROCONTROL is mentioned as the source and to the extent justified by the non-commercial use (not for sale). The information in this document may not be modified without prior written permission from EUROCONTROL. The use of the document is at the user’s sole risk and responsibility. EUROCONTROL expressly disclaim any and all warranties with respect to any content within the alert, express or implied.

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