Can you do an ILS Landing without having a full flight plan?

I’m not a pilot, and a lot of this ILS IFR stuff is new to me.

Sometimes I’ll be flying towards an airport, and I have no idea what the direction of the runway is, and it may be cloudy so I can’t see until I’m close to the ground.

I’ve figured out how to tune in the ILS frequency, but I don’t know exactly how to use it to guide me to the runway. Most tutorials I see online all have pre setup (IFR) flight plans, and I haven’t gotten all that figured out yet.

What if I just want to simply land at a runway that I can’t see? How do I just use the ILS without having a full IFR flight plan? Is that possible?

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Yes, it’s definitely possible…it just takes a little set up of your flight path to intercept the ILS correctly. Typically, you would come in at about a 30 degree angle to the ILS heading (so if the runway is 36, you’d come in at a heading of 330 or 030).

You’ll also want to come in under the glideslope. If you want to get technical, you can look up the ILS plates from a site like to see the altitude and distance that you’d intercept the glideslope. But as long as you are below it, then the APPR mode of your autopilot will start to descend (or you can hand fly your descent following the glideslope).

It’s important to note that not every ILS has a glideslope…some are localizer only, so on those, you can get lined up with the runway, but you’ll have to manage your descent yourself. Again, those ILS approach plates will give you an indication of your descent path.

Hope this helps.


I think I understand. But I typically don’t use the auto pilot to do the approach, I like to just fly it in myself. The purple indicator on the compass tends to not line up correctly for me, but maybe that because I’m not intercepting the ILS correctly?

If it’s purple, that’s because your nav source is set to your GPS. Use your CDI button to change to NAV1 and tune the ILS frequency on your nav 1 radio.


Also, if hand flying, it’s nice to know a neat little trick to estimate your descent rate. Many glideslopes call for a 3 degree descent…to estimate this as descent in feet per minute, take your airspeed and cut it in half and then add a zero. So if you’re coming in at 100 knots, cut it in half (50) and then add a 0 (500)…so you’d be descending at about 500 fpm. At 80 knots, you’re descending at about 400 fpm, etc.

Some glideslopes vary (from 2.5 to 3.5, with a select few being steeper), but most will fall in this range.


Awesome, thank you for the feedback. I’ll play around with it some more.


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There is also an assist option in the menu for landing assistance. It will throw up a bunch of brackets that guides you to the runway. It will also tell you if you are going too fast or too slow. It isn’t very realistic but it works. Comes in very handy if you have crappy eyesight and can’t see the ■■■■ runways until you get ontop of them lol.

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You are constantly talking about glidescope…
I just wanted to make it clear, it’s glideslope. Glidescope is for very different work…
Easier to understand things, when all are talking about things with their real names.
(Maybe glidescope is some kind of nickname, don’t know, but it’s still glideslope.)
I didn’t try to be wiser, but for the information of this.

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Yes…and I know better. Thanks for the correction. (Corrected in my posts).

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Well spelling mistakes aside, that is a handy little trick. Thank you for sharing it! Honestly I didn’t even notice you substituted a C for the L.

But won’t it also depend on your distance from the runway and altitude too? And you don’t have to answer that. You will probably start explaining something I won’t understand to begin with lmao. I think after decades of using flight sims I am due to watch a few videos on how to do a proper approach and landing lol.

You shouldn’t have a problem as long as you are tuned to the right frequency and the aircraft is configured for ILS. There is a bug where the autopilot goes back to the last waypoint no matter what. A work around is to delete the flight plan before you fly the approach. That one had me going bonkers for a long time before I figured out what was going on.


I have never had that happen to me just trying to grab a simple ILS. I put the frequency in the nav radio, get close to the airport and switch to VOR1. Haven’t a plane yet fail to catch it. Unless of course I forget to make it the active frequency lol. Then when I watch the glideslope indicator and when it starts moving I just hit app. I think the only time I have had it mess up is if I am in something that moves too fast I am too dumb to slow down first.

And not talking airliners, I haven’t mess much with those. I don’t like the way they fly and they are too complicated for my liking.

Yes. ILS simplified is kind of an easy concept which is often made overly complicated. It is a system that has antennas at the end of the runway which transmit a signal that is – for practical purposes – a very narrow signal which the aircraft can use to determine if the AC is on course inline with the runway. That is the LOCalizer aspect.

Glideslope (GS) is similar, but beans a vertical signal which the aircraft can use to determine if it is descending on the glideslope.

ILS typically implies LOC and GS. If GS is not provided, it is usually noted as LOC approach.

To use ILS you need and aicraft equipped with the receiver and the indicator called a CDI (course deviation indicator)

The CDI will have lateral (side to side) needle that shows if you are on centerline, and if not which direction and how far you are off. It has a similar needle for GS – it indicates if you are on the GS, and if not if you are above or below and by how much.

You don’t “need” a flightplan or to use autopilot t fly an ILS approach. But you need a way to get to the right place to start. There is a navigational waypoint called an IAF (initial approach fix) which you go to that point and turn onto the ILS heading and then use ILS to follow centerilne and GS. These days, aircraft use GPS to get to that IAF. Otherwise, you can ask to be vectored to it.

Where the flight plan comes into play is that it involves getting you from your destination to the destination IAF in a panned, proper manner. In IFR flight, you plan and file that route, and technically if you and the aircraft are certified for it, you fly the whole thing with no visibility all the way down to a few hundred feet over the destination runway.

But the conditions don’t have t be IFR to fly IFR, and you don’t have t be flying IFR to use ILS. Although, if conditions actually require IFR you would been to be certified ti fly in those conditions.

The autopilot has an APProach mode and can follow ILS. For that t work, you need your CDI set to LOC1 or LOC2, the ILS frequency in the appropriate nav radio(s), and course (CRS) set to the ILS runway course.

You are supposed to intersect GS from below for best results. That ius usually the reason AP will fail to follow it.

In terms of lateral intersection, usually you intersect with about a 20 degree intersect path. Of course, the narrowness doesn’t matter too much, but a lot of autopilot systems won’t engage APP mode if you are not on an intersect course when you press that button.


Ohhh, I am learning things, awesome! The IAF thing, how do I find that on a map? Is it called IAF or is there a certain symbol for it? I always figured there must be some sort of way point or something you were supposed to be at or aim for to initialize everything but I never knew what it was. I always just picked something that lined up with the runway at a reasonable distance away and used that. Interesting to know there is actually one made for that purpose.

Here’s a good resource:

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If i don’t have too much time to setup the flight. I quickly file a flight plan using in game tools while flying with Tubeliners. I follow do the thing i wrote below:

  • World map, select arrival departure as normal. Top left will show VFR, change it into IFR than start. While in the flight, i select approach ILS from FMC and follow the route.
  • if no flight plan present, which means just load departure and start the flight and then i can do the same thing i wrote previously, or manually enter ILS frequency as explained in the previous messages.

Thank you Machete3181. I will give that a look over later tonight. Not sure how much of it I will actually understand but I will look at it lol. I have looked at those charts before on skyvector. Will be nice to know what some of it actually means.

One of the normal flights I do is from Adrian Mi KADG I think? (where I currently live) to Toledo Express in Ohio, KTOL (where I grew up) because it has an ILS runway. Normally I just do direct then add a waypoint near the runway. Turns out HARBS is the IAF for that airport. And ATC actually gets it right if they tell where to go. I tried it with an IFR low or whatever called with an ILS approach. I thought it would vector me in and give my altitudes and all that. Nope, nothing. Just said I was cleared to land on ILS runway XX. But I know from looking at the charts it is 2400 ft. So just do my normal thing and hit vor1 and approach and it works out.

I just did one from LA to Vegas doing the same thing in the citation jet. I was amazed it actually told me what altitudes to fly, when to go up and when to descend. And they get grumpy if you don’t do it fast enough lol. And also that the ILS frequency was already in the computer when I went to put it in. Which is nice because I am really clueless when it comes to that thing. That is about the only thing I have figured out how to do with it.

I was surprised though that didn’t give me a speed? Don’t they normally do that? Give you a heading, altitude and speed? Or is that just if they are busy and moving traffic around? Never used ATC in a sim before. In the past I have always just winged it do what I want.

You only get a speed when there are potential separation issues with other traffic. Otherwise you just fly the normal speeds.

Ah, ok. Kind of what I thought then. Its more a safety thing when there are a lot of planes in the air at the same time.

Now that I think of it when I have listened to ATC audio they never tell them what speed to go once they are cleared to land. Only when they are moving traffic around and lining them up in a que I guess.

Problem with people like me is I have no idea what “normal” speed would be. I guess that is something you learn in school or training for that airframe. I would suppose there some sort of speed limit for certain air spaces though? Since I always fly with no traffic in the sim I just go as fast as I can until I have to slow down lol. I have an idea what most of the landing speeds are for the planes I like to fly but I normally don’t hit them until I am pretty close to the runway. I don’t have the patience to fly at 60 knots or something for a long time lol. Then again that might be my fault for lining up with the runway so far away too. I am not good enough to just turn into a runway and land like I see some people do. I line up miles away and start my descent.

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Not a pilot IRL, but I think in the US there’s a speed limit of 250kn below 10,000 feet. Also, there is no way for ATC to tell you how fast to go at decision height because that depends on a lot of things, e.g. what kind of plane, how it’s loaded and wind issues. How would ATC know all that?