The SAVI (pronounced savvy) approach procedure is a child of serendipity. Following introduction of the Boeing 727 to airline operation in the 1960's, the early 727 simulators were extremely unstable. One instructor was known to warn pilots, before their first simulator period, that the early 727 simulator flew like a bath tub half full of water. This was a quaint way of saying that following control inputs there would be a slight delay before anything happened and then the simulator would over react requiring a quick counter action on the part of the pilot. If a pilots eyes wondered from the instruments for even a moment, the attitude of the simulator lurched off this way or that. This anomaly was most troublesome during the transition from instruments to visual (just before touch down) during a low visibility approach. Resulting simulator crashes were so common that instructors often calmed nervous trainees by telling them such outcomes were expected and would not be held against them. Students were further encouraged by being reminded that, unlike the simulator, the actual 727 airplane had beautiful handling characteristic and would be a joy to fly.

The seeds of SAVI procedures were sown during those early simulator flights when it was decided by some, that to avoid a crash landing during an instrument approach, the pilot must never abandon the established instrument scan until
after touch down. This was done by thinking of the view out side the aircraft as simply another instrument to include in the scan during the final phase of the approach to landing. The windshield was referred to as the VI or Visual Instrument. The cues from the VI were integrated with the cues from the instruments by including the VI in the normal instrument scan. Hence the name SAVI (Scan And Visual Integrated).

As proficiency grew in the use of SAVI techniques, pilots found very low visibility precision approaches to a center line touch down became almost easy and relaxed, even though they were being flown in a simulator that seemed to have very poor stability. It occurred to some that difficult approaches in the actual aircraft would also be more successful if SAVI procedures were used. So SAVI procedures made the transition from simulators to the aircraft flying the line. Pilots using SAVI procedures in aircraft during line operations discovered many additional benefits not offered by older methods. Benefits derived from SAVI procedures included:
1. Vastly improved pilot cross check of each other (an extremely important safety factor).
2. Greatly decreased possibility of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) during any type of approach.
3. Increased awareness of any conflicting VFR traffic during instrument approaches.
4. Illusions caused by runway slope no longer caused pilots to drift too high or low.
5. Wind shears and micro bursts were much more quickly detected under all conditions.
6. Sudden loss of visual reference just before touch down (entering ground fog or sudden squall, etc.), as well as last minute go around or missed approach, easily handled with no disorientation.
7. Vertigo inducing visual conditions encountered on approach (such as landing light reflection in heavy snow, etc.) much more easily overcome.
8. Improved situational awareness.
9. Most surprising of all, the use of SAVI techniques resulted in superior VFR approach skills which were more quickly learned and more accurately honed.
10. For pilots of single pilot aircraft, SAVI provides the safety critical cross checks between visual cues and instrument cues, continuously until touchdown, that are so important to maximize safety.
11. Mistaken landings on taxiiways or wrong runways are eliminated.

Before the advent of SAVI, a common low visibility instrument approach procedure in use by major airlines (referred to by various names, but for the sake of this discussion it will be called the old approach method) involved one pilot remaining fully focused on the instruments and flying the approach while the other pilot watched intently outside for visual contact. This action severely diminished each pilots cross check of the other pilots performance. Since most experts agree that pilots cross checking each other is probably the single most important action that improves safety, this aspect of the old approach method is very undesirable. Another undesirable result of the old approach method (as used by some airlines) required that when visual contact was established, the pilot flying the approach on instruments would relinquish control of the aircraft to the pilot who had not been flying (but who now had visual contact ) to take over and make the landing. This was about as awkward as it sounds but training made it doable. For pilots who must use the old approach method, the ten benefits listed above may be gained in large degree by combining, as much as possible, SAVI techniques with the old approach methods. But, the author believes far greater benefit will be realized if SAVI approach procedures completely replace the old approach method because the old approach method had short comings which SAVI techniques overcome in the following ways:
1. Unlike the old approach method (which assigned one pilot to instrument scan and one pilot to visual scan thereby diminishing each pilots cross check of the other pilots performance), SAVI procedures provide the added safety of true two pilot redundancy because both pilots are assigned to scan instruments and both are assigned to scan visually at all times. This ensures; true two pilot redundancy; both pilots are more quickly aware of the complete situation; a true and full cross check of each others performance.
2. The old approach method required pilots to learn two distinctly different procedures; one for the pilot flying and one for the pilot not flying. Since SAVI procedures require both the pilot flying and the pilot not flying to perform the same instrument and visual scan during every approach there is no necessity to learn two sets of procedures. This obviously enhances proficiency while eliminating chances for confusion.
3. Because both pilots continue a complete SAVI scan, which includes cues from all instruments and cues from looking outside, there is no need for many of the distracting verbal call-outs common to the old method (unless there is an error that needs announcing). Gaining critical information visually is infinitely faster then having it analyzed by another and then passed on verbally.
4. Under very adverse conditions, when Saviapproach is used, the most experienced pilot (the Captain) can fly the approach. This would not be allowed when the old approach method (which required one pilot to fly the approach and the other pilot to make the landing) was coupled with the common requirement that the Captain must make the landing under adverse conditions (thus preventing him/her from flying the approach).
5. The pilot flying the approach becomes the crew member who's reflexes are currently exercised to the highest proficiency. This is the pilot who should, and does make the landing when Saviapproach is used. By contrast, during the last and very critical moments before touch down, the old method turns the plane over for landing to the "cold" reflexes of a pilot who has not been flying. While this may not be a critical drawback of the old method (particularly when auto approach systems are in use), it still represents another of the many many advantages of Saviapproach.

An early concern of pilots, when first hearing of SAVI approach techniques, involved the common belief that one should not mix instrument flying with visual flying. Some feared that scanning instruments at the same time as completing the visual phase of an approach to landing would degrade a pilots ability to fly visual approaches. So it came as a surprise to many that pilots who used SAVI procedures actually improved their visual flying skills. This was clearly demonstrated in simulator trials which suddenly denied the pilot use of any flight instruments from about 1500 feet above the runway until after touchdown, thereby forcing a completely visual approach. Pilots with no SAVI proficiency flew satisfactory approaches but they tended to drift high or low in relation to the ideal glide slope angle. Pilots who had become proficient in SAVI techniques flew visual approaches that remained right on the glide slope with out any glide slope information. This proved that SAVI procedures continually trained pilots in the visual cues associated with an optimum approach angle and this repetitive learning opportunity substantially increased the pilots visual approach skills. The pilot who becomes proficient in use of the SAVI scan will find that each use of SAVI skills during an approach will optimizes the quality of learning from that flying experience including visual proficiency.

One of the beauties of learning SAVI techniques is that there are no new skills to learn. It is only necessary to learn a different organization in the utilization of already developed airmanship capabilities. There is that one new term to remember; Visual Instrument or VI, which refers to the visual cues as seen through the windshield (or what you see as you look outside). Even though the specifics of SAVI procedures will seem deceptively simple, and the only thing new is the order in which already known skills are employed, a pilot will probably find SAVI procedures feel foreign at first. But upon becoming proficient in SAVI techniques most pilots will be enthusiastic about the benefits.

The SAVI procedure is simply this: during the final miles of every approach, never abandon the full instrument scan, but start including the VI (visual instrument) as part of that scan. It can not be over emphasized that even after visual cues are available, the full instrument scan is continued until touchdown. Remember that the VI is added to the full instrument scan (it does not replace it) so that the instrument cues and visual cues are integrated in the mind (acting much like a head-up display). This technique must always be utilized by both pilots until touchdown or go around. The pilot flying the approach should normally handle the landing and roll out. The pilot not flying should call out any anomaly. To maximize proficiency and the learning benefits, SAVI procedures should be used on most approaches and landings no matter what (or how good) the weather conditions.

SAVI techniques are easily taught in the simulator. A suggested sequence, which may seem at first to be in reverse order, should work very well because it could quickly help the student break the usual tendency to abandon the instrument scan as soon as visual cues are available.
1. Start by having students fly full ILS instrument approaches to touch down with absolutely no visual cues. On each approach, visual cues are returned only AFTER touch down. This teaches the student how easy it is to arrive in the center of the runway within the touch down zone using instruments only. In past training, if students did not have visual contact by minimums, they have always gone around so flying to touchdown on instruments only, with out any visual cues, is an experience few of them have ever had. They are often surprised to learn the great value of instrument cues in the approaching touchdown phase.
2. Next, increase the students scan to include the VISUAL INSTRUMENT (VI) but continue to deny any visual runway cues. Installing a system to display random numbers or letters to be seen through or near the windshield can be helpful in determining the pilots visual scan during this stage but is not necessary. Such a system can be something as simple as changing flash cards, or a large clock with only a second hand sweeping around an altered face displaying twelve random letters, or as complex as a mechanical, optical or electronic visual display. The student is to call out the number or letter indicated on each scan. Whether, or not, such a system is used, approaches are still flown to touchdown with out any runway visual cues.
3. In the final phase of training, return visual cues before the student reaches minimums but make sure that the student does not abandon the instrument scan, (after visual cues are available). This can be done by insisting that no deviation occur from the optimum instrument indications (such as being right on glide slope, localizer, rate of descent, etc., which ever is appropriate) right up to touchdown. This forces the student to maintain an integrated instrument and visual scan (SAVI) and will demonstrate the very positive contribution made by instrument cues during close final and touchdown under visual conditions.

WARNING NOTE to instructor: Disable any minimums warning indicator so it will never activate during steps 1 and 2 of this training. The student must never develop a tendency to continue in the absence of proper visual references with the minimums indicator signaling a below minimums situation .

WARNING NOTE to pilots: After becoming proficient in SAVI techniques, pilots may become so relaxed and at ease during extremely low visibility approaches that the temptation may occur to fudge on minimums. Never, never, never ever be lulled into breaking minimums - not even one foot! Remember to always fully comply with FAA approved Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: over 50 years flying and aviation experience including general aviation (started flying at age 16); navy pilot; airline captain; over 20,000 hours in many aircraft types from 65 hp Luscombes to wide body airline jet transports; qualified simulator operator and instructor; FAA designated (and experienced) check pilot in both narrow body and wide body airline jet transports.

COMMENTS & QUESTIONS welcomed. Contact SAVI author by e-mail addressed to:

There will be additions to this web site from time to time, some prompted by input from readers.
The latest addition was installed on 16 June 2010


Q: As the aircraft approaches the runway, sensitivity of both the localizer and glide slope needles become increasingly more sensitive. Will this cause the manual control capabilities of the pilot to become overloaded resulting in over controlling?

A: During many years of utilizing SAVI techniques, this has not been a problem (even in simulator training where touchdown is made with zero visibility). This is probably because experienced instrument pilots have the localizer and glide slope thoroughly bracketed and the approach highly stabilized by the time they approach touch down (or they would have already executed a missed approach). Because of this, any control inputs made by the pilot, at this close in point, are so small they would not cause over controlling.

Q: Do SAVI procedures mean that the pilot not flying (PNF) should abandon wider system monitoring, radio calls, SOP duties and advisory call outs in order to use exactly the same scan as the pilot flying (PF)?

A: This is actually three questions:
1. The PNF should perform exactly the same SAVI instrument scan (including the Visual Instrument) as the PF.
2. The PNF should not abandon any SOP (and neither should the PF). Both pilots will proceed utilizing SOP's. SAVI techniques simply insure that both the instrument cues and the visual cues are cross checked by both pilots until touchdown (rather then the old system which eliminated cross check of these two vital sources of information during the final most critical part of the low visibility landing). Most, if not all, radio calls and distracting SOP's should have been completed before the critical final part of the low visibility landing.
3. Call outs should no longer be necessary if both pilots are SAVI scanning all instruments, but, as always, any safety concern should be addressed and all S.O.P.'s adhered to. Call outs may vary depending on whether SAVI techniques are being combined with an old approach method, or if a pure SAVI approach procedure is in use.

Q: What is the primary purpose of commencing SAVI training in the simulator by making approaches to touchdown with zero visibility, and won't adding instrument cues to visual cues degrade visual skills?

A: SAVI proficiency is one goal of training. Another important goal is the building of confidence in this new and different way of doing things. It is natural to question the advantage of a new procedure. Building confidence that the new way is indeed better is very important. Both the question of how training builds confidence and the concern regarding mixing instruments with visual can be answered by the following actual experience. During the course of consulting work, a highly regarded training instructor of a major airline was introduced to SAVI approach procedures (so he could report to the managers of his airlines training department his analysis of SAVI Approach). This instructors skill, intellect and personality made him a pleasure to work with, but he was skeptical when first introduced in principle (not in practice) to SAVI procedures. His main concern seemed a fear of degrading the quality of visual performance by blending instrument flying with visual flying. But, after practicing SAVI Approach in the simulator and becoming proficient, this instructor became a convert. One part of his proposed cover letter (to be attached to his report) said; "As one who encouraged development of visual skills using instruments essentially for corroboration, this [SAVI Approach] concept met with some initial resistance on my part. Closer examination, however, convinces me that precision instrument work has a greater likelihood of translating into precision visual performance than the other way around." He then continued as a SAVI Approach advocate. His skepticism and concerns had been overcome by training to SAVI proficiency. This is typical of what the author has encountered each time a pilot is introduced to SAVI Approach. First there is skepticism that something so simple can provide so many advantages. Then, those that take the trouble to train to SAVI Approach proficiency become convinced and enthusiastic.

Q: Do SAVI Approach procedures offer any advantages to the safe operation of single pilot aircraft?

A: SAVI procedures are as important, and maybe even more important, in the safe operation of single pilot aircraft. It is the authors belief that a large percentage of tragic single pilot approach and landing accidents could be prevented if SAVI Approach procedures were in common use.

Q: Wouldn't SAVI's addition of looking out the windshield, as part of the regular instrument scan, require a lot of head bobbing?

A: The experienced instrument pilot knows that scanning of instruments as well as viewing the runway environment (out the windshield) is done by moving the eyeballs not the head. That is why the experienced instrument pilot carefully positions the seat to optimize viewing both instrument and runway visual cues with a comfortable eye scan that does not require head movement. Jet air transports have for years mounted special indicators in the cockpit to facilitate easily adjusting the seat to an optimum viewing position. Pilots, not instrument scan trained, who are just starting to use SAVI techniques to improve visual approach skills, can demystify this SAVI scan concept by realizing that, (like all safe pilots), during a visual approach , every time the pilots eyes leave the VI to check airspeed, this is a scan which can be slightly enlarged to include the localizer (to make sure the aircraft is lined up with the proper runway) or glide slope indicator (to learn what visual cues result in the approved descent angle). Such enlarged scan requires only an additional split second away from the VI to provide this SAVI increase in safety.