Expressway Approach into LaGuardia

One of the hardest places to land, in the world!

Disclaimer: I am not a pilot, just an airplane enthusiast. This is all from a passenger’s perspective.

One of the most exciting approaches has to be the Expressway Visual Approach into New York’s LaGuardia airport. It is apparently a very challenging approach that has to be done manually, which is alien to most pilots in this day and age where most of the flying, approaches and landings are all automated by technological awesomeness.

The expressway approach into LGA stands out as it has to be done with little to no aid (no glidescope nor ILS).

ILS — in short, is a radio signal that pilots leverage to line up and land at runways across the world. The Expressway approach at LGA has no ILS — in fact one of the few left in the world that doesn’t — and in one of the most densely populated parts of the world — New York City.

Glidescope — for the layman, is a radio beacon that helps descend and hit the runway at the right angle and pitch.

While almost all modern airliners are equipped to leverage both of these, the Expressway approach at LGA offers neither. If you look a the map below, you will see why.

With JFK to the right, Manhattan to the left and Newark(EWR) to the south west, LaGuardia offers a small pathway that pilots have to follow over Brooklyn. While Runway 4 is straight ahead, the need to land into the wind makes it useless in many circumstances- hence the existence or Runway 31 which is a strictly visual approach.

Pilots follow the ILS from Runway 4 until they hit the Long Island Expressway (I-495), where they make a sharp right turn and follow the expressway for about a mile. Hence the name, expressway approach.

They then proceed to make a left bank, around Citi Field and Flushing Meadows. Breathtaking views of both. I also had the privilege of flying around while the US Open was in session. Best seats in the house, for a minute, I might add.

They then come out of the bank, to straighten up and land on Runway 31. Quite an exciting last few minutes, I must say.

Best of all, I had the privilege of flying in on this approach at night. The views of Manhattan, Citi Field and Flushing Meadows at night were simply breathtaking.

One of the few approaches in the world, where pilots get to show that they can still fly a large commercial airliner by hand. Kudos to them. Love thy pilot.

Travel. Food. Ice Cream. Tech. | Former @fastly @buzzfeed @bitly @knewton |

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store