Decision Altitude/Height (DA/DH)

Decision Altitude/Height (DA/DH)


The Decision Altitude (DA) or Decision Height (DH) is a specified altitude or height in the Precision Approach or approach with vertical guidance at which a Missed Approach must be initiated if the required visual reference to continue the approach has not been established. (ICAO Annex 6)

  • Decision altitude (DA) is referenced to mean sea level and decision height (DH) is referenced to the threshold elevation.
  • The DH for Category II and III approaches is invariably assessed by reference to a radio altimeter and never a barometric altimeter; therefore the minima can only be expressed as DH and not DA. For approaches with DH of 200ft or higher, radio altimeter reading would be unreliable due to the unevenness of the terrain; therfore a barometric altimeter is always used and the minima may be expressed as DH or DA.
  • The required visual reference means that section of the visual aids or of the approach area which should have been in view for sufficient time for the pilot to have made an assessment of the aircraft position and rate of change of position, in relation to the desired flight path. In Category III operations, the required visual reference is that specified for the particular procedure and operation.
  • For convenience where both expressions are used they may be written in the form "decision altitude/height" and abbreviated "DA/H"

Missed approach must be commenced at the DA/H unless the required visual reference has been established. Calculation of the DA/H takes into account that the aircraft will descend below the DA/H during the missed approach.

For more information regarding the calculation of DA/H see Aerodrome Operating Minima (AOM).

Further Reading

  • ICAO Annex 6 (Operation of Aircraft)
  • JAR-OPS 1 Subpart E

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