Updates to AIM, Effective April 3, 2014

The FAA has published updates to the Aeronautical Information Manual, effective April 3, 2014. You can download the PDF version of the new AIM here. The Explanation of Changes section describes the updates to the AIM. The online version of the new edition will be available on the FAA website on the effective date, here.

Key changes for general aviation pilots include:

1−1−3. VHF Omni−directional Range (VOR)

The only positive method of identifying a VOR is by its Morse Code identification or by the recorded
automatic voice identification which is always indicated by use of the word “VOR” following the
range’s name…Some VOR receivers are capable of identifying the VOR and will display the identifier of the VOR if it has successfully done so. However, it is still the pilot’s responsibility to verify the identity of the VOR by conventional methods.

1−1−18. Global Positioning System (GPS)—j. 2. Computer Navigation Fix (CNF)

A Computer Navigation Fix (CNF) is also a point defined by a latitude/longitude coordinate and is required to support area navigation (RNAV) system operations. The GPS receiver uses CNFs in conjunction with waypoints to navigate from point to point. However, CNFs are not recognized by Air Traffic Control (ATC). ATC does not maintain CNFs in their database and they do not use CNFs for any air traffic control purpose. CNFs may or may not be charted on FAA aeronautical navigation products, are listed in the chart legends, and are for advisory purposes only. Pilots are not to use CNFs for point to point navigation (proceed direct), filing a flight plan, or in aircraft/ATC communications. CNFs that do appear on aeronautical charts allow pilots increased situational awareness by identifying points in the aircraft database route of flight with points on the aeronautical chart. CNFs are random five−letter identifiers, not pronounceable like waypoints, and placed in parenthesis. Eventually, all CNFs will begin with the letters “CF” followed by three consonants (for example, CFWBG). This five−letter identifier will be found next to an “x” on enroute charts and possibly on an approach chart. On instrument approach procedures(charts) in the terminal procedures publication, CNFs may represent unnamed DME fixes, beginning and ending points of DME arcs, and sensor (ground−based signal i.e., VOR, NDB ILS) final approach fixes on GPS overlay approaches. These CNFs provide the GPS with points on the procedure that allow the overlay approach to mirror the ground−based sensor approach. These points should only be used by the GPS system for navigation and should not be used by pilots for any other purpose on the approach. The CNF concept has not been adopted or recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Here are examples of CNFs as shown on the plan view of the ILS Y RWY 27 at KYKM:

CNFs.

5−4−1. j. Waypoints

1. GPS receivers navigate from one defined point to another retrieved from the aircraft’s on board navigational database. These points are waypoints (5-letter pronounceable name), existing VHF intersections, DME fixes with 5-letter pronounceable names and 3-letter NAVAID IDs. Each waypoint is a geographical location defined by a latitude/longitude geographic coordinate. These 5-letter waypoints, VHF intersections, 5-letter pronounceable DME fixes, and 3-letter NAVAID IDs are published on various FAA aeronautical navigation products (IFR Enroute Charts, VFR Charts, Terminal Procedures Publications, etc.)…

3. GPS approaches use fly−over and fly−by waypoints to join route segments on an approach. Fly−by waypoints connect the two segments by allowing the aircraft to turn prior to the current waypoint in order to roll out on course to the next waypoint. This is known as turn anticipation and is compensated for in the airspace and terrain clearances. The MAWP and the missed approach
holding waypoint (MAHWP) are normally the only two waypoints on the approach that are not fly−by waypoints. Fly−over waypoints are used when the aircraft must overfly the waypoint prior to starting a turn to the new course. The symbol for a fly-over waypoint is a circled waypoint. Some waypoints may have dual use; for example, as a fly-by waypoint when used as an IF for a NoPT route and as a fly-over waypoint when the same waypoint is also used as an IAF/IF hold-in-lieu of PT. When this occurs, the less restrictive (fly-by) symbology will be charted. Overlay approach charts and some early stand-alone GPS approach charts may not reflect this convention.

4. Unnamed waypoints for each airport will be uniquely identified in the database. Although the identifier may be used at different airports (for example, RW36 will be the identifier at each airport with a runway 36), the actual point, at each airport, is defined by a specific latitude/longitude coordinate.

5. The runway threshold waypoint, normally the MAWP, may have a five−letter identifier (for example, SNEEZ) or be coded as RW## (for example, RW36, RW36L). MAWPs located at the runway threshold are being changed to the RW## identifier, while MAWPs not located at the threshold will have a five− letter identifier. This may cause the approach chart to differ from the aircraft database until all changes are complete. The runway threshold waypoint is also used as the center of the Minimum Safe Altitude (MSA) on most GPS approaches.

5−4−1. l. Impact of Magnetic Variation on RNAV Systems

1. Differences may exist between charted magnetic courses on ground-based navigational aid
(NAVAID) instrument flight procedures (IFP), area navigation (RNAV) procedures, and RNAV systems on enroute charts, approach charts, and Standard Instrument Departure/Standard Terminal Arrival (SID/STAR) charts. These differences are due to the magnetic variance used to calculate the magnetic course. Every leg of an instrument procedure is first computed along a desired ground track with reference to true north. A magnetic variation correction is then applied to the true course in order to calculate a magnetic course for publication. The type of procedure will determine what magnetic variation value is added to the true course. A ground-based NAVAID IFP applies the facility magnetic variation of record to the true course to get the charted magnetic course. Magnetic courses on RNAV procedures are calculated two different ways. SID/STAR procedures use the airport magnetic variation of record, while IFR enroute charts use magnetic reference bearing. RNAV systems make a correction to true north by adding a magnetic variation calculated with an algorithm based on aircraft position, or by adding the magnetic variation coded in their navigational database. This may result in the RNAV system and the procedure designer using a different magnetic variation, which causes the magnetic course displayed by the RNAV system and the magnetic course charted on the IFP plate to be different. It is important to understand, however, that RNAV systems (with the exception of VOR/DME RNAV equipment) navigate by reference to true north and display magnetic course only for pilot reference. As such, a properly functioning RNAV system, containing a current and accurate navigational database, should still fly the correct ground track for any loaded instrument procedure, despite any differences in magnetic course that may be attributed to magnetic variation application. Should significant differences between the approach chart and the RNAV system avionics’ application of the navigation database arise, the published approach chart, supplemented by NOTAMs, holds precedence.

2. The course into a waypoint may not always be 180 degrees different from the course leaving the previous waypoint, due to the RNAV system avionics’ computation of geodesic paths, distance between waypoints and differences in magnetic variation application. Variations in distances may also occur since RNAV system distance−to−waypoint values are along−track distances (ATD) computed to the next waypoint and the DME values published on underlying procedures are slant−range distances measured to the station. This difference increases with aircraft altitude and proximity to the NAVAID.

5−3−4. Airways and Route Systems

(b) Unpublished RNAV routes are direct routes, based on area navigation capability, between waypoints defined in terms of latitude/longitude coordinates, degree−distance fixes, or offsets from established routes/airways at a specified distance and direction. Radar monitoring by ATC is required on all unpublished RNAV routes, except for GNSS−equipped aircraft cleared via filed published waypoints recallable from the aircraft’s navigation database.

5−4−1. Standard Terminal Arrival(STAR), Area Navigation (RNAV) STAR, and Flight Management System Procedures (FMSP) for Arrivals

This change incorporates updated guidance on resumption of published altitude and speed restrictions, guidance on what is expected of aircrews when issued a “climb via” clearance, and clarifies the expectation that pilots will advise the receiving controller of the altitude being vacated and the altitude they are climbing to when changing frequencies.

For all the details, see this section in the update to the AIM.

i. 5−4−5. Instrument Approach Procedure Charts

This change updates guidance to reflect the fact that the initial approach fix (IAF) waypoint is not an IAF, but an intermediate fix (IF). This change also updates guidance on descent below the minimum descent altitude (MDA).

For all the details, see this section in the update to the AIM.

7−1−11. Flight Information Services (FIS)

This change updates information and guidance to modify outdated information, reflect policy and terminology changes, and address changing technologies.

For all the details, see this section in the update to the AIM.

7−1−14. ATC Inflight Weather Avoidance Assistance

This change was added to expand the meaning of the phrase “when able” when used in conjunction with a clearance to deviate around weather. The clearance to deviate is clarified to allow maneuvering within the lateral limits of the deviation clearance.

For all the details, see this section in the update to the AIM.

Update on RNAV (GPS) Approaches

The FAA continues to publish more GPS-based instrument procedures. The latest inventory shows that as of February 6, 2014, there are 13,134 RNAV (GPS) approaches available for general use in the U.S. National Airspace System. (That number doesn’t include the RNP authorization-required procedures available only to pilots and aircraft that meet the requirements of AC 90-101A. More about RNP and AR procedures here.)

By comparison, there are 5,794 ILS, LOC, NDB, and VOR approaches (again, not counting CAT II, CAT III, and other procedures that require special training, equipment, and authorizations).

RNAV (GPS) Procedures  

GPS (Stand – Alone)

140

RNAV (LNAV)

5,832

RNAV (VNAV)

3,254

RNAV (LPV)

3,375

RNAV (LP)

533

Total

13,134

Conventional Approaches  

ILS

1,285

LOC

1,439

LOC (B/C)

72

NDB

780

VOR

1,273

VOR/DME

945

Total

5,794

Here’s a pie chart that shows the relative shares of different types of instrument approach procedures in the U.S.

RNAVApproaches

Perhaps more important to general-aviation pilots is the fact that so many of the RNAV (GPS) procedures—especially those with LPV minimums—are at smaller airports that don’t have an ILS:

  • 3,364 LPVs serving 1,661 airports
  • 2,262 LPVs to non-ILS runways
  • 1,535 LPVs to non-ILS airports
  • 1,102 LPVs to ILS runways
  • 2,020 LPVs to non-Part 139 airports (airports not approved for airline operations)
  • 880 LPVs with DA < 250 HAT
  • 854 LPVs with DA = 200 HAT

Handy WAAS and RNAV (GPS) Approach Fact Sheets

You can find a couple of handy FAA fact sheets on WAAS and RNAV (GPS) approaches at the FAA website, here.

WAAS: Quick Facts outlines the advantages of a WAAS-capable navigator.

RNAV (GPS) Approaches succinctly explains the different lines of minimums and provides helpful references to ACs, the AIM, etc.

image image

IACO Flight Plan Equipment Codes for Aircraft with IFR GPS

In November 2012, FAA adopted new requirements and procedures for using ICAO-format flight plans. Pilots planning IFR flights within the borders of the U.S. are now required to file ICAO-format flight plans if:

  • The flight will enter international airspace (including Oceanic airspace controlled by FAA facilities). Even if your flight just crosses a border, such as flying through Canadian airspace on a trip that departs from and lands at a U.S. airport, you must file an ICAO flight plan.
  • You expect routing or separation based on Performance Based Navigation, for example, RNAV-based routes, departures, and arrivals. (More about PBN and RNAV levels in PBN and RNP Confusion, below.)
  • The flight will enter RVSM (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum) airspace (i.e., above FL290).
  • You expect services based on ADS-B.

A detailed explanation of the ICAO flight plan form is available here.

Other Reasons to File ICAO Flight Plans

Even if you aren’t required to file an ICAO flight plan, you may want to start using that format for IFR flight plans if you fly an airplane equipped with an IFR-approved GPS, especially if the box is WAAS-approved, or your aircraft is equipped with ADS-B in/out equipment, such as the Garmin GDL 88.

You can file an ICAO flight plan online through Lockheed-Martin Flight Services (the official FSS) and several free third-party services, including DUAT, DUATS, and FltPlan.com.

Confusing Codes

Many pilots are confused by elements of the ICAO flight plan format, especially the multiple aircraft equipment codes that you must include to inform ATC of the gizmos and capability that are installed in your aircraft.

The following guide should help you sort out those ICAO codes if you fly a typical light GA aircraft equipped with at least one WAAS-capable, GPS navigator that is approved to fly RNAV (GPS) approaches. Examples of such avionics include:

Overview

Here’s a look at the relevant parts of the ICAO flight plan form as shown on the Lockheed-Martin FSS website. I’ve filled in the information for my Beechcraft A36 Bonanza (ICAO identifier BE36), which is equipped with a GTN750, a Garmin GTX 327 transponder (not Mode S), and the GDL 88 ADS-B transmitter and receiver. This aircraft also has a Bendix/King DME receiver. The example is for an IFR trip from KBFI to KGEG in the Pacific Northwest. The route includes the ZOOMR1 STAR into KGEG.

ICAO-Overview-01

Basic Information

The first few items are the same for all typical IFR general aviation flights:

  • Flight Rule: IFR
  • Flight Type: G (for general aviation)
  • Number of Aircraft: 1 (i.e., not a formation flight)
  • Wake Turbulence Category: L (for light)
  • Aircraft Type: The official ICAO designator for the make and model of aircraft you fly (e.g., BE36, C172, C210, M20P, PA28A, etc.)

Aircraft Equipment

On the familiar FAA domestic flight plan form, equipment suffixes for typical GA pilots are simple, and if you’re flying a GPS-equipped airplane with a Mode C transponder, the basic /G is all you need.

But the ICAO form captures many more details about the equipment installed in your aircraft, and the fun typically begins with this item.

For a WAAS-equipped aircraft such as we’re discussing, you should enter the following codes in the Aircraft Equipment box:

  • SBDGR

ICAO-AircraftEquipment-01

As you can see in the illustration from the Lockheed-Martin FSS web form, these letters represent the following equipment:

  • S: Standard communication and navigation receivers/transmitters (VOR, VHF communications radios, and ILS receiver). If you enter S in this box, you shouldn’t include the letters L (ILS), O (VOR), or V (VHF) here. S includes that equipment.
  • B: LPV approach capability. If you have a WAAS GPS, but your installation isn’t approved for LPV procedures (see the user’s guide and AFM supplement), omit this letter.
  • D: DME
  • G: IFR-approved GPS (the preferred term is now GNSS, Global Navigation Satellite System)
  • R: PBN approved. This letter means that your aircraft meets basic RNP standards. You must include this letter, and associated information in the Other Information box, to ensure that the computer will accept a routing that includes RNAV routes, SIDs, STARs, or charted ODPs. See PBN and RNP Confusion, below.
  • Z: Indicates additional information to be added to the Other Information box, below.
  • If you still have an ADF, include F.
  • If you don’t have DME, omit the D.

PBN and RNP Confusion

The aviation world uses RNP (required navigation performance) for two related, but different purposes.

In general, RNP is an RNAV specification (e.g., RNAV 5, RNAV 2, and RNAV 1) that indicates that an aircraft is capable of maintaining a course (track) within designated limits 95 percent of the time. For example, RNAV 5 means the aircraft as equipped can reliably maintain a track with 5 nm; RNAV 2 limits are 2 nm, and so forth. If your aircraft is equipped with an IFR-approved GPS authorized to fly RNAV (GPS) approaches, it matches this sense of RNP and PBN.

The basic RNP (RNAV) specifications used in the U.S. (RNP 0.3, RNP 1.0, RNP 2.0, and RNP 1.0) are shown in the following illustration from the Instrument Flying Handbook (FAA H-8083-15B). For more information about RNP and RNAV specifications, see “Required Navigation Performance” on page 9-44 of the IFH.

clip_image006

Current WAAS-approved GPS receivers for typical GA aircraft, such as those listed earlier, meet the U.S. RNP specifications, as described in AC 90-100A: U.S Terminal and En Route Area Navigation (RNAV) Operations and its associated AC90-100 Compliance Table (a Microsoft Excel worksheet). To confirm your GPS receiver’s capabilities, check the user guides and the AFM supplements for the equipment installed in your aircraft.

The term RNP is also applied as a descriptor for airspace, routes, and procedures (including departures, arrivals, and IAPs). RNP can apply to a unique approach procedure or to a large region of airspace. In this sense, RNP means something similar to Category II and Category III instrument approaches. For example, an approach with RNP in the title (e.g., RNAV (RNP) Z RWY 16R) requires special equipment and detailed crew training/qualification. Such RNAV (RNP) approaches include the note AUTHORIZATION REQUIRED on the chart.

For more information about RNP approaches, see RNP Procedures and Typical Part 91 Pilots and Garmin Radius to Fix Leg Project Report here at my blog.

Surveillance Equipment (Transponder and ADS-B)

This box on the ICAO form tells ATC what type of transponder and related equipment are installed in your aircraft.

ICAO-Surveillance-01

  • For most GA pilots flying IFR, this box will include at least C, for a transponder with altitude-reporting capability.
  • If you have a Mode S transponder, you should select the appropriate letter, E, H, I, L, P, S, or X, based on the information in the user guide and AFM supplement for your transponder.
  • If you have ADS-B equipment installed (not a portable ADS-B receiver such as the Stratus or Dual XGPS170), include U1 or U2. The Garmin GDL 88 in my airplane both transmits and receives ADS-B signals, so I add U2 to this box.

Other Information

The final box for designating your RNAV capabilities is Other Information. You must use prefixes, followed by letters, to include different categories of information.

As described above here and here, it’s important to add a /PBN group in this box to ensure that the ATC system understands the RNP/RNAV capabilities of your aircraft.

ICAO-OtherInfo-01

If you have a GPS approved for at least IFR en route and terminal operations, add the following letters:

  • B2, which designates RNAV 5 capability based on GPS (GNSS)
  • C2, which designates RNAV 2 capability based on GPS (GNSS)
  • D2, which designates RNAV 1 capability based on GPS (GNSS)

You should also add a /NAV group in this box to indicate your RNAV capability. The letters D1E2A1 after /Nav indicate that you have RNAV 1 capability for departure, RNAV 2 capability for the en route segment, and RNAV 1 capability for arrival.

  • NAV/RNVD1E2A1

ICAO-OtherInfo-02

These groups and letters mean that you can fly RNAV routes (e.g., T-routes), RNAV SIDs and STARs, and charted ODPs (charted ODPs are often RNAV procedures, usually based on GPS).

For more information about charted ODPs, see:

Don’t worry about the options in the RNP Specifications part of this box. Unless you are authorized to fly RNAV (RNP) procedures (see above), these items don’t apply to you.

Summary

Here’s a quick review of what to put in the equipment-related boxes of the ICAO flight plan form if, like me, you fly an aircraft with one of the common IFR-approved, WAAS-capable GPS receivers:

  • Aircraft Equipment: SBDGR.
  • Surveillance Equipment: C (for a Mode C transponder).
    (If you have ADS-B in/out capability, such as a Garmin GDL 88, add U2. If you have a Mode S transponder, include the appropriate letter for your model.)
  • Other Information: PBN/B2C2D2 NAV/RNVD1E2A1

ICAO-Overview-01

 

October Updates to the AIM for IFR Pilots with GPS

FAA has released updates to the AIM, effective October 24, 2013, that may be of interest to IFR pilots who fly with an IFR-approved GPS. The key changes involve:

  • Equipment codes used on domestic flight plans
  • Requirements for radar monitoring on direct routes, especially for aircraft equipped with an IFR-approved GPS.

The changes include new terms—or clarifications of existing terms: impromptu RNAV routes and point-to-point routes.

You can read the revised AIM pages 5-1-13, 5-1-15, and 5-3-6 here (PDF). They will be included in the next scheduled update to the AIM.

Guidance concerning these changes for air traffic controllers is published in an update, “Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Equipped Aircraft Operating on Random Routes,” to the ATC handbook, JO 7110.639. It’s available here (PDF).

Domestic Flight Plan Equipment Codes

The first change concerns equipment codes for domestic flight plans. Fortunately, for typical GA pilots flying with an IFR-approved GPS, the familiar /G suffix remains in effect. You should use the new /V or /S codes only if you have no transponder or a transponder without Mode C.

If you operate in the RVSM airspace and/or use other equipment (such as an INS or a DME/DME FMS) to meet RNAV requirements, FAA has published new equipment suffixes, which are described in the revised pages.

Note that these new equipment codes apply only when using the domestic FAA flight plan format. If you use the ICAO flight plan form, use the equipment codes designated for that format.

Off-Airway Routes with IFR-Approved GPS

The AIM update changes some considerations for filing and flying off-airway and direct routes if your aircraft is equipped with an IFR-approved GPS.

First, the new AIM 5-1-15 (d) Area Navigation (RNAV) formally introduces the term impromptu RNAV routes. In the update for air traffic controllers, a random impromptu route is defined as:

…[A] direct course initiated by ATC or requested by the pilot during flight. Aircraft are cleared from their present position to a NAVAID, waypoint, fix, or airport.

An impromptu RNAV route can be approved only in a radar environment, and ATC will monitor the flights on such routes, but navigation remains the responsibility of the pilot.

The updated AIM 5-3-4 (3) Area Navigation (RNAV) Routes describes unpublished RNAV routes (that is, routes other than T-routes and Q-routes):

Unpublished RNAV routes are direct routes, based on area navigation capability, between waypoints defined in terms of latitude/longitude coordinates, degree−distance fixes, or offsets from established routes/airways at a specified distance and direction.

Radar monitoring is still generally required for such unpublished RNAV routes.

But if you have an IFR-approved GPS, and you are cleared to fly a direct route based on published waypoints recalled from the GPS database, radar monitoring is no longer required. Such routes are also called point-to-point routes.

The maximum distance between the published waypoints is 500 nm, and the assigned altitude must be at or above the highest minimum instrument altitude (MIA) along the route, which provides obstacle clearance 4 miles either side of the route centerline.

For example, a point-to-point route from an airport in the Seattle area to Newport, OR (KONP) might use named RNAV fixes en route and end at a VOR: HAROB FEBOT ERAVE REDHK ONP. If you’re flying a GPS-equipped aircraft, radar monitoring wouldn’t be required along that route.

Image

August 22 Update to the Aeronautical Information Manual

The FAA has released Change 3 to the Aeronautical Information Manual, effective 22 August 2013. You can download the PDF of the update here. It will be incorporated into the complete AIM later this month.

Here’s a quick review of two of the significant changes that affect typical general-aviation pilots who fly IFR:

  • 1−1−18. Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • 5−4−6. Approach Clearance

1−1−18. Global Positioning System (GPS)

The change to paragraph (g) expands options for pilots with non-WAAS, IFR-approved GPS equipment. If you must file an alternate (based on the requirements of § 91.167—Fuel requirements for flight in IFR conditions), you can now choose an alternate airport served only by RNAV (GPS) approaches if your destination has procedures predicated on ground-based navaids (e.g., ILS, LOC, VOR, or NDB). If your destination has only RNAV (GPS) approaches, then your alternate must have a ground-based approach procedure.

In addition, you must plan for applicable alternate airport using the LNAV or circling MDA; you can’t expect to use the DA(s) specified by any RNAV (GPS) approaches with vertical guidance (i.e., LPV or LNAV/VNAV minimums). In other words, for planning purposes, you must assume that the approaches at the alternate airport offer only non-precision minimums. There is an exception to this restriction for aircraft with baro-aided approach systems, but those are rare in typical light GA aircraft.

5−4−6. Approach Clearance

Paragraph (e) of this section explains that ATC can now clear RNAV-equipped aircraft direct to an IF or to fix between the IF and the FAF. If you file an RNAV equipment suffix in your flight plan (e.g., /G), you can expect such clearances when flying both conventional (ground-based) and RNAV (GPS) procedures.

The details of the new procedure are in the updated section of the AIM. Basically, the controller must advise you at least five miles from the IF or other fix that you can expect a clearance direct to the fix instead of vectors to final. The controller also must clear you “straight-in” if you are cleared to a fix and the controller does not want you to fly a charted hold-in-lieu of a procedure turn or other course reversal.

Max Trescott has also addressed this issue at his blog, here.

This change also makes it clear that you shouldn’t use the vectors-to-final option when loading approaches (either RNAV or conventional approaches). For more information about the vectors-to-final trap, see Avoiding the Vectors-to-Final Scramble here at my blog.

Specially, the new notes to this section explain that:

NOTE−

1. In anticipation of a clearance by ATC to any fix published on an instrument approach procedure, pilots of RNAV aircraft are advised to select an appropriate IAF or feeder fix when loading an instrument approach procedure into the RNAV system.

2. Selection of “Vectors-to-Final” or “Vectors” option for an instrument approach may prevent approach fixes located outside of the FAF from being loaded into an RNAV system. Therefore, the selection of these options is discouraged due to increased workload for pilots to reprogram the navigation system.

FAA Proposed Policy for Discontinuance of Certain Instrument Approach Procedures

Here’s the link to the notice in the Federal Register. Excerpts:

As new technology facilitates the introduction of area navigation (RNAV) instrument approach procedures over the past decade, the number of procedures available in the National Airspace System has nearly doubled. The complexity and cost to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of maintaining the existing ground based navigational infrastructure while expanding the new RNAV capability is not sustainable. The FAA is considering the cancellation of certain Non-directional Beacon (NDB) and Very High Frequency (VHF) Omnidirectional Radio Range (VOR) instrument approach procedures (IAP) at airports that have multiple instrument approach procedures. The FAA proposes specific criteria to guide the identification and selection of appropriate NDB and VOR instrument approach procedures that can be considered for cancellation. The VOR IAPs associated with this cancellation initiative would be selected from the criteria outlined below. This Notice is not a part of the FAA’s VOR minimum operating network (MON) initiative

By this notice, the FAA seeks comments on proposed criteria that would facilitate the FAA’s determination of which procedures can be considered for cancellation. After reviewing the comments submitted to this notice, the FAA will use the criteria for selection of potential NDB and VOR procedures for cancellation. Once the criteria are established and the FAA considers IAPs for cancellation, the FAA will publish a list of potential IAPs in the Federal Register for notice and comment. Submitted comments will be reviewed and addressed in the final list of subject IAPs published in the Federal Register. The criteria proposed in this notice does not affect any NAS navigational back-up plans and is not a part of the FAA’s VOR minimum operating network (MON) initiative…

The NDB and VOR IAPs recommended for cancellation would be selected at airports using the following criteria. It must be noted that all airports that have existing RNAV and ground-based IAPs would maintain at least one RNAV and one ground-based IAP.

Airports that would be considered for NDB or VOR IAP cancellation:

— All airports with an NDB IAP.

—All airports with a VOR/DME RNAV IAP, unless it is the only IAP at the airport.

—All airports with two or more ground-based IAPs and an RNAV IAP.

—All airports with multiple, redundant ground-based IAPs (e.g., three VOR procedures).

Additional consideration would be given to the following factors in determining the list of potential candidates for cancellation:

—Prevailing wind runways.

—Prevailing runway alignment during adverse weather operations.

—If an airport has a published ILS IAP and additional ground-based IAPs, cancel the procedure to the same runway as the ILS.

—For airports with multiple VOR and NDB IAP’s, retain the IAP with the lowest minimums (if minimums are within 20 feet of each other retain the procedure that allows optimum use by all customers (i.e. VOR and VOR/DME retain VOR because there are no equipage limitations).

Airports that would not be considered for NDB or VOR IAP cancellations:

—Airport with only RNAV/RNPs IAPs published.

—Airport with only one ground-based procedure.

—Airports will not be considered if cancellation would result in removing all IAPs from the airport.

Lastly, the FAA is not considering the following types of procedures for cancellation:

PBN Procedures (RNAV or RNP).

ILS procedures.

Localizer procedures.

TACAN procedures.

Standard Instrument Arrivals (STARs).Show citation box

Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs).

New Edition of FAA Instrument Procedures Handbook

FAA has published a new edition of the Instrument Procedures Handbook (FAA-H-8083-16). It supplants the earlier version (FAA-H-8261-1A), which was published in 2007. The IPH complements the Instrument Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-15). It “introduces advanced information for IFR operations…flight instructors, instrument pilots, and instrument students.”

Update: It appears that the new edition released via ForeFlight is still a draft, albeit a near-final one. FAA will probably release the official new edition of the IPH late in 2013.

If you use the documents feature in ForeFlight, you can download the PDF version now.

The new edition was not available for download at the FAA site as of 21 July, but check the Aviation Handbooks & Manuals page frequently to get the free download as soon as it’s posted. Hard copy versions should be available soon from publishers such as ASA.

Canceling IFR

The other day at BeechTalk, a forum for owners and operators of Beechcraft (Bonanzas, Barons, and the like) a long, surprisingly contentious, thread started with a simple question: When can I cancel IFR?

The pilot who posed the question described a common situation. An IFR aircraft is approaching an airport that does not have an operating control tower. Other airplanes are en route to the same airport or are waiting on the ground for a release to depart. When the current weather is IMC, ATC can allow only one aircraft at any time to operate under IFR (or special VFR) within the (usually) Class E airspace surrounding the airport. Until an approaching aircraft cancels IFR, either in the air or after landing, no other aircraft can fly an approach or depart under an IFR clearance.

Bowerman Airport (KHQM) on the southwest Washington coast is an example of such an airport. It does not have a control tower, and, as indicated by the dashed magenta lines, it is enclosed by surface-based Class E airspace (as opposed to Class E airspace that begins at 700 ft. AGL). The surfaced-based Class E airspace extends west and east of the airport to protect the final approach paths for the instrument approaches that serve KHQM.

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Now, suppose you are approaching KHQM on an IFR clearance. You fly one of published procedures and at some point during the descent, you break into the clear below the clouds. When ATC cleared you for the approach, the controller directed you to report canceling your IFR flight plan either on an ATC frequency or through flight service (in this case, Seattle Radio). You know (or suspect) that other aircraft are waiting to follow you or to depart KHQM, so you are eager to cancel IFR as soon as possible to free up the airspace. It’s often much easier and faster to cancel IFR directly with the controller you’ve been talking to than to use a ground communication outlet or to relay a cancelation through flight service via radio or a cell phone call.

But when can you legally cancel IFR? The basic answer is in AIM 5−1−15. Canceling IFR Flight Plan, viz.:

b. An IFR flight plan may be canceled at any time the flight is operating in VFR conditions outside Class A airspace…

The key to that statement is “operating in VFR conditions.” And that stipulation depends on both the weather and the type of airspace you’re operating in.

If the ASOS at KHQM, which is surrounded by surface-based Class E airspace, is reporting a ceiling less than 1,000 ft. and/or visibility less than 3 miles, you can’t cancel IFR until you are on the ground. That’s because 14 CFR § 91.155   Basic VFR weather minimums stipulates:

(c) Except as provided in § 91.157, no person may operate an aircraft beneath the ceiling under VFR within the lateral boundaries of controlled airspace designated to the surface for an airport when the ceiling is less than 1,000 feet.

(d) Except as provided in § 91.157 of this part, no person may take off or land an aircraft, or enter the traffic pattern of an airport, under VFR, within the lateral boundaries of the surface areas of Class B, Class C, Class D, or Class E airspace designated for an airport—

(1) Unless ground visibility at that airport is at least 3 statute miles; or

(2) If ground visibility is not reported at that airport, unless flight visibility during landing or takeoff, or while operating in the traffic pattern is at least 3 statute miles.

In other words, if the official weather report for the airport indicates that the current weather is less than the minimum for basic VFR in Class E airspace, you can’t legally operate under VFR below the ceiling. In particular, the regulation specifically notes that you can’t take off or land at an airport inside surface-based Class E airspace under VFR when the ceiling is less than 1,000 ft. Flying clear of clouds and having the airport in sight is not the same as “operating in VFR conditions.”

You have more flexibility if the weather is better. If the ASOS reports a ceiling of, say, 1,300 ft. and more than 3 miles visibility (in other words, KHQM is officially, if only marginally, VFR), you could legally cancel IFR when you reached 800 ft. AGL. (500 ft. below the cloud bases). Of course, throughout the remainder of your approach and landing, you must observe the cloud clearance and visibility requirements for Class E airspace as stipulated in § 91.155:

  • 500 feet below
  • 1,000 feet above
  • 2,000 feet horizontal

In marginal VFR conditions, a few wispy clouds often lurk around the airport. To meet the letter of the law, you must make sure that you can clear all of them by at least 2,000 ft. horizontally and 500 ft. vertically.

It’s important to keep this discussion in perspective. When the weather is marginal and you’re flying an approach, canceling as soon as you break out (even if were legal given current conditions) saves only a couple of minutes  versus canceling after landing and clearing the runway. Flying another lap around a holding pattern, slowing down, accepting a delay vector, or idling at the hold-short line at the runway for a few minutes while you wait for a release is occasionally part of flying IFR.

Canceling on the ground can be more cumbersome than speaking directly to the controller who cleared you. But even if the airport doesn’t have good radio coverage on the ground and you have to call flight service on the phone, it’s usually not a big deal. We all have cell phones. Many of us can connect our phones to our headsets or audio panels via Blutetooth. (If you have to call FSS, say “Briefer” as soon as you’re connected so that you can skip the prompts and give the specialist your N-number, location, and intention to cancel IFR.) You can also relay your IFR cancelation through another aircraft that is high enough to communicate directly with ATC.

We all like to help ATC and our fellow pilots by clearing the airspace for the next airplane on approach or to assist the pilot waiting for a release to depart. But trying to sort out the legality of canceling in the air during a critical phase of flight just isn’t worth the risk of distraction or violating the FARs, especially when the delay is so short. If you don’t break out in obvious VMC with plenty of time to juggle canceling, monitoring the CTAF, and keeping an eye out for traffic, land the plane and cancel when you’re safely clear of the runway.

Resources:

From AOPA Air Safety Institute

Airspace for Everyone (PDF)

Airspace Flash Cards (PDF)

14 CFR § 91.155   Basic VFR weather minimums

AOPA (members only): Avoiding the Cancellation Trap

Instrument Flying Handbook: Approach to Airport Without an Operating Control Tower (p. 10-13)

Instrument Procedures Handbook: Airports without an Air Traffic Control Tower (p. 5-14)

New ATC Phraseology for RNAV Aircraft

The FAA has updated its Air Traffic Control handbook (JO 7110.65) with changes to approach clearances issued by controllers. The new procedures and phraseology, which primarily affect RNAV-equipped aircraft, were published in this notice (PDF), are effective June 3, 2013.

Here’s a summary of the key changes:

  • This change provides guidance when a controller does not require an aircraft to fly the hold-in-lieu-of procedure turn but requires the aircraft to fly the straight-in approach.
  • Vectoring to a fix along the final approach course prior to the final approach fix (FAF) is permitted. Appropriately -equipped area navigation (RNAV) aircraft may be cleared to the intermediate fix (IF) on conventional and RNAV instrument approach procedures when the IF is identified with an “IF” on the instrument approach procedure. Procedures and graphics are provided for an aircraft on unpublished routes cleared direct to a fix between the IF and FAF.
  • Guidance is provided for when an aircraft will fly a radius to fix (RF) leg, published on an RNAV approach.
    The first item should eliminate confusion among many pilots when a approach chart shows a holding pattern in lieu of a procedure turn. Controllers will now explicitly clear aircraft “straight-in” when they don’t want the pilot to fly the holding pattern.
      The second item will reduce radio chatter and make it easier for RNAV-equipped aircraft to fly efficient approaches. Pilots may want to review how they load approaches into GPS navigators to avoid what I call the

vectors-to-final scramble

    .
      The last item in the summary refers to RF legs, which at present are part of authorization-required

RNP approaches

    that aren’t available to typical GA pilots.
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