Use of Approved GPS (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Procedures and Routes

The introduction of IFR-approved GPS units has caused much confusion among pilots who wonder when they can use those units in lieu of or as supplement to ground-based navigation aids.

The latest edition of the Aeronautical Information Manual (released August 27, 2009) finally clarifies the issue in section 1-2-3 “Use of Suitable Area Navigation (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Procedures and Routes.”

The section begins with an explanation of terms and situations, but the crucial language is in paragraph c, “Allowable Operations”:

Operators may use a suitable RNAV system in the following ways.

1. Determine aircraft position over or distance from a VOR (see NOTE 4 below), TACAN, NDB, compass locator, DME fix; or a named fix defined by a VOR radial, TACAN course, NDB bearing, or compass locator bearing intersecting a VOR or localizer course.

2. Navigate to or from a VOR, TACAN, NDB, or compass locator.

3. Hold over a VOR, TACAN, NDB, compass locator, or DME fix.

4. Fly an arc based upon DME.

These operations are allowable even when a facility is explicitly identified as required on a procedure (e.g., “Note ADF required”).

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