Database Currency for IFR Operations

Most instrument-rated pilots now fly with GPS-based navigation equipment (according to AOPA, 78 percent of its members rely on GPS as their primary navigation tool). To use an IFR-approved GPS when operating IFR, the unit’s database must be current or you must verify the accuracy of the data (for more details, see note 4 in AIM 1-2-3: Use of Suitable Area Navigation (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Procedures and Routes). Keeping a typical GPS unit up-to-date usually involves downloading fresh data to a card every 28 days.

Of course, the dates of those updates don’t always fall conveniently between trips, and FAA has outlined procedures to help pilots ensure that the data in GPS avionics matches the vital information on current charts, especially instrument approach plates.

Regarding instrument approaches, the key information for matching the database to the chart is the procedure amendment reference date, not necessarily the date printed at the top of the chart. On charts published by the FAA, the procedure amendment reference date appears in the lower-left corner, next to the amendment number.

The best description of the procedure amendment reference date and how to use it is in Jeppesen Briefing Bulletin JEP 09-C (PDF)–even if you use charts published by FAA AeroNav Products. The Jeppesen briefing bulletin includes a simple flow chart that helps you use the procedure reference date.

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