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 Procedures and graphics are provided for an aircraft on unpublished routes cleared direct to a fix between the IF and FAF.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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