FAA Publishes Final Policy on Cancelation of Certain Circling Approach Minimums

FAA has established its final policy for a program to reduce the number of circle-to-land approaches. The notice was published in the Federal Register on July 28, 2018. FAA had previously advised its intent to reduce the number of such approaches in 2016.

According to the new notice:

The FAA’s policy is not intended to ensure straight-in IAPs for every runway end, but rather minimizing IFP redundancy in the NAS. The FAA acknowledges that with the cancellation of some circling procedures, there may be reduced airport accessibility, but no reduction in runway availability.

FAA’s reasons for the new policy are spelled out in the notice:

As new technology has facilitated the introduction of area navigation (RNAV) instrument approach procedures over the past decade, the number of procedures available in the NAS has nearly doubled. The complexity and cost to the FAA of maintaining the instrument flight procedures inventory while expanding the new RNAV capability is not sustainable. Managing two versions of the NAS requires excess manpower, infrastructure, and information management which is costly and unsupportable in the long-term. To mitigate these costs, the FAA has a number of efforts underway to effectively transition from the legacy to the NextGen NAS. One area of focus for this transition is instrument flight procedures (IFPs). The FAA seeks to ensure an effective transition from ground-based IFPs to greater availability and use of satellite-based IFPs while maintaining NAS safety…

As of March 29, 2018, there are 12,068 IAPs in publication, consisting of 33,825 lines of minima, 11,701 of which are circling lines of minima. This represents a nearly 9 percent increase in IAP lines of minima from September 18, 2014. Circling procedures account for approximately one-third of all lines of minima for IAPs in the NAS.

Here are the key points in the new policy:

All circling procedures will continue to be reviewed through the established IAP periodic review process. As part of that review process, each circling procedure will be evaluated against the following questions:

  • Is this the only IAP at the airport?
  • Is this procedure a designated MON airport procedure?
  • If multiple IAPs serve a single runway end, does this procedure provide the lowest circling minima for that runway?
  • If the RNAV circling minima is not the lowest, but is within 50′ of the lowest, the FAA would give the RNAV preference.
  • Would cancellation result in removal of circling minima from all conventional NAVAID procedures at an airport? If circling minima exists for multiple Conventional NAVAID procedures, preference would be to retain ILS circling minima.
  • Would cancellation result in all circling minima being removed from all airports within 20 NMs? This particular criterion recognizes the circling content of the Instrument Rating—Airplane Airman Certification Standards (ACS).
  • Will removal eliminate lowest landing minima to an individual runway?

The following questions are applicable only to circling-only procedures:

  • Does this circling-only procedure exist because of high terrain or an obstacle which makes a straight-in procedure infeasible or which would result in the straight-in minimums being higher than the circling minima?
  • Is this circling-only procedure (1) at an airport where not all runway ends have a straight-in IAP, and (2) does it have a Final Approach Course not aligned within 45 degrees of a runway which has a straight-in IAP?
  • Further consideration for cancellation under this policy will be terminated if any of the aforementioned questions are answered in the affirmative. If all questions are answered in the negative, the procedure will be processed as described in the following paragraph.

When a candidate has been identified for cancellation, Aeronautical Information Services will post the proposed cancellation on the Instrument Flight Procedures Information Gateway (IFP Gateway). Comments regarding the aforementioned circling procedure should be submitted via email to: AMC-ATO-IFP-Cancellations@faa.gov. Comments will only be considered and adjudicated when submitted prior to the comment deadline associated with the flight procedure as listed on the IFP Coordination tab of the Instrument Flight Procedures Information Gateway site. Aeronautical Information Services will adjudicate and respond to each comment within 30 days of being received. When a determination is made to cancel a part 97 instrument flight procedure or circling line of minima, the cancellation will be published in the Federal Register.

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Update on ATC Phone Numbers and IFR Clearances

FAA continues to publish ATC telephone numbers for pilots who need to get an IFR clearance or close an IFR flight plan at non-towered airports (background here at BruceAir).

Note that FAA is testing a system that would allow pilots to receive ATC clearances on mobile devices. For more information, see this article at AOPA.

An FAA representative briefed (full presentation here) the April 25-26, 2018 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum (complete meeting minutes here).

Highlights:

  • Chart Supplement (A/FD) entries for 656 airports have been updated with clearance delivery phone numbers.
  • 25 additional approach control facilities will participate in the program; the Chart Supplement entries for over 200 additional airports will be updated to include a clearance delivery phone number.
  • For all other uncontrolled airports without a GCO or radio outlet linking them to ATC or Flight Service, pilots will be able to obtain a clearance by calling the overlying ARTCC.

The September 2018 update to the AIM will include the following paragraph:

5-2-3. TAXI CLEARANCE
a. Pilots departing on an IFR flight plan should consult the Chart Supplement US airport/facility directory to determine the frequency or telephone number to use to contact clearance delivery. On initial contact pilots should advise the flight is IFR and state the destination airport.

Proposed Changes to Airport Diagrams

FAA is proposing to remove the inset airport diagrams from instrument procedure charts and the Chart Supplement (A/FD) and instead publish complete airport diagrams for all airports with IFR procedures.

The proposal (detailed FAA briefing here) was discussed at the April 25-26, 2018 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum (complete meeting minutes here).

FAA currently produces:

  • 700 airport diagrams
  • 3000 airport sketches in the Chart Supplement
  • 3000 inset diagrams on terminal procedure charts

AirportDiagrams-001

The detailed proposal includes the following key points:

  • Eliminate Terminal and Chart Supplement Sketches.
  • All hard-surfaced runway public use airports with IFR procedures will have a published airport diagram.
  • Eliminate cultural features such as trees, creeks, water and power lines etc.
  • Change diagram specifications to incorporate information from the chart supplement and terminal chart sketches.
  • Add geo-referenced information for real-world location and for future data driven product development.

FAA argued that the proposed charting change would:

  • Eliminate maintenance of three types of airport layouts.
  • Create a single standard Airport Diagram for all airports.
  • Print one diagram in one publication (currently printed 4 ways).
  • Free up space in the TPP plate for more relevant procedural information
  • Provide a more robust product.
  • Streamline internal production processes.
  • Deliver a more accurate and updated product.

An FAA representative noted that Jeppesen does not publish inset sketches on its terminal charts. Adopting this proposal would follow that practice.

The proposal generated detailed discussion, and FAA solicited comments from users and organizations such as AOPA.

Cloud Surfing

A few minutes of flying among the clouds during a couple of IFR flights in the Pacific Northwest.

More videos at my YouTube channel, BruceAirFlying.

New Equipment Required Notes

FAA has published a charting notice (PDF) that describes how equipment requirements will be noted on terminal procedure charts. This change is based on a long discussion at the Aeronautical Charting Forum (see 13-02-312: Equipment Requirement Notes on Instrument Approach Procedure).

For procedures with PBN elements, the PBN box will contain the procedure’s navigation specification(s); and, if required: specific sensors or infrastructure needed for the navigation solution; any additional or advanced functional requirements; the minimum Required Navigation Performance (RNP) value and any amplifying remarks. Items listed in this PBN box are REQUIRED. The separate Equipment Requirements Box will list ground-based equipment requirements. On procedures with both PBN elements and ground-based equipment requirements, the PBN requirements box will be listed first.

The publication of the new notes will continue incrementally until all charts have been amended to comply with the new standard.

A sample of the new notes boxes is below.

PBN Requirements Notes

Here’s an example of the requirements box on the recently updated chart for the ILS RWY 28R approach at Billings, MT (KBIL):

KBIL-ILS-PlanView

Setting the CDI on a Conventional Approach (The “Kill Switch”)

If you fly an aircraft with an IFR-approved GNSS, you probably use that “suitable RNAV system” to help you fly all types of approaches, including ILS, LOC, and VOR procedures. In fact, if your aircraft isn’t equipped with DME or ADF, using an IFR-approved GNSS system may be the only way for you to fly many conventional procedures.

“Suitable RNAV systems” based on GNSS are described in AIM 1−2−3. Use of Suitable Area Navigation (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Procedures and Routes, AC 90−100, AC 90-108, and other FAA references.

A critical step in flying conventional approaches while using GNSS to fly transitions/feeder routes is ensuring that the proper guidance is shown on the PFD/HSI as you intercept and then fly the final approach course.

For example, as shown below, when flying the LOC RWY 17 approach at Aurora, OR (KUAO), you could use the GNSS for course guidance as you fly the charted transition from the Battleground (BTG) VOR.

KUAO-LOCRWY17-Chart-01

KUAO-LOCRWY17-Transition-01

Some systems can automatically switch the CDI from the “magenta line” shown when using GNSS signals to “green needles,” usually labeled VOR/LOC, as you intercept final. But you must always monitor the avionics and, if necessary, use the CDI button (or other switch for your system) to change to VOR/LOC “green needles” before you join the final approach course.

KUAO-LOCRWY17-FinalApproach-01.jpg

For more information about guidance along the final approach course, see Use of IFR GPS on Conventional Approaches here at BruceAir.

Unfortunately, many pilots fail to confirm this critical step, which often occurs during a high-workload phase of an approach. For example, just as you are about to intercept the final approach course, ATC may issue a rapid-fire vector and approach clearance (“Fly heading 130, maintain 2,000 until established…”), you can be distracted while making a late configuration change, or while switching frequencies to the tower or CTAF.

In fact, this error is so common that many pilots and instructors call the CDI switch the “kill button” (or a similarly ominious name) to emphasize its importance.

I use a graphical reminder to help me ensure that I switch course guidance in plenty of time for a smooth intercept.

Like many pilots, I use a tablet and an aviation app (in my case, primarily ForeFlight) to display charts. Those apps typically have an annotation feature that lets you mark up charts to emphasize important information.

ForeFlightAnnotations

For example, on this chart for another approach at KUAO, I’ve noted a temporary change in minimums.

AnnotatedChart

To remind myself to switch the CDI to “green needles” on conventional approaches, I use the annotation feature to draw a transparent green line along the final approach course.

KUAO-LOCRWY17-Plan-GreenLine-01

I mark up the charts for conventional approaches during my preflight planning as I review weather, NOTAMs, procedures that I might fly, and other details.

I organize approaches that I fly often into binders in ForeFlight (other apps have a similar feature), and the markups are preserved between flights, so I don’t have to repeat this process for most of the procedures that I fly.

Because RNAV (GPS) approaches don’t require changing from GNSS guidance, I don’t highlight the final approach segment on those procedures.

To avoid cluttering charts, I also don’t mark the intial steps of a missed approach in magenta to signify that I can return to GNSS guidance to fly the miss, regardless of the type of approach. But if you’re in IFR training or new to using GNSS under IFR, highlighting the miss in magenta might be a useful reminder.

Update on ATC Phone Numbers for IFR Clearances/Cancellations

At the October 2017 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum, the FAA provided an update (PDF) on its efforts to provide direct telephone numbers to ATC facilities so that pilots can receive IFR clearances and cancel IFR at non-towered airports directly with ATC rather than relay those notifications through FSS or other means.

The presentation notes that:

  • ATC phone numbers for 656 airports have been entered into the national airport database and published in the Chart Supplement.
  • Over 200 additional airports will have their Chart Supplement entries updated to include a clearance delivery phone number.
  • For all other uncontrolled airports without a GCO or radio outlet linking them to ATC or Flight Service, pilots will be able to obtain a clearance by calling the overlying ARTCC through a published phone number to that Center’s Flight Data Unit (FDU).

KTTD-AFD_07DEC2017.jpg

An update to AIM 5-2-3 Taxi Clearance is also in the works. The proposed language would read as follows:

a. Pilots departing on an IFR flight plan should consult the Chart Supplement US airport/facility directory to determine the frequency or telephone number to use to contact clearance delivery. On initial contact pilots should advise the flight is IFR and state the destination airport.

b. Air traffic facilities providing clearance delivery services via telephone will have their telephone number published in the communication remarks section of that airport’s directory entry. This same remarks section may also contain a telephone number to use for cancellation of an IFR flight plan after landing. Pilots are encouraged to use these telephone numbers at uncontrolled airports when they are published. Pilots may also contact Flight Service’s dedicated clearance delivery hotline (1-888-766-8267).

FAA also plans to move telephone relay of IFR clearance from FSS to ATC:

Preliminary agreement has been reached with Air Traffic and the Bargaining Units to move the telephone relay of all remaining IFR Clearance functions from Flight Service over to Air Traffic.