Organizing Approach Charts and Checklists

My IFR students have asked about the system I use for organizing frequently-used approach charts and checklists, especially when flying aircraft with small cockpits. Although I use an iPad and have electronic charts in the G500/GTN750 avionics in the cockpit of the Bonanza, I still keep printed copies of the current charts for the airports that I use frequently, both as backup and for convenience when I fly with students and customers.

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I use 5.5 x 8.5 (kneeboard size) Avery 77004 sheet protectors or Staples Item 616224 ($4.81 for 25) to organize and hold approach charts and checklists. These sheet holders work with printed FAA charts or Jeppesen plates.

You can quickly print sets of charts for airports by using the features at AOPA Airports. You can also capture and then print portions of IFR en route and VFR charts at SkyVector.com.

Staples® 5-1/2

You can use Staples Item 453599 ($7.79 for 66 tabs) or the equivalent to attach and label tabs to help you organize checklists and charts.

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VOR Decommissioning: Latest FAA Update

The latest meeting of the FAA’s Aeronautical Charting Forum included an update from FAA on its plans to decommission many VORs as the nation’s air navigation and air traffic control services transition to a GPS-based system. Here’s a summary of the briefing from the ACF meeting minutes:

Discontinuation of VOR Services

Leonixa Salcedo, AJM-324, briefed the issue. Leonixa gave an overview of the VOR MON program and a status report since the last ACF. She reviewed the progress made to date on identifying VORs that may be decommissioned. She pointed out to the audience a significant change in the number of VORs expected to be decommissioned. Previously, it had been reported that approximately 50% of all the VORs in the NAS would be decommissioned. That estimation has been readjusted to just over 33% (approximately 308).

Leonixa stated that since the last ACF, the criteria for decommissioning VORs has been developed by the FAA and MITRE. Discussions have also taken place between the FAA and the DoD, during which the military emphasized that their operational requirements within the NAS require that fewer VORs be decommissioned.

Leonixa explained that the VOR MON program will be on a 10 year timeline of three phases, with the decommissioning of approximately 100 VORs during each phase. The goal is for final transition to the VOR MON by 2025. In the short term, Leonixa stated that a list of VORs initially selected for decommissioning will be released to the public sometime in 2015.

You can review the PowerPoint presentation about the VOR decommissioning program from the ACF meeting here (PDF).

FAA Publishes MVA and MIA Charts

The FAA has published minimum vectoring altitude and minimum IFR altitude charts on its website, here (scroll to the bottom of the page for the links to each category).

e. Minimum Vectoring Altitudes (MVAs) are established for use by ATC when radar ATC is exercised. MVA charts are prepared by air traffic facilities at locations where there are numerous different minimum IFR altitudes. Each MVA chart has sectors large enough to accommodate vectoring of aircraft within the sector at the MVA. Each sector boundary is at least 3 miles from the obstruction determining the MVA. To avoid a large sector with an excessively high MVA due to an isolated prominent obstruction, the obstruction may be enclosed in a buffer area whose boundaries are at least 3 miles from the obstruction. This is done to facilitate vectoring around the obstruction. (AIM 5−4−5)

The charts are PDFs, sorted alphabetically by facility.

Note the disclaimers on the main page:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Minimum Vectoring Altitude (MVA) charts and Minimum IFR Altitude (MIA) charts are being made available on this website in PDF format for users to identify the sector designs and minimum altitudes on charts used by Air Traffic Control. These charts are not geo-referenced and are not to be used for navigation. In the next two years, as Air Traffic Facilities update current MVA and MIA charts, they will be made available in AIXM 5.1 format.

FAA Publishes List of Instrument Approaches Set for Cancellation

FAA has published the latest list of 736 VOR and NDB approaches that it wants to cancel. You can download a Microsoft Excel worksheet that includes all of the procedures here.

According to the April 13, 2015 announcement in the Federal Register:

This action proposes to remove certain redundant or underutilized ground-based non-directional beacon and very high frequency, omnidirectional radio range Standard Instrument Approach Procedures based on the criteria established by the FAA’s Policy for Discontinuance of Certain Instrument Approach Procedures.

The announcement offers additional details as background:

On June 27, 2014, the FAA published a policy establishing criteria for cancelling instrument approach procedures (79 FR 36576). Cancelling certain ground-based non-directional beacon (NDB), and very high frequency (VHF), omnidirectional radio range (VOR) SIAPs is one integral part of right-sizing the quantity and type of procedures in the National Airspace System (NAS). As new technology facilitates the introduction of area navigation (RNAV) instrument approach procedures, the number of procedures available in the National Airspace System has nearly doubled over the past decade. The complexity and cost to the FAA of maintaining the existing ground based navigational infrastructure while expanding the new RNAV capability is not sustainable. Therefore, the FAA is proposing the following list of SIAPs for cancellation based on the criteria established in the Policy.

The proposal is open for comments until May 28, 2015.

You can find details about the current inventory of instrument approaches and related procedures at the Instrument Flight Procedures (IFP) Inventory Summary website.

To learn more about specific procedures and procedures in development, visit the Instrument Flight Procedures Information Gateway.

Flying Instrument Approaches without Activating the Approach

Many pilots who use sophisticated GPS-based navigators have difficulty consistently loading and flying approaches. As I’ve noted elsewhere, pilots who use the vectors-to-final option may find themselves scrambling to comply with a clearance that directs them to a specific fix in the approach. Other pilots fumble with activating an approach, a process that sometimes leads the airplane in an unexpected direction.

Many instructors, myself included, have long advocated using the flight plan page on your navigator to simplify flying instrument approaches (and SIDs and STARs). In fact, the flight plan page or menu is typically the most misunderstood and least-utilized feature of most GPS navigators.

I’ve created a short presentation that guides you through the process of loading (and “activating”) an approach on the Garmin GTN 750. The presentation, Flying an Approach with the GTN 750, is available as a free PDF that you can download from the Aviation Documents folder at my OneDrive page. You can find many more useful, free references there.

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The basic technique and principles described in the presentation apply to most IFR-approved GPS navigators, but you should, of course, review the handbook and AFM supplement applicable to the unit in the aircraft that you fly.

After reviewing the presentation, practice with the free simulators available from Garmin and fly with an instructor or safety pilot in VMC before you launch on an actual IFR flight.

Confused about “Climb Via” and “Descend Via” Clearances?

FAA has published a Q&A on this relatively new type of clearance associated with SIDs and STARs.

I wrote about these clearances when the “climb via” version was announced in 2012. Details here.

You can find additional information from NBAA here.

New Aviation Data and Charts: What’s Changed?

Before the advent of the iPad and similar tablets, aviators used paper charts. Most instrument-rated pilots subscribed to charts published by Jeppesen, and updates, in distinctive yellow envelopes, arrived in the mail every two weeks. Updating the approach charts and associated information meant pulling out one or more thick binders and manually tearing out the old sheets and replacing them with new “plates.”

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That manual update process was time-consuming and prone to errors–a chore often left to downtime at the airport. Now, most pilots, from airline captains to students, have adopted electronic charts, at least for some operations. Increasing numbers of us have gone paperless, a practice allowed by the FAA under several guidance documents. For non-commercial operators, the most relevant document is AC 91-78 Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB).

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The old manual update method had one virtue, however. You handled the new charts, and you could easily see which procedures had been canceled or updated. New procedures were also obvious.

Downloads of new charts to an iPad update the information quickly and accurately, but you can’t easily determine which charts have changed.

The FAA does offer tools to help you discover what’s new with each data cycle.

For example, the Advanced Search page at the AeroNav Products website is an interactive way to find new or changed terminal procedures (IAPs, SIDs, STARs, etc.) for IFR flying.

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You can search for procedures added, changed, or deleted in the current cycle or the next updates to be published. Narrow a search by the volume (Northeast Vol. 1, Southwest Vol. 2, etc.), state, or city in which the airport(s) you’re interested in are listed. You can also search for specific a specific airport by typing its ID or name.

The PDF compare option displays the two latest versions of a chart with highlights that mark what’s changed.

PDF-compare

Looking Ahead: Procedures in Development

To learn about instrument procedures that are under development, visit the IFP Information Gateway, where you can search for airports by name, ID, or city. The page displays details about forthcoming changes to existing procedures and information about procedures that are under development, including preliminary charts.

VFR Chart Updates and Bulletins

To review changes to VFR charts, see the VFR Chart Update Bulletins page, where you can download PDF summaries of late changes to and errors on published charts.

VFR-Bulletins

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