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):



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.



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.


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.


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


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.


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).


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.

Fall 2017 Update on VOR Decommissioning

At the October 2017 meeting of the Aeronautical Charting Forum, the FAA provided an update on the program gradually to decommission about 309 VORs by 2025 as part of the switch to GNSS-based performance based navigation (PBN).

To see the full list of VORs that FAA plans to decommission, visit this post at BruceAir.


According to the minutes of that meeting and a presentation from an FAA representative, the switch to the mininimum operational network (MON) of about 587 VORs includes the following highlights:

Discontinued 16 VORs to date:
– [EDS] Edisto, in Orangeburg, SC – February 4, 2016
– [BUA] Buffalo, in Buffalo, SD – July 21, 2016
– [PNN] Princeton, in Princeton ME – July 21, 2016
– [PLB] Plattsburgh, in Plattsburgh, NY – September 15, 2016
– [AOH] Allen County , in Lima, OH – September 15, 2016
– [ABB] Nabb, in Nabb Indiana – January 5, 2017
– [SYO] Sayre, in Sayre Oklahoma – April 27, 2017
– [ENW] Kenosha, in Kenosha Wisconsin – June 22, 2017
– [BTL] Battle Creek, in Battle Creek, Michigan – June 22,2017
– [HRK] Horlick, in Horlick Wisconsin – June 22, 2017
– [HUW] West Plains, Missouri – August 17, 2017
– [RIS] Kansas City, Missouri – September 14, 2017
– [DDD] Port City, in Muscatine, IA – October 12, 2017
– [JKS] Jacks Creek, TN – October 12, 2017
– [MXW] Maxwell, CA – October 12, 2017
– [STE] Stevens Point, WI – October 12, 2017

Over the next six months, the following  seven VORs are scheduled to be shut down:

– [AOO] Altoona, PA
– [BRD] Brainerd, MN
– [DKK] Dunkirk, NY
– [HVN] New Haven, CT
– [PNE] North Philadelphia, PA
– [RNL] Rainelle, WV
– [RUT] Rutland, VT

You can follow the links in the list above to see the VORs on a VFR chart. Note that these navaids are not the only VORs in the vicinity. In fact, in most cases, at least one VOR is within just a few miles of the facility slated for shutdown.


Part of the switch to the MON is establishing new VOR service volumes. The FAA representative noted that upgrading and flight checking remaining VORs is one the next steps in the VOR MON program. The upgraded service volume values will be 70 nm at or above 5000 ft and 130 nm above 18,000 ft for high VORs. When the flight checks are complete, new information about VOR service volumes will be published in the Chart Supplement and the AIM.

Z, Y, X in Approach Titles

I’ve recently noticed questions popping up about the letters Z, Y, X appearing in the titles of instrument approach procedures. Titles that include “-A,” “-B,” or “-C” are familiar–they designate procedures that have only circle-to-land minimums, such as the VOR-A at Olympia, WA (KOLM). But letters from the other end of the alphabet puzzle many pilots.


For example:

The most detailed explanation of this naming convention is in “Straight-In Procedures” in Chapter 4 of the Instrument Procedures Handbook (updated in October 2017):

When two or more straight-in approaches with the same type of guidance exist for a runway, a letter suffix is added to the title of the approach so that it can be more easily identified. These approach charts start with the letter Z and continue in reverse alphabetical order. For example, consider the (RNAV) (GPS) Z RWY 13C and RNAV (RNP) Y RWY 13C approaches at Chicago Midway International Airport…Although these two approaches can be flown with a global positioning system (GPS) to the same runway, they are significantly different (e.g., one is a Required Navigation Performance (RNP) Authorization Required (AR) … one has circling minimums and the other does not; the minimums are different; and the missed approaches are not the same). The approach procedure labeled Z has lower landing minimums than Y…

In this example, the LNAV MDA for the RNAV (GPS) Z RWY 13C has the lowest minimums of either approach due to the differences in the final approach required obstacle clearance (ROC) evaluation. This convention also eliminates any confusion with approach procedures labeled A and B, where only circling minimums are published. The designation of two area navigation (RNAV) procedures to the same runway can occur when it is desirable to accommodate panel mounted GPS receivers and flight management systems (FMSs), both with and without vertical navigation (VNAV). It is also important to note that only one of each type of approach for a runway, including ILS, VHF omnidirectional range (VOR), and non-directional beacon (NDB) can be coded into a database. (4-9)

FAA Order 8260.3C (i.e., TERPS) includes additional information:

Alphabetical suffix. When more than one procedure to the same runway uses the same type of navigation system for lateral guidance within the final approach segment, differentiate each procedure by adding a non-repeating alphabetical suffix using the letters “S” through “Z.” Suffixes are normally assigned in reverse order starting with “Z,” but may be assigned as needed to meet operational needs [for example, all RNAV (RNP) approaches at an airport assigned “Z” suffix, all RNAV (GPS) approaches assigned “Y” suffix, etc.]. (1-9)

As noted above, approaches to the same runway can be labeled Z, Y, or X… for several reasons.

For example, consider the ILS RWY 27 at KYKM, which is published as both the ILS Y RWY 27 and ILS Z RWY 27.

The Z version requires a non-standard climb gradient of 250 ft/nm on the missed approach procedure (see the note in the plan view), but it provides a DA of 1268 (200 AGL) with RVR 2400.



The DA on the Y version of the approach is 1725 (657 AGL) with visibility of 2 sm. So you can go much lower and to the equivalent of 1/2 sm visibility if you can achieve the steeper climb gradient on the miss.

There are two versions of the ILS RWY 16R–but for a different reason–at Snohomish County–Paine Field (KPAE) north of Seattle.

Both procedures offer the same basic DA and visibility minimums (although the Z version allows a reduction to RVR 1800 with a flight director, autopilot or HUD). But the FAF (ITIPE) for the Y edition is 4.4 nm from the PAE VOR.


The Z version, which also has published minimums for category C and D aircraft, has a FAF (JUGBA) at 7.6 nm from the VOR.


If you’re flying a typical light GA aircraft, the Y version is much more efficient, while the Z version is better suited to jets (like the shiny new Boeings emerging from the factory at KPAE) that need more room to get established on final.

As pointed out earlier, Z, Y, and X versions of the same basic procedure may require different equipment or missed approach segments. For example, using your favorite chart-viewing app, compare the ILS Y or LOC RWY 20 and the ILS Z or LOC/DME RWY 20 at Walla Walla, WA (KALW).

The key to flying such approaches is a careful review of the entire procedure, including notes lurking on the chart. When you contact ATC, it’s also important to request the specific procedure–including the letter–that you want to fly.

And, if you’re using an IFR-approved GPS–even for situational awareness or to act as a substitute for DME or ADF  when flying a ground-based approach– ensure that you load the correct procedure and verify the key fixes before you begin flying the approach.

RVR 1800 with AP, FD, or HUD

On May 30, 2017, FAA updated Order 8400.13D to allow “CAT I approaches with a DH of 200 feet and visibility minimums of RVR 1800 [a reduction from the typical 2400 RVR value] at runways with reduced lighting, using an aircraft flight director (FD) or autopilot (AP) with an approach coupler or head-up display (HUD) to DA.”

This change applies to ILS and RNAV (GPS) approaches with LPV minimums. (GBAS approaches are also included, but those procedures are, at present, rare.)

The policy update was announced in the summer 2017 edition of SatNav News.

Here’s an example of the RVR 1800 minimums on the chart for the ILS or LOC Rwy 20 at KALW (Walla Walla, WA).

KALW-ILS-RWY 20-full

This typical category 1 ILS approach has an RVR of 2400 and a DA of 200 ft (1394 MSL).

KALW-ILS-RWY 20-mins
But as the notes for the procedure explain, the # symbol next to the S-ILS 20 minimums means that RVR 1800 is authorized with use of a flight director (FD) or autopilot (AP) or HUD to the DA.

KALW-ILS-RWY 20-notes
FAA Order 8400.13D adds the following information about reducing CAT 1 minimums to RVR 1800:

  • To be eligible for CAT I approaches to RVR 1800, runways must have or be qualified for a Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 97 Standard Instrument Approach Procedure (SIAP).
  • Runways must have or be qualified for CAT I DH of 200 feet or less and visibility minimum of not more than 2400 RVR.
  • The runway must have a declared landing distance of 5000 feet or greater.
  • The runway also must have a simplified short approach lighting system with runway alignment indicator lights (SSALR), medium intensity approach lighting system with runway alignment indicator lights (MALSR), or approach lighting with sequenced flashing lights (ALSF-1/ALSF-2)
  • HIRL
  • TDZ sensor of an RVR reporting system.

The order adds that:

Any existing part 97 CAT I SIAP which did not qualify for 1800 RVR due to the absence of TDZ or RCL lighting can be amended to include 1800 RVR visibility.

When 1800 RVR operations are authorized, FAA will update the approach chart. If RVR 1800 minimums are authorized before a chart is updated, a NOTAM will be issued which authorizes RVR 1800. CAT I operations to RVR 1800 will be added to existing CAT I SIAPS in accordance with a schedule established by the Regional Airspace and Procedures Team.

The ILS OR LOC/DME RWY 21R at KPSC (Pasco, WA) is another example of RVR 1800 minimums authorized for an ILS.


The S-ILS 21R minimums line includes two asterisks that point to the notes section, which authorizes RVR 1800 with use of a FD, or AP, or HUD to DA.

The RNAV (GPS) Y RWY 21R at KPSC, updated in August 2017, shows the RVR 1800 minimums applied to an RNAV approach with LPV minimums. On this chart, the # note reference appears next to DA.


New Edition of Instrument Procedures Handbook

FAA has published a new edition of the Instrument Procedures Handbook (FAA-H-8083-16B). You can download a PDF of the IPH at the FAA website here.

The IPH is a complement to the Instrument Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8081-15B), available for download here.

A summary of changes in the new edition of the IPH is available as a PDF in my Aviation Documents folder, here.