Instrument Approach


  • Instrument Approach Procedures, or IAPs for short, are established to provide the transition from the en-route structure to the terminal environment when operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), and/or during Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), to a point where a safe landing can be made
    • Simply stated, they are "road" maps for aircraft entering the terminal area
  • IAPs (standard and special, civil and military) are based on joint civil and military criteria contained in the U.S. Standard for TERPS which takes into account the interrelationship between airports, facilities, and the surrounding environment, terrain, obstacles, noise sensitivity, etc.
  • Appropriate altitudes, courses, headings, distances, and other limitations are specified and, once approved, the procedures are published and distributed by government and commercial cartographers as instrument approach charts
  • Not all IAPs are published in chart form
    • Radar IAPs are established where requirements and facilities exist but they are printed in tabular form in appropriate U.S. Government Flight Information Publications
  • While headings and altitudes will change, approaches generally follow the same rules, which are published on the approach chart (also referred to as the approach plate)
Instrument Flying Handbook, Instrument Approach Chart
Figure 1: Instrument Flying Handbook,
Instrument Approach Chart

Instrument Approach Chart:

FAA Approach
Figure 2: FAA Approach

Pilot Briefing and Procedure Notes:

  • This is the starting place for any approach to be flown and is directly related to the conduct of the approach brief
  • The issuing authority is labeled at the top center of the approach plate:
    • Civil procedures are defined with "FAA" in parenthesis; e.g., (FAA) [Figure 2] at the top, center of the procedure chart
    • Military Approach
      Figure 3: Military Approach
    • DOD procedures are defined using the abbreviation of the applicable military service in parenthesis; e.g., (USAF), (USN), (USA) [Figure 3]
  • If there are military procedures published at a civil airport, aircraft operating under 14 CFR Part 91 must use the civil procedure(s)
  • 14 CFR Section 91.175(g), Military airports, requires civil pilots flying into or out of military airports to comply with the IAPs and takeoff and landing minimums prescribed by the authority having jurisdiction at those airports
  • Unless an emergency exists, civil aircraft operating at military airports normally require advance authorization, commonly referred to as "Prior Permission Required" or "PPR"
  • Information on obtaining a PPR for a particular military airport can be found in the Airport/Facility Directory [Figure 4]
    • Civil aircraft may conduct practice VFR approaches using DOD instrument approach procedures when approved by the air traffic controller
Prior Permission Required
Figure 4: Prior Permission Required
  • The navigation equipment required to join and fly an instrument approach procedure is indicated by the title of the procedure and notes on the chart
    • Straight-in IAPs are identified by the navigational system providing the final approach guidance and the runway to which the approach is aligned [Figure 4]
    • Circling only approaches are identified by the navigational system providing final approach guidance and a letter [Figure 5]
    • More than one navigational system separated by a slash indicates that more than one type of equipment must be used to execute the final approach [Figure 6]
    • More than one navigational system separated by the word "or" indicates either type of equipment may be used to execute the final approach [Figure 7]
  • The name of an instrument approach, as published, is used to identify the approach, even though a component of the approach aid, such as the glideslope on an Instrument Landing System, is inoperative or unreliable. The controller will use the name of the approach as published, but must advise the aircraft at the time an approach clearance is issued that the inoperative or unreliable approach aid component is unusable, except when the title of the published approach procedures otherwise allows, for example, ILS or LOC
  • Except when being radar vectored to the final approach course, when cleared for a specifically prescribed IAP; i.e., "cleared ILS runway one niner approach" or when "cleared approach" i.e., execution of any procedure prescribed for the airport, pilots must execute the entire procedure commencing at an IAF or an associated feeder route as described on the IAP chart unless an appropriate new or revised ATC clearance is received, or the IFR flight plan is canceled
  • Pilots planning flights to locations which are private airfields or which have instrument approach procedures based on private navigation aids should obtain approval from the owner. In addition, the pilot must be authorized by the FAA to fly special instrument approach procedures associated with private navigation aids (see paragraph 5-4-8). Owners of navigation aids that are not for public use may elect to turn off the signal for whatever reason they may have; for example, maintenance, energy conservation, etc. Air traffic controllers are not required to question pilots to determine if they have permission to land at a private airfield or to use procedures based on privately owned navigation aids, and they may not know the status of the navigation aid. Controllers presume a pilot has obtained approval from the owner and the FAA for use of special instrument approach procedures and is aware of any details of the procedure if an IFR flight plan was filed to that airport
  • Pilots should not rely on radar to identify a fix unless the fix is indicated as "RADAR" on the IAP. Pilots may request radar identification of an OM, but the controller may not be able to provide the service due either to workload or not having the fix on the video map
Figure 4: VOR RWY 16
Figure 5: VOR-A
Figure 6: VOR/DME RWY 15R
Figure 7: ILS or LOC RWY 1
  • In some cases, other types of navigation systems including radar may be required to execute other portions of the approach or to navigate to the IAF (e.g., an NDB procedure turn to an ILS, an NDB in the missed approach, or radar required to join the procedure or identify a fix)
    • When radar or other equipment is required for procedure entry from the en-route environment, a note will be charted in the planview (see below) of the approach procedure chart (e.g., RADAR REQUIRED or ADF REQUIRED)
    • When radar or other equipment is required on portions of the procedure outside the final approach segment, including the missed approach, a note will be charted in the notes box of the pilot briefing portion of the approach chart (e.g., RADAR REQUIRED or DME REQUIRED)
      • Notes are not charted when VOR is required outside the final approach segment
    • Pilots should ensure that the aircraft is equipped with the required NAVAID(s) in order to execute the approach, including the missed approach
    • Some military (i.e., U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy) IAPs have these "additional equipment required" notes charted only in the planview of the approach procedure and do not conform to the same application standards used by the FAA
  • Multiple approaches with the same guidance will be annotated with an alphabetical suffix beginning at the end of the alphabet and working backwards for subsequent procedures (e.g., ILS Z RWY 28, ILS Y RWY 28, etc.)
  • The Cat II and Cat III designations are used to differentiate between multiple ILSs to the same runway unless there are multiples of the same type

Plan View:

  • The plan view provides a birds eye view of the path to be flown in accordance with the procedure
  • Required Equipment Continued:
    • The FAA has initiated a program to provide a new notation for LOC approaches when charted on an ILS approach requiring other navigational aids to fly the final approach course
      • The LOC minimums will be annotated with the NAVAID required (e.g., "DME Required" or "RADAR Required")
      • During the transition period, ILS approaches will still exist without the annotation
    • Many ILS approaches having minima based on RVR are eligible for a landing minimum of RVR 1800. Some of these approaches are to runways that have touchdown zone and centerline lights. For many runways that do not have touchdown and centerline lights, it is still possible to allow a landing minimum of RVR 1800. For these runways, the normal ILS minimum of RVR 2400 can be annotated with a single or double asterisk or the dagger symbol "†"; for example "** 696/24 200 (200/1/2)." A note is included on the chart stating "**RVR 1800 authorized with use of FD or AP or HUD to DA." The pilot must use the flight director, or autopilot with an approved approach coupler, or head up display to decision altitude or to the initiation of a missed approach. In the interest of safety, single pilot operators should not fly approaches to 1800 RVR minimums on runways without touchdown and centerline lights using only a flight director, unless accompanied by the use of an autopilot with an approach coupler
    • RNAV (GPS) approaches to LNAV, LP, LNAV/VNAV and LPV lines of minima using WAAS and RNAV (GPS) approaches to LNAV and LNAV/VNAV lines of minima using GPS are charted as RNAV (GPS) RWY (Number) (e.g., RNAV (GPS) RWY 21). VOR/DME RNAV approaches will continue to be identified as VOR/DME RNAV RWY (Number) (e.g., VOR/DME RNAV RWY 21). VOR/DME RNAV procedures which can be flown by GPS will be annotated with "or GPS" (e.g., VOR/DME RNAV or GPS RWY 31)
  • Minimum Safe Altitude:

    • Minimum Safe/Sector Altitudes (MSA) are published for emergency use on IAP charts
    • MSAs provide 1,000 feet of clearance over all obstacles, but do not necessarily assure acceptable navigation signal coverage
    • The MSA depiction on the plan view of an approach chart contains the identifier of the center point of the MSA, the applicable radius of the MSA, a depiction of the sector(s), and the minimum altitudes above mean sea level which provide obstacle clearance
    • For conventional navigation systems, the MSA is normally based on the primary omnidirectional facility on which the IAP is predicated, but may be based on the airport reference point (ARP) if no suitable facility is available
    • For RNAV approaches, the MSA is based on an RNAV waypoint
    • MSAs normally have a 25 NM radius; however, for conventional navigation systems, this radius may be expanded to 30 NM if necessary to encompass the airport landing surfaces
    • A single sector altitude is normally established, however when the MSA is based on a facility and it is necessary to obtain relief from obstacles, an MSA with up to four sectors may be established
    • Minimum Safe Altitude
      Figure 8: Minimum Safe Altitude

Profile View:

  • The profile view provides some of the same information in the plan view with the addition of vertical guidance

Approach Minimums:

  • Approach minimums are based on the local altimeter setting for that airport, unless annotated otherwise [Figure 8]
  • When a different altimeter source is required, or more than one source is authorized, it will be annotated on the approach chart [Figure 8]
  • Approach minimums may be raised when a nonlocal altimeter source is authorized
    • When more than one altimeter source is authorized, and the minima are different, they will be shown by separate lines in the approach minima box or a note [Figure 8]
    • When the altimeter must be obtained from a source other than air traffic a note will indicate the source; e.g., Obtain local altimeter setting on CTAF
    • When the altimeter setting(s) on which the approach is based is not available, the approach is not authorized
    • Baro-VNAV must be flown using the local altimeter setting only
      • Where no local altimeter is available, the LNAV/VNAV line will still be published for use by WAAS receivers with a note that Baro-VNAV is not authorized
    • When a local and at least one other altimeter setting source is authorized and the local altimeter is not available Baro-VNAV is not authorized; however, the LNAV/VNAV minima can still be used by WAAS receivers using the alternate altimeter setting source
    • NOTE-Barometric Vertical Navigation (baro-VNAV). An RNAV system function which uses barometric altitude information from the aircraft's altimeter to compute and present a vertical guidance path to the pilot. The specified vertical path is computed as a geometric path, typically computed between two waypoints or an angle based computation from a single waypoint. Further guidance may be found in Advisory Circular 90-105.
Alternative Altimeter Setting
Figure 8: Alternative Altimeter Setting
  • Aircraft approach category means a grouping of aircraft based on a speed of VREF, if specified, or if VREF is not specified, 1.3 VSO at the maximum certified landing weight
  • Minimums display the visibility requirements to fly the approach and the minimum descent altitudes or decision heights to be used
    • VREF, VSO, and the maximum certified landing weight are those values as established for the aircraft by the certification authority of the country of registry
    • A pilot must use the minima corresponding to the category determined during certification or higher
    • Helicopters may use Category A minima
    • If it is necessary to operate at a speed in excess of the upper limit of the speed range for an aircraft's category, the minimums for the higher category must be used
    • For example, an airplane which fits into Category B, but is circling to land at a speed of 145 knots, must use the approach Category D minimums. As an additional example, a Category A airplane (or helicopter) which is operating at 130 knots on a straight-in approach must use the approach Category C minimums
      • Category A: Speed less than 91 knots
      • Category B: Speed 91 knots or more but less than 121 knots
      • Category C: Speed 121 knots or more but less than 141 knots
      • Category D: Speed 141 knots or more but less than 166 knots
      • Category E: Speed 166 knots or more
  • VREF in the above definition refers to the speed used in establishing the approved landing distance under the airworthiness regulations constituting the type certification basis of the airplane, regardless of whether that speed for a particular airplane is 1.3 VSO, 1.23 VSR, or some higher speed required for airplane controllability. This speed, at the maximum certificated landing weight, determines the lowest applicable approach category for all approaches regardless of actual landing weight

TERPS Criteria:

  • Precision Approach (PA):

    An instrument approach based on a navigation system that provides course and glidepath deviation information meeting the precision standards of ICAO Annex 10
    • Examples include: PAR, ILS, and GLS approaches
  • Approach with Vertical Guidance (APV):

    An instrument approach based on a navigation system that is not required to meet the precision approach standards of ICAO Annex 10 but provides course and glidepath deviation information
  • Non-precision Approach (NPA):

    An instrument approach based on a navigation system which provides course deviation information, but no glidepath deviation information
    • Examples include: VOR, NDB and LNAV approaches
    • Some approach procedures may provide a Vertical Descent Angle as an aid in flying a stabilized approach, without requiring its use in order to fly the procedure
    • While a VDA may be provided, the approach is designed without requiring its use and so this does not make the approach an APV procedure, since it must still be flown to an MDA and has not been evaluated with a glidepath

Airport Diagram:

  • The airport diagram provides a general picture of the airfield and will give you some orientation as to what to expect when you break out of the weather
  • The diagram is not overly specific and many airports have a separate diagram published with the approach plates following all of the procedures
No Higher Than Altitude
Figure 10: No Higher Than Altitude


  • Prescribed altitudes may be depicted in four different configurations: minimum, maximum, mandatory, and recommended. The U.S. Government distributes charts produced by National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and FAA. Altitudes are depicted on these charts in the profile view with underscore, overscore, both or none to identify them as minimum, maximum, mandatory or recommended:
    • Minimum altitude will be depicted with the altitude value underscored
      • Aircraft are required to maintain altitude at or above the depicted value
    • Maximum altitude will be depicted with the altitude value overscored
      • Aircraft are required to maintain altitude at or below the depicted value
    • No Lower Than Altitude
      Figure 9: No Lower Than Altitude
    • Mandatory altitude will be depicted with the altitude value both underscored and overscored
      • Aircraft are required to maintain altitude at the depicted value
    • Recommended altitude will be depicted with no overscore or underscore
      • These altitudes are depicted for descent planning
Mandatory Altitude
Figure 11: Mandatory Altitude
Recommended Altitude
Figure 12: Recommended Altitude
  • Pilots are cautioned to adhere to altitudes as prescribed because, in certain instances, they may be used as the basis for vertical separation of aircraft by ATC. When a depicted altitude is specified in the ATC clearance, that altitude becomes mandatory as defined above
  • The ILS glide slope is intended to be intercepted at the published glide slope intercept altitude. This point marks the PFAF and is depicted by the ”lightning bolt” symbol on U.S. Government charts. Intercepting the glide slope at this altitude marks the beginning of the final approach segment and ensures required obstacle clearance during descent from the glide slope intercept altitude to the lowest published decision altitude for the approach. Interception and tracking of the glide slope prior to the published glide slope interception altitude does not necessarily ensure that minimum, maximum, and/or mandatory altitudes published for any preceding fixes will be complied with during the descent. If the pilot chooses to track the glide slope prior to the glide slope interception altitude, they remain responsible for complying with published altitudes for any preceding stepdown fixes encountered during the subsequent descent
  • Approaches used for simultaneous (parallel) independent and simultaneous close parallel operations procedurally require descending on the glideslope from the altitude at which the approach clearance is issued (refer to 5-4-15 and 5-4-16). For simultaneous close parallel (PRM) approaches, the Attention All Users Page (AAUP) may publish a note which indicates that descending on the glideslope/glidepath meets all crossing restrictions. However, if no such note is published, and for simultaneous independent approaches (4300 and greater runway separation) where an AAUP is not published, pilots are cautioned to monitor their descent on the glideslope/path outside of the PFAF to ensure compliance with published crossing restrictions during simultaneous operations
  • When parallel approach courses are less than 2500 feet apart and reduced in-trail spacing is authorized for simultaneous dependent operations, a chart note will indicate that simultaneous operations require use of vertical guidance and that the pilot should maintain last assigned altitude until established on glide slope. These approaches procedurally require utilization of the ILS glide slope for wake turbulence mitigation. Pilots should not confuse these simultaneous dependent operations with (SOIA) simultaneous close parallel PRM approaches, where PRM appears in the approach title

Basic T Design
Figure 13: Basic "T" Design

Terminal Arrival Area:

  • The Terminal Arrival Area (TAA) provides a transition from the en-route structure to the terminal environment with little required pilot/air traffic control interface for aircraft equipped with Area Navigation (RNAV) systems
  • A TAA provides minimum altitudes with standard obstacle clearance when operating within the TAA boundaries
  • TAAs are primarily used on RNAV approaches but may be used on an ILS approach when RNAV is the sole means for navigation to the IF; however, they are not normally used in areas of heavy concentration of air traffic
  • The basic design of the RNAV procedure underlying the TAA is normally the "T" design (also called the "Basic T")
    • The "T" design incorporates two IAFs plus a dual purpose IF/IAF that functions as both an intermediate fix and an initial approach fix
    • The T configuration continues from the IF/IAF to the final approach fix (FAF) and then to the missed approach point (MAP)
    • The two base leg IAFs are typically aligned in a straight-line perpendicular to the intermediate course connecting at the IF/IAF
    • A Hold-in-Lieu-of Procedure Turn (HILPT) is anchored at the IF/IAF and depicted on U.S. Government publications using the "hold-in-lieu -of-PT" holding pattern symbol
    • When the HILPT is necessary for course alignment and/or descent, the dual purpose IF/IAF serves as an IAF during the entry into the pattern
    • Following entry into the HILPT pattern and when flying a route or sector labeled "NoPT," the dual-purpose fix serves as an IF, marking the beginning of the Intermediate Segment [Figure 13/14]
  • Basic T Design
    Figure 14: Basic "T" Design
  • The standard TAA based on the “T” design consists of three areas defined by the Initial Approach Fix (IAF) legs and the intermediate segment course beginning at the IF/IAF
    • These areas are called the straight-in, left-base, and right-base areas [Figure x]
    • TAA area lateral boundaries are identified by magnetic courses TO the IF/IAF
    • The straight-in area can be further divided into pie- shaped sectors with the boundaries identified by magnetic courses TO the (IF/ IAF), and may contain stepdown sections defined by arcs based on RNAV distances from the IF/IAF [Figure x]
    • The right/left-base areas can only be subdivided using arcs based on RNAV distances from the IAFs for those areas
  • Modified Basic T
    Figure 15: Modified Basic "T"
  • Entry from the terminal area onto the procedure is normally accomplished via a no procedure turn (NoPT) routing or via a course reversal maneuver
    • The published procedure will be annotated "NoPT" to indicate when the course reversal is not authorized when flying within a particular TAA sector
    • Otherwise, the pilot is expected to execute the course reversal under the provisions of 14 CFR Section 91.175
    • The pilot may elect to use the course reversal pattern when it is not required by the procedure, but must receive clearance from air traffic control before beginning the procedure
      • ATC should not clear an aircraft to the left base leg or right base leg IAF within a TAA at an intercept angle exceeding 90°. Pilots must not execute the HILPT course reversal when the sector or procedure segment is labeled "NoPT"
    • ATC may clear aircraft direct to the fix labeled IF/IAF if the course to the IF/IAF is within the straight-in sector labeled "NoPT" and the intercept angle does not exceed 90°
      • Pilots are expected to proceed direct to the IF/IAF and accomplish a straight-in approach
      • Do not execute HILPT course reversal
      • Pilots are also expected to fly the straight-in approach when ATC provides radar vectors and monitoring to the IF/IAF and issues a “straight-in” approach clearance; otherwise, the pilot is expected to execute the HILPT course reversal
      • REFERENCE-AIM, Paragraph 5-4-6, Approach Clearance
    • On rare occasions, ATC may clear the aircraft for an approach at the airport without specifying the approach procedure by name or by a specific approach (for example, "cleared RNAV Runway 34 approach") without specifying a particular IAF
      • In either case, the pilot should proceed direct to the IAF or to the IF/IAF associated with the sector that the aircraft will enter the TAA and join the approach course from that point and if required by that sector (i.e., sector is not labeled "NoPT"), complete the HILPT course reversal
        • If approaching with a TO bearing that is on a sector boundary, the pilot is expected to proceed in accordance with a “NoPT” routing unless otherwise instructed by ATC
  • Altitudes published within the TAA replace the MSA altitude
    • However, unlike MSA altitudes the TAA altitudes are operationally usable altitudes. These altitudes provide at least 1,000 feet of obstacle clearance, more in mountainous areas
    • It is important that the pilot knows which area of the TAA the aircraft will enter in order to comply with the minimum altitude requirements. The pilot can determine which area of the TAA the aircraft will enter by determining the magnetic bearing of the aircraft TO the fix labeled IF/IAF. The bearing should then be compared to the published lateral boundary bearings that define the TAA areas. Do not use magnetic bearing to the right-base or left-base IAFs to determine position
      • An ATC clearance direct to an IAF or to the IF/IAF without an approach clearance does not authorize a pilot to descend to a lower TAA altitude
      • If a pilot desires a lower altitude without an approach clearance, request the lower TAA altitude from ATC. Pilots not sure of the clearance should confirm their clearance with ATC or request a specific clearance. Pilots entering the TAA with two-way radio communications failure (14 CFR Section 91.185, IFR Operations: Two-way Radio Communications Failure), must maintain the highest altitude prescribed by Section 91.185(c)(2) until arriving at the appropriate IAF
      • Once cleared for the approach, pilots may descend in the TAA sector to the minimum altitude depicted within the defined area/subdivision, unless instructed otherwise by air traffic control. Pilots should plan their descent within the TAA to permit a normal descent from the IF/IAF to the FAF. In FIG 5-4-4, pilots within the left or right-base areas are expected to maintain a minimum altitude of 6,000 feet until within 17 NM of the associated IAF. After crossing the 17 NM arc, descent is authorized to the lower charted altitudes. Pilots approaching from the northwest are expected to maintain a minimum altitude of 6,000 feet, and when within 22 NM of the IF/IAF, descend to a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet MSL until crossing the IF/IAF
    Modified Basic T Approach to Parallel Runways
    Figure x: Modified Basic T Approach to Parallel Runways
  • U.S. Government charts depict TAAs using icons located in the plan view outside the depiction of the actual approach procedure. (See FIG 5-4-5). Use of icons is necessary to avoid obscuring any portion of the "T" procedure (altitudes, courses, minimum altitudes, etc.). The icon for each TAA area will be located and oriented on the plan view with respect to the direction of arrival to the approach procedure, and will show all TAA minimum altitudes and sector/radius subdivisions. The IAF for each area of the TAA is included on the icon where it appears on the approach to help the pilot orient the icon to the approach procedure. The IAF name and the distance of the TAA area boundary from the IAF are included on the outside arc of the TAA area icon
  • \
    Basic T Approach with Common IAFs to Parallel Runways
    Figure x: Basic T Approach with Common IAFs to Parallel Runways
  • TAAs may be modified from the standard size and shape to accommodate operational or ATC requirements. Some areas may be eliminated, while the other areas are expanded. The "T" design may be modified by the procedure designers where required by terrain or ATC considerations. For instance, the “T” design may appear more like a regularly or irregularly shaped "Y," upside down "L," or an "I"
    • FIG 5-4-6 depicts a TAA without a left base leg and right base leg. In this generalized example, pilots approaching on a bearing TO the IF/IAF from 271 clockwise to 089 are expected to execute a course reversal because the amount of turn required at the IF/IAF exceeds 90 degrees. The term “NoPT” will be annotated on the boundary of the TAA icon for the other portion of the TAA
  • TAA Area
    Figure x: TAA Area
    Sectored TAA Areas
    Figure x: Sectored TAA Areas
  • FIG 5-4-7 depicts another TAA modification that pilots may encounter. In this generalized example, the left base area and part of the straight-in area have been eliminated. Pilots operating within the TAA between 210 clockwise to 360 bearing TO the IF/IAF are expected to proceed direct to the IF/IAF and then execute the course reversal in order to properly align the aircraft for entry onto the intermediate segment or to avoid an excessive descent rate. Aircraft operating in areas from 001 clockwise to 090 bearing TO the IF/IAF are expected to proceed direct to the right base IAF and not execute course reversal maneuver. Aircraft cleared direct the IF/IAF by ATC in this sector will be expected to accomplish HILTP. Aircraft operating in areas 091 clockwise to 209 bearing TO the IF/IAF are expected to proceed direct to the IF/IAF and not execute the course reversal. These two areas are annotated “NoPT” at the TAA boundary of the icon in these areas when displayed on the approach chart’s plan view
  • TAA with Left and Right Base Areas Eliminated
    Figure x: TAA with Left and Right Base Areas Eliminated
    TAA with Right Base Eliminated
    Figure x: TAA with Left Right Base Eliminated
    Examples of a TAA with Feeders from an Airway
    Figure x: Examples of a TAA with Feeders from an Airway
  • Fig 5-4-8 depicts a TAA with right base leg and part of the straight­in area eliminated
  • When an airway does not cross the lateral TAA boundaries, a feeder route will be established from an airway fix or NAVAID to the TAA boundary to provide a transition from the en route structure to the appropriate IAF. Each feeder route will terminate at the TAA boundary and will be aligned along a path pointing to the associated IAF. Pilots should descend to the TAA altitude after crossing the TAA boundary and cleared for the approach by ATC (See FIG 5-4-9)
  • Each waypoint on the "T" is assigned a pronounceable 5-letter name, except the missed approach waypoint. These names are used for ATC communications, RNAV databases, and aeronautical navigation products. The missed approach waypoint is assigned a pronounceable name when it is not located at the runway threshold
Minimum Vectoring Altitude Charts
Figure x: Minimum Vectoring Altitude Charts

Minimum Vectoring Altitudes (MVAs):

  • 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 [Figure x]
  • The minimum vectoring altitude in each sector provides 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle in nonmountainous areas and 2,000 feet above the highest obstacle in designated mountainous areas. Where lower MVAs are required in designated mountainous areas to achieve compatibility with terminal routes or to permit vectoring to an IAP, 1,000 feet of obstacle clearance may be authorized with the use of Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR). The minimum vectoring altitude will provide at least 300 feet above the floor of controlled airspace
    • OROCA is an off-route altitude which provides obstruction clearance with a 1,000 foot buffer in nonmountainous terrain areas and a 2,000 foot buffer in designated mountainous areas within the U.S. This altitude may not provide signal coverage from ground-based navigational aids, air traffic control radar, or communications coverage
  • Because of differences in the areas considered for MVA, and those applied to other minimum altitudes, and the ability to isolate specific obstacles, some MVAs may be lower than the nonradar Minimum En Route Altitudes (MEAs), Minimum Obstruction Clearance Altitudes (MOCAs) or other minimum altitudes depicted on charts for a given location. While being radar vectored, IFR altitude assignments by ATC will be at or above MVA
  • When operating on an unpublished route or while being radar vectored, the pilot, when an approach clearance is received, must, in addition to complying with the minimum altitudes for IFR operations (14 CFR Section 91.177), maintain the last assigned altitude unless a different altitude is assigned by ATC, or until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or IAP. After the aircraft is so established, published altitudes apply to descent within each succeeding route or approach segment unless a different altitude is assigned by ATC. Notwithstanding this pilot responsibility, for aircraft operating on unpublished routes or while being radar vectored, ATC will, except when conducting a radar approach, issue an IFR approach clearance only after the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or IAP, or assign an altitude to maintain until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or instrument approach procedure. For this purpose, the procedure turn of a published IAP must not be considered a segment of that IAP until the aircraft reaches the initial fix or navigation facility upon which the procedure turn is predicated
    • Cross Redding VOR at or above five thousand, cleared VOR runway three four approach. or Five miles from outer marker, turn right heading three three zero, maintain two thousand until established on the localizer, cleared ILS runway three six approach
  • The altitude assigned will assure IFR obstruction clearance from the point at which the approach clearance is issued until established on a segment of a published route or IAP. If uncertain of the meaning of the clearance, immediately request clarification from ATC


  • Circling minimums charted on an RNAV (GPS) approach chart may be lower than the LNAV/VNAV line of minima, but never lower than the LNAV line of minima (straight-in approach). Pilots may safely perform the circling maneuver at the circling published line of minima if the approach and circling maneuver is properly performed according to aircraft category and operational limitations
    • [Figure x:] provides a visual representation of an obstacle evaluation and calculation of LNAV MDA, Circling MDA, LNAV/VNAV DA
    • No vertical guidance (LNAV). A line is drawn horizontal at obstacle height and 250 feet added for Required Obstacle Clearance (ROC). The controlling obstacle used to determine LNAV MDA can be different than the controlling obstacle used in determining ROC for circling MDA. Other factors may force a number larger than 250 ft to be added to the LNAV OCS. The number is rounded up to the next higher 20 foot increment
    • Circling MDA. The circling MDA will provide 300 foot obstacle clearance within the area considered for obstacle clearance and may be lower than the LNAV/VNAV DA, but never lower than the straight in LNAV MDA. This may occur when different controlling obstacles are used or when other controlling factors force the LNAV MDA to be higher than 250 feet above the LNAV OCS. In FIG 5-4-11, the required obstacle clearance for both the LNAV and Circle resulted in the same MDA, but lower than the LNAV/VNAV DA. FIG 5-4-12 provides an illustration of this type of situation
    • Vertical guidance (LNAV/VNAV). A line is drawn horizontal at obstacle height until reaching the obstacle clearance surface (OCS). At the OCS, a vertical line is drawn until reaching the glide path. This is the DA for the approach. This method places the offending obstacle in front of the LNAV/VNAV DA so it can be seen and avoided. In some situations, this may result in the LNAV/VNAV DA being higher than the LNAV and/or Circling MDA
Example of LNAV and Circling Minima Lower Than LNAV/VNAV DA. Harrisburgh International RNAV (GPS) RWY 13
Figure x: Example of LNAV and Circling Minima Lower Than LNAV/VNAV DA.
Harrisburgh International RNAV (GPS) RWY 13

The Visual Descent Point (VDP):

  • The Visual Descent Point (VDP), identified by the symbol (V), is a defined point on the final approach course of a nonprecision straight-in approach procedure from which a stabilized visual descent from the MDA to the runway touchdown point may be commenced. The pilot should not descend below the MDA prior to reaching the VDP. The VDP will be identified by DME or RNAV along-track distance to the MAP. The VDP distance is based on the lowest MDA published on the IAP and harmonized with the angle of the visual glide slope indicator (VGSI) (if installed) or the procedure VDA (if no VGSI is installed). A VDP may not be published under certain circumstances which may result in a destabilized descent between the MDA and the runway touchdown point. Such circumstances include an obstacle penetrating the visual surface between the MDA and runway threshold, lack of distance measuring capability, or the procedure design prevents a VDP to be identified
    • VGSI systems may be used as a visual aid to the pilot to determine if the aircraft is in a position to make a stabilized descent from the MDA. When the visibility is close to minimums, the VGSI may not be visible at the VDP due to its location beyond the MAP
    • Pilots not equipped to receive the VDP should fly the approach procedure as though no VDP had been provided
    • On a straight-in nonprecision IAP, descent below the MDA between the VDP and the MAP may be inadvisable or impossible. Aircraft speed, height above the runway, descent rate, amount of turn, and runway length are some of the factors which must be considered by the pilot to determine if a safe descent and landing can be accomplished
  • A visual segment obstruction evaluation is accomplished during procedure design on all IAPs. Obstacles (both lighted and unlighted) are allowed to penetrate the visual segment obstacle identification surfaces. Identified obstacle penetrations may cause restrictions to instrument approach operations which may include an increased approach visibility requirement, not publishing a VDP, and/or prohibiting night instrument operations to the runway. There is no implicit obstacle protection from the MDA/DA to the touchdown point. Accordingly, it is the responsibility of the pilot to visually acquire and avoid obstacles below the MDA/DA during transition to landing
    • Unlighted obstacle penetrations may result in prohibiting night instrument operations to the runway. A chart note will be published in the pilot briefing strip "Procedure NA at Night"
    • Use of a VGSI may be approved in lieu of obstruction lighting to restore night instrument operations to the runway. A chart note will be published in the pilot briefing strip "Straight-in Rwy XX at Night, operational VGSI required, remain on or above VGSI glidepath until threshold"
  • The highest obstacle (man-made, terrain, or vegetation) will be charted on the planview of an IAP. Other obstacles may be charted in either the planview or the airport sketch based on distance from the runway and available chart space. The elevation of the charted obstacle will be shown to the nearest foot above mean sea level. Obstacles without a verified accuracy are indicated by a ± symbol following the elevation value

Vertical Descent Angle (VDA):

  • FAA policy is to publish VDAs on all nonprecision approaches except those published in conjunction with vertically guided minimums or no-FAF procedures without step-down fixes. A VDA does not guarantee obstacle protection below the MDA in the visual segment. The presence of a VDA does not change any nonprecision approach requirements
    • Obstacles may penetrate the visual segment of an IAP that has a published VDA. When the VDA is not authorized due to an obstacle penetration that would require a pilot to deviate from the VDA between MDA and touchdown, the VDA/TCH will be replaced with the note “Visual SegmentObstacles” in the profile view of the IAP (See FIG 5-4-13). Accordingly, pilots are advised to carefully review approach procedures to identify where the optimum stabilized descent to landing can be initiated. Pilots that follow the previously published descent angle below the MDA on procedures with this note may encounter obstacles in the visual segment
    • The threshold segment height (TCH) used to compute the descent angle is published with the VDA. The VDA and TCH information are charted on the profile view of the IAP following the fix (FAF/stepdown) used to compute the VDA. If no PA/APV IAP is establish to the same runway, the VDA will be equal to or higher than the glide path angle of the VGSI installed on the same runway provided it is within instrument procedure criteria. A chart note will indicate if the VGSI is not coincident with the VDA. Pilots must be aware that the published VDA is for advisory information only and not to be considered instrument procedure dervied vertical guidance. The VDA solely offers and aid to help pilots establish a continuous, stabilzied descent during final approach
    • Pilots may use the published angle and estimated/actual groundspeed to find a target rate of descent from the rate of descent table published in the back of the U.S. Terminal Procedures Publication. This rate of descent can be flown with the Vertical Velocity Indicator (VVI) in order to use the VDA as an aid to flying a stabilized descent. No special equipment is required
    • A straight-in aligned procedure may be restricted to circling only minimums when an excessive descent gradient necessitates. The descent angle between the FAF/stepdown fix and the Circling MDA must not exceed the maximum descent angle allowed by TERPS criteria. A published VDA on these procedures does not imply that landing straight ahead is recommended or even possible. The descent rate based on the VDA may exceed the capabilities of the aircraft and the pilot must determine how to best maneuver the aircraft within the circling area in order to land safely
  • In isolated cases, an IAP may contain a published visual flight path. These procedures are annotated “Fly Visual to Airport” or "Fly Visual." A dashed arrow indicating the visual flight path will be included in the profile and plan views with an approximate heading and distance to the end of the runway
    • The depicted ground track associated with the “Fly Visual to Airport” segment should be flown as a "Dead Reckoning" course. When executing the "Fly Visual to Airport" segment, the flight visibility must not be less than that prescribed in the IAP; the pilot must remain clear of clouds and proceed to the airport maintaining visual contact with the ground. Altitude on the visual flight path is at the discretion of the pilot, and it is the responsibility of the pilot to visually acquire and avoid obstacles in the "Fly Visual to Airport" segment
    • Missed approach obstacle clearance is assured only if the missed approach is commenced at the published MAP. Before initiating an IAP that contains a "Fly Visual to Airport" segment, the pilot should have preplanned climb out options based on aircraft performance and terrain features. Obstacle clearance is the responsibility of the pilot when the approach is continued beyond the MAP
    • The FAA Administrator retains the authority to approve instrument approach procedures where the pilot may not necessarily have one of the visual references specified in 14 CFR § 91.175 and related rules. It is not a function of procedure design to ensure compliance with FAR 91.175. The annotation "Fly Visual to Airport" provides relief from § 91.175 requirements that the pilot have distinctly visible and identifiable visual references prior to descent below MDA/DA

Area Navigation (RNAV) Instrument Approach Charts:

  • Reliance on RNAV systems for instrument operations is becoming more commonplace as new systems such as GPS and augmented GPS such as the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) are developed and deployed. In order to support full integration of RNAV procedures into the National Airspace System (NAS), the FAA developed a new charting format for IAPs (See FIG 5-4-5). This format avoids unnecessary duplication and proliferation of instrument approach charts. The original stand alone GPS charts, titled simply "GPS," are being converted to the newer format as the procedures are revised. One reason for the revision is the addition of WAAS based minima to the approach chart. The reformatted approach chart is titled "RNAV (GPS) RWY XX." Up to four lines of minima are included on these charts. Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS) Landing System (GLS) was a placeholder for future WAAS and LAAS minima, and the minima was always listed as N/A. The GLS minima line has now been replaced by the WAAS LPV (Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance) minima on most RNAV (GPS) charts. LNAV/VNAV (lateral navigation/vertical navigation) was added to support both WAAS electronic vertical guidance and Barometric VNAV. LPV and LNAV/VNAV are both APV procedures as described in paragraph 5-4-5a7. The original GPS minima, titled "S-XX," for straight in runway XX, is retitled LNAV (lateral navigation). Circling minima may also be published. A new type of nonprecision WAAS minima will also be published on this chart and titled LP (localizer performance). LP will be published in locations where vertically guided minima cannot be provided due to terrain and obstacles and therefore, no LPV or LNAV/VNAV minima will be published. GBAS procedures are published on a separate chart and the GLS minima line is to be used only for GBAS. ATC clearance for the RNAV procedure authorizes a properly certified pilot to utilize any minimums for which the aircraft is certified (for example, a WAAS equipped aircraft utilizes the LPV or LP minima but a GPS only aircraft may not). The RNAV chart includes information formatted for quick reference by the pilot or flight crew at the top of the chart. This portion of the chart, developed based on a study by the Department of Transportation, Volpe National Transportation System Center, is commonly referred to as the pilot briefing
    • The minima lines are:
      • (a) GLS. "GLS" is the acronym for GBAS Landing System. The U.S. version of GBAS has traditionally been referred to as LAAS. The worldwide community has adopted GBAS as the official term for this type of navigation system. To coincide with international terminology, the FAA is also adopting the term GBAS to be consistent with the international community. This line was originally published as a placeholder for both WAAS and LAAS minima and marked as N/A since no minima was published. As the concepts for GBAS and WAAS procedure publication have evolved, GLS will now be used only for GBAS minima, which will be on a separate approach chart. Most RNAV(GPS) approach charts have had the GLS minima line replaced by a WAAS LPV line of minima
      • (b) LPV. "LPV" is the acronym for localizer performance with vertical guidance. RNAV (GPS) approaches to LPV lines of minima take advantage of the improved accuracy of WAAS lateral and vertical guidance to provide an approach that is very similar to a Category I Instrument Landing System (ILS). The approach to LPV line of minima is designed for angular guidance with increasing sensitivity as the aircraft gets closer to the runway. The sensitivities are nearly identical to those of the ILS at similar distances. This was done intentionally to allow the skills required to proficiently fly an ILS to readily transfer to flying RNAV (GPS) approaches to the LPV line of minima. Just as with an ILS, the LPV has vertical guidance and is flown to a DA. Aircraft can fly this minima line with a statement in the Aircraft Flight Manual that the installed equipment supports LPV approaches. This includes Class 3 and 4 TSO-C146 GPS/WAAS equipment
      • (c) LNAV/VNAV. LNAV/VNAV identifies APV minimums developed to accommodate an RNAV IAP with vertical guidance, usually provided by approach certified Baro-VNAV, but with lateral and vertical integrity limits larger than a precision approach or LPV. LNAV stands for Lateral Navigation; VNAV stands for Vertical Navigation. This minima line can be flown by aircraft with a statement in the Aircraft Flight Manual that the installed equipment supports GPS approaches and has an approach-approved barometric VNAV, or if the aircraft has been demonstrated to support LNAV/VNAV approaches. This includes Class 2, 3 and 4 TSO-C146 GPS/WAAS equipment. Aircraft using LNAV/VNAV minimums will descend to landing via an internally generated descent path based on satellite or other approach approved VNAV systems. Since electronic vertical guidance is provided, the minima will be published as a DA. Other navigation systems may be specifically authorized to use this line of minima. (See Section A, Terms/Landing Minima Data, of the U.S. Terminal Procedures books)
      • (d) LP. “LP” is the acronym for localizer performance. Approaches to LP lines of minima take advantage of the improved accuracy of WAAS to provide approaches, with lateral guidance and angular guidance. Angular guidance does not refer to a glideslope angle but rather to the increased lateral sensitivity as the aircraft gets closer to the runway, similar to localizer approaches. However, the LP line of minima is a Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA) rather than a DA (H). Procedures with LP lines ofminima will not be published with another approach that contains approved vertical guidance (LNAV/VNAV or LPV). It is possible to have LP and LNAV published on the same approach chart but LP will only be published if it provides lower minima than an LNAV line of minima. LP is not a fail-down mode for LPV. LP will only be published if terrain, obstructions, or some other reason prevent publishing a vertically guided procedure. WAAS avionics may provide GNSS-based advisory vertical guidance during an approach to an LP line of minima. Barometric altimeter information remains the primary altitude reference for complying with any altitude restrictions. WAAS equipment may notsupport LP, even if it supports LPV, if it was approved before TSO-C145b and TSO-C146b. Receivers approved under previous TSOs may require an upgrade by the manufacturer in order to be used to fly to LP minima. Receivers approved for LP must have a statement in the approved Flight Manual or Supplemental Flight Manual including LP as one of the approved approach types
      • (e) LNAV. This minima is for lateral navigation only, and the approach minimum altitude will be published as a minimum descent altitude (MDA). LNAV provides the same level of service asthe present GPS stand alone approaches. LNAV minimums support the following navigation systems: WAAS, when the navigation solution will not support vertical navigation; and, GPS navigation systems which are presently authorized to conduct GPS approaches
        • GPS receivers approved for approach operations in accordance with: AC 20-138, Airworthiness Approval of Positioning and Navigation Systems, qualify for this minima. WAAS navigation equipment must be approved in accordance with the requirements specified in TSO-C145()or TSO-C146() and installed in accordance with Advisory Circular AC 20-138
    • Other systems may be authorized to utilize these approaches. See the description in Section A of the U.S. Terminal Procedures books for details. Operational approval must also be obtained for Baro-VNAV systems to operate to the LNAV/VNAV minimums. Baro-VNAV may not be authorized on some approaches due to other factors, such as no local altimeter source being available. Baro-VNAV is not authorized on LPV procedures. Pilots are directed to their local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) for additional information
      • RNAV and Baro-VNAV systems must have a manufacturer supplied electronic database which must include the waypoints, altitudes, and vertical data for the procedure to be flown. The system must be able to retrieve the procedure by name from the aircraft navigation database, not just as a manually entered series of waypoints
    • ILS or RNAV (GPS) charts
      • (a) Some RNAV (GPS) charts will also contain an ILS line of minima to make use of the ILS precision final in conjunction with the RNAV GPS capabilities for the portions of the procedure prior to the final approach segment and for the missed approach. Obstacle clearance for the portions of the procedure other than the final approach segment is still based on GPS criteria
        • Some GPS receiver installations inhibit GPS navigation whenever ANY ILS frequency is tuned. Pilots flying aircraft with receivers installed in this manner must wait until they are on the intermediate segment of the procedure prior to the PFAF (PFAF is the active waypoint) to tune the ILS frequency and must tune the ILS back to a VOR frequency in order to fly the GPS based missed approach
      • Charting. There are charting differences between ILS, RNAV (GPS), and GLS approaches
        • (1) The LAAS procedure is titled “GLS RWY XX” on the approach chart
        • (2) The VDB provides information to the airborne receiver where the guidance is synthesized
        • (3) The LAAS procedure is identified by a four alpha-numeric character field referred to as the RPI or approach ID and is similar to the IDENT feature of the ILS
        • (4) The RPI is charted
        • (5) Most RNAV(GPS) approach charts have had the GLS (NA) minima line replaced by an LPV line of minima
        • (6) Since the concepts for LAAS and WAAS procedure publication have evolved, GLS will now be used only for LAAS minima, which will be on a separate approach chart
    • Required Navigation Performance (RNP)

      • (a) Pilots are advised to refer to the“TERMS/LANDING MINIMUMS DATA” (Section A) of the U.S. Government Terminal Procedures books for aircraft approach eligibility requirements by specific RNP level requirements
      • (b) Some aircraft have RNP approval in their AFM without a GPS sensor. The lowest level of sensors that the FAA will support for RNP service is DME/DME. However, necessary DME signal may not be available at the airport of intended operations. For those locations having an RNAV chart published with LNAV/VNAV minimums, a procedure note may be provided such as “DME/DME RNP-0.3 NA.” This means that RNP aircraft dependent on DME/DME to achieve RNP-0.3 are not authorized to conduct this approach. Where DME facility availability is a factor, the note may read “DME/DME RNP-0.3 Authorized; ABC and XYZ Required.” This means that ABC and XYZ facilities have been determined by flight inspection to be required in the navigation solution to assure RNP-0.3. VOR/DME updating must not be used for approach procedures
    • Chart Terminology:

      • Decision Altitude (DA) replaces the familiar term Decision Height (DH). DA conforms to the international convention where altitudes relate to MSL and heights relate to AGL. DA will eventually be published for other types of instrument approach procedures with vertical guidance, as well. DA indicates to the pilot that the published descent profile is flown to the DA (MSL), where a missed approach will be initiated if visual references for landing are not established. Obstacle clearance is provided to allow a momentary descent below DA while transitioning from the final approach to the missed approach. The aircraft is expected to follow the missed instructions while continuing along the published final approach course to at least the published runway threshold waypoint or MAP (if not at the threshold) before executing any turns
      • Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA) has been in use for many years, and will continue to be used for the LNAV only and circling procedures
      • Threshold Crossing Height (TCH) has been traditionally used in “precision” approaches as the height of the glide slope above threshold. With publication of LNAV/VNAV minimums and RNAV descent angles, including graphically depicted descent profiles, TCH also applies to the height of the “descent angle,” or glidepath, at the threshold. Unless otherwise required for larger type aircraft which may be using the IAP, the typical TCH is 30 to 50 feet
    • The MINIMA FORMAT will also change slightly:

      • Each line of minima on the RNAV IAP is titled to reflect the level of service available; e.g., GLS, LPV, LNAV/VNAV, LP, and LNAV. CIRCLING minima will also be provided
        • The minima title box indicates the nature of the minimum altitude for the IAP. For example:
          • DA will be published next to the minima line title for minimums supporting vertical guidance such as for GLS, LPV or LNAV/VNAV
          • MDA will be published as the minima line on approaches with lateral guidance only, LNAV, or LP. Descent below the MDA must meet the conditions stated in 14 CFR Section 91.175
          • Where two or more systems, such as LPV and LNAV/VNAV, share the same minima, each line of minima will be displayed separately
    • Chart Symbology changed slightly to include:
      • Descent Profile. The published descent profile and a graphical depiction of the vertical path to the runway will be shown. Graphical depiction of the RNAV vertical guidance will differ from the traditional depiction of an ILS glide slope (feather) through the use of a shorter vertical track beginning at the decision altitude
        • It is FAA policy to design IAPs with minimum altitudes established at fixes/waypoints to achieve optimum stabilized (constant rate) descents within each procedure segment. This design can enhance the safety of the operations and contribute toward reduction in the occurrence of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents. Additionally, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently emphasized that pilots could benefit from publication of the appropriate IAP descent angle for a stabilized descent on final approach. The RNAV IAP format includes the descent angle to the hundredth of a degree; e.g., 3.00 degrees. The angle will be provided in the graphically depicted descent profile
        • The stabilized approach may be performed by reference to vertical navigation information provided by WAAS or LNAV/VNAV systems; or for LNAV-only systems, by the pilot determining the appropriate aircraft attitude/groundspeed combination to attain a constant rate descent which best emulates the published angle. To aid the pilot, U.S. Government Terminal Procedures Publication charts publish an expanded Rate of Descent Table on the inside of the back hard cover for use in planning and executing precision descents under known or approximate groundspeed conditions
      • Visual Descent Point (VDP). A VDP will be published on most RNAV IAPs. VDPs apply only to aircraft utilizing LP or LNAV minima, not LPV or LNAV/VNAV minimums
      • Missed Approach Symbology. In order to make missed approach guidance more readily understood, a method has been developed to display missed approach guidance in the profile view through the use of quick reference icons. Due to limited space in the profile area, only four or fewer icons can be shown. However, the icons may not provide representation of the entire missed approach procedure. The entire set of textual missed approach instructions are provided at the top of the approach chart in the pilot briefing. (See FIG 5-4-5)
      • Waypoints. All RNAV or GPS stand-alone IAPs are flown using data pertaining to the particular IAP obtained from an onboard database, including the sequence of all WPs used for the approach and missed approach, except that step down waypoints may not be included in some TSO-C129 receiver databases. Included in the database, in most receivers, is coding that informs the navigation system of which WPs are fly-over (FO) or fly-by (FB). The navigation system may provide guidance appropriately - including leading the turn prior to a fly-by WP; or causing overflight of a fly-over WP. Where the navigation system does not provide such guidance, the pilot must accomplish the turn lead or waypoint overflight manually. Chart symbology for the FB WP provides pilot awareness of expected actions. Refer to the legend of the U.S. Terminal Procedures books
      • TAAs are described in paragraph 5-4-5d, Terminal Arrival Area (TAA). When published, the RNAV chart depicts the TAA areas through the use of “icons” representing each TAA area associated with the RNAV procedure (See FIG 5-4-5). These icons are depicted in the plan view of the approach chart, generally arranged on the chart in accordance with their position relative to the aircraft’s arrival from the en route structure. The WP, to which navigation is appropriate and expected within each specific TAA area, will be named and depicted on the associated TAA icon. Each depicted named WP is the IAF for arrivals from within that area. TAAs may not be used on all RNAV procedures because of airspace congestion or other reasons
      • Hot and Cold Temperature Limitations. A minimum and maximum temperature limitation is published on procedures which authorize Baro-VNAV operation. These temperatures represent the airport temperature above or below which Baro-VNAV is not authorized to LNAV/VNAV minimums. As an example, the limitation will read: “Uncompensated Baro-VNAV NA below -8?C (+18?F) or above 47?C (117?F).” This information will be found in the upper left hand box of the pilot briefing. When the temperature is above the high temperature or below the low temperature limit, Baro-VNAV may be used to provide a stabilized descent to the LNAV MDA; however, extra caution should be used in the visual segment to ensure a vertical correction is not required. If the VGSI is aligned with the published glidepath, and the aircraft instruments indicate on glidepath, an above or below glidepath indication on the VGSI may indicate that temperature error is causing deviations to the glidepath. These deviations should be considered if the approach is continued below the MDA
        • Many systems which apply Baro-VNAV temperature compensation only correct for cold temperature. In this case, the high temperature limitation still applies. Also, temperature compensation may require activation by maintenance personnel during installation in order to be functional, even though the system has the feature. Some systems may have a temperature correction capability, but correct the Baro-altimeter all the time, rather than just on the final, which would create conflicts with other aircraft if the feature were activated. Pilots should be aware of compensation capabilities of the system prior to disregarding the temperature limitations
        • Temperature limitations do not apply to flying the LNAV/VNAV line of minima using approach certified WAAS receivers when LPV or LNAV/VNAV are annunciated to be available
      • WAAS Channel Number/Approach ID. The WAAS Channel Number is an optional equipment capability that allows the use of a 5-digit number to select a specific final approach segment without using the menu method. The Approach ID is an airport unique 4-character combination for verifying the selection and extraction of the correct final approach segment information from the aircraft database. It is similar to the ILS ident, but displayed visually rather than aurally. The Approach ID consists of the letter W for WAAS, the runway number, and a letter other than L, C or R, which could be confused with Left, Center and Right, e.g., W35A. Approach IDs are assigned in the order that WAAS approaches are built to that runway number at that airport. The WAAS Channel Number and Approach ID are displayed in the upper left corner of the approach procedure pilot briefing
      • At locations where outages of WAAS vertical guidance may occur daily due to initial system limitations, a negative W symbol (W) will be placed on RNAV (GPS) approach charts. Many of these outages will be very short in duration, but may result in the disruption of the vertical portion of the approach. The W symbol indicates that NOTAMs or Air Traffic advisories are not provided for outages which occur in the WAAS LNAV/VNAV or LPV vertical service. Use LNAV or circling minima for flight planning at these locations, whether as a destination or alternate. For flight operations at these locations, when the WAAS avionics indicate that LNAV/VNAV or LPV service is available, then vertical guidance may be used to complete the approach using the displayed level of service. Should an outage occur during the procedure, reversion to LNAV minima may be required. As the WAAS coverage is expanded, the W will be removed
        • Properly trained and approved, as required, TSO-C145() and TSO-C146() equipped users (WAAS users) with and using approved baro-VNAV equipment may plan for LNAV/VNAV DA at an alternate airport. Specifically authorized WAAS users with and using approved baro-VNAV equipment may also plan for RNP 0.3 DA at the alternate airport as long as the pilot has verified RNP availability through an approved prediction program

Upon receipt:

  • Comply with minimum altitude for IFR and maintain the last assigned altitude until established

Aircraft Category:

  • Categories are the means a grouping aircraft based on a speed of Vref, if specified or 1.3 Vso at the maximum certificated landing weight
    • What that means is your Vso speed multiplied by 1.3 will give you a number, which will put you in a category based on the table below depending on speed
  • Helicopters may use Category A minima by default
  • If necessary to operate at a speed in excess of the range for the category, use the next category up; for instance, circling to land at a higher airspeed

Circling Approach
Figure 2: Circling Approach Area Radii
  • When operating on an unpublished route or while being radar vectored, the pilot, when an approach clearance is received, shall:
    • Comply with minimum altitudes for IFR operations:
    • Maintain the last assigned attitude, unless a different is assigned or until the aircraft is established on a segment of a published route or IAP
  • The procedure turn of a published IAP shall not be considered a segment of that IAP until the aircraft reaches the initial fix or navigation facility upon which the procedure turn is predicated
  • Pilots should not rely on radar to identify a fix unless the fix is indicated as "RADAR" on the IAP

Procedure Turn and Hold-in-lieu of Procedure Turn:

  • Is a maneuver prescribed when it is necessary to reverse direction to establish the aircraft inbound on an intermediate or final approach course
  • Required when depicted, however not permitted when "No PT" is depicted when a radar vector to the FAC is provided or when conducting a timed approach from a holding fix
  • The maneuver must be completed within the distance specified in the profile view

  • A barbed arrow indicates the maneuvering side of the outbound course
  • May be flown with a 45° cut or an 80°-260° cut
  • Descent to the procedure turn completion altitude from the PT fix altitude must not begin until crossing over the fix or abeam the preceding outbound
  • Absence of a chart note or specified minimum altitude adjacent to the PT fix is an indication that descent to the PT altitude can commence immediately upon crossing over the PT fix, regardless of the direction of flight because the minimum altitudes in the PT entry zone and the PT maneuvering zone are the same

  • A maximum speed of 200 knots (IAS) should be observed from first over-heading the course reversal IAF through the procedure turn maneuver to ensure containment within the obstruction clearance area
  • Normally procedure turn distance is 10 miles but may be as low as 5 for helicopters or as much as 15 miles for high performance aircraft

  • A procedure turn is not required when an approach can be made directly from a specified intermediate fix to the final approach fix
  • If a procedure turn is desired and once cleared by ATC, descent should not be made until the aircraft is established on the inbound course, since some NoPT altitudes may be lower than the procedure turn altitudes

Limitations of Procedure Turns:

  • No pilot may make a procedure turn unless, when final approach clearance is received, the pilot so advises ATC and clearance is received to execute a procedure turn
    • The holding pattern maneuver is completed when the aircraft is established on the inbound course after executing the appropriate entry
    • If cleared for the approach prior to returning to the holding fix, and the aircraft is at the prescribed altitude, additional circuits of the holding pattern are not necessary nor expected by ATC
  • When a teardrop procedure is depicted and a course reversal is required, this type of turn must be executed
  • When a holding pattern replaces a procedure turn, the holding pattern must be followed except when radar vectoring is provided or when NoPT is shown on the approach course
  • The absence of the procedure turn barb in the plan view indicates that a procedure turn is not authorized for that procedure
  • A tear drop is the most efficient course reversal (gets you back on the inbound radial immediately)

Timed Approaches from a Holding Fix:

  • May be conducted when:
    • A control tower is in operation at the airport where the approaches are conducted
    • Direct communications are maintained between the pilot and the center or approach controller until the pilot is instructed to contact the tower
    • If more than one missed approach procedure is available, none require a course reversal
    • If only one missed approach procedure is available, the following conditions are met:
      • Course reversal is not required; and,
      • Reported ceiling and visibility are equal to or greater than the highest prescribed circling minimums for the IAP
    • When cleared for the approach, pilots shall not execute a procedure turn (91.175)

    • Although the controller will not specify when timed approaches are in progress, the issuance of a time to depart the final approach fix or outer marker (NP/P) is indicative
    • Adjust timing as required to leave the holding point as close as possible to the designated time
    • See figure AIM 5-4-17

Determining Changes:

  1. "Free Digital Products" on left side of page
  2. "View Terminal Procedures Publications (d-TPP) and Airport Diagrams" in box on right side of page
  3. "digital - Terminal Procedures (XXXX)" is the link in the middle center of the page
  4. Select state
  5. Enter airport identifier and select ICAO
  6. "Complete Search"
    • Now all the approaches for that airport will be brought up
    • In the "Flag" column any approach that was "A" added, "D" deleted, or "C" changed since the last publication cycle will be "flagged"


  • Be aware that controller issues clearance for approach based only on known traffic
  • Special IAPs are developed for certain individuals who are authorized to perform
    • These may require additional crew, training or weather services not available for public use
  • Follow procedures shown on the IAP such as:
    • Procedure not authorized at night
    • Approach not authorized when local area altimeter not available
    • Procedure not authorized when control tower not in operation
    • Procedure not authorized when glide slope not used
    • Straight-in minimums not authorized at night
    • Radar required
    • Circling minimums published on the approach chart

Special Instrument Approach Procedures:

  • Instrument Approach Procedure (IAP) charts reflect the criteria associated with the U.S. Standard for Terminal Instrument [Approach] Procedures (TERPs), which prescribes standardized methods for use in developing IAPs
  • Standard IAPs are published in the Federal Register (FR) in accordance with Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 97, and are available for use by appropriately qualified pilots operating properly equipped and airworthy aircraft in accordance with operating rules and procedures acceptable to the FAA
  • Special IAPs are also developed using TERPS but are not given public notice in the FR
  • The FAA authorizes only certain individual pilots and/or pilots in individual organizations to use special IAPs, and may require additional crew training and/or aircraft equipment or performance, and may also require the use of landing aids, communications, or weather services not available for public use
  • Additionally, IAPs that service private use airports or heliports are generally special IAPs
  • FDC NOTAMs for Specials, FDC T-NOTAMs, may also be used to promulgate safety-of-flight information relating to Specials provided the location has a valid landing area identifier and is serviced by the United States NOTAM system
  • Pilots may access NOTAMs online or through an FAA Flight Service Station (FSS)
  • FSS specialists will not automatically provide NOTAM information to pilots for special IAPs during telephone pre-flight briefings
  • Pilots who are authorized by the FAA to use special IAPs must specifically request FDC NOTAM information for the particular special IAP they plan to use
  • Approval and use of precision approach systems other than ILS and GLS require the issuance of special instrument approach procedures
  • Special instrument approach procedures must be issued to the aircraft operator if pilot training, aircraft equipment, and/or aircraft performance is different than published procedures
    • Special instrument approach procedures are not distributed for general public use
    • These procedures are issued to an aircraft operator when the conditions for operations approval are satisfied
  • General aviation operators requesting approval for special procedures should contact the local Flight Standards District Office to obtain a letter of authorization
    • Air carrier operators requesting approval for use of special procedures should contact their Certificate Holding District Office for authorization through their Operations Specification
  • See also: Transponder Landing System and Special Category I Differential GPS (SCAT-I DGPS) for additional precision approach systems other than ILS and GLS


  • Pilot:
    • Be aware that the controller issues clearance for approach based only on known traffic
    • Follows the procedure as shown on the IAP, including all restrictive notations, such as:
      • Procedure not authorized at night;
      • Approach not authorized when local area altimeter not available;
      • Procedure not authorized when control tower not in operation;
      • Procedure not authorized when glide slope not used;
      • Straight-in minimums not authorized at night; etc.
      • Radar required; or
      • The circling minimums published on the instrument approach chart provide adequate obstruction clearance and pilots should not descend below the circling altitude until the aircraft is in a position to make final descent for landing. Sound judgment and knowledge of the pilot's and the aircraft's capabilities are the criteria for determining the exact maneuver in each instance since airport design and the aircraft position, altitude and airspeed must all be considered
    • Upon receipt of an approach clearance while on an unpublished route or being radar vectored:
      • Complies with the minimum altitude for IFR; and
      • Maintains the last assigned altitude until established on a segment of a published route or IAP, at which time published altitudes apply
  • Controller:
    • Issues an approach clearance based on known traffic
    • Issues an IFR approach clearance only after the aircraft is established on a segment of published route or IAP, or assigns an appropriate altitude for the aircraft to maintain until so established

Communications Release of IFR Aircraft Landing at an Airport Without an Operating Control Tower:

  • Aircraft operating on an IFR flight plan, landing at an airport without an operating control tower will be advised to change to the airport advisory frequency when direct communications with ATC are no longer required
  • Towers and centers do not have nontower airport traffic and runway in use information
  • The instrument approach may not be aligned with the runway in use; therefore, if the information has not already been obtained, pilots should make an expeditious change to the airport advisory frequency when authorized

Advance Information on Instrument Approaches:

  • When landing at airports with approach control services and where two or more IAPs are published, pilots will be provided in advance of their arrival with the type of approach to expect or that they may be vectored for a visual approach
    • This information will be broadcast either by a controller or on ATIS
    • It will not be furnished when the visibility is three miles or better and the ceiling is at or above the highest initial approach altitude established for any low altitude IAP for the airport
  • The purpose of this information is to aid the pilot in planning arrival actions; however, it is not an ATC clearance or commitment and is subject to change
    • Pilots should bear in mind that fluctuating weather, shifting winds, blocked runway, etc., are conditions which may result in changes to approach information previously received
    • It is important that pilots advise ATC immediately they are unable to execute the approach ATC advised will be used, or if they prefer another type of approach
  • Aircraft destined to uncontrolled airports, which have automated weather data with broadcast capability, should monitor the ASOS/AWSS/AWOS frequency to ascertain the current weather for the airport
    • The pilot must advise ATC when he/she has received the broadcast weather and state his/her intentions
    • ASOS/AWSS/AWOS should be set to provide one-minute broadcast weather updates at uncontrolled airports that are without weather broadcast capability by a human observer
    • Controllers will consider the long line disseminated weather from an automated weather system at an uncontrolled airport as trend and planning information only and will rely on the pilot for current weather information for the airport. If the pilot is unable to receive the current broadcast weather, the last long line disseminated weather will be issued to the pilot. When receiving IFR services, the pilot/aircraft operator is responsible for determining if weather/visibility is adequate for approach/landing
  • When making an IFR approach to an airport not served by a tower or FSS, after ATC advises “CHANGE TO ADVISORY FREQUENCY APPROVED” you should broadcast your intentions, including the type of approach being executed, your position, and when over the final approach fix inbound (nonprecision approach) or when over the outer marker or fix used in lieu of the outer marker inbound (precision approach). Continue to monitor the appropriate frequency (UNICOM, etc.) for reports from other pilots
  • Several IAPs, using various navigation and approach aids may be authorized for an airport. ATC may advise that a particular approach procedure is being used, primarily to expedite traffic. If issued a clearance that specifies a particular approach procedure, notify ATC immediately if a different one is desired. In this event it may be necessary for ATC to withhold clearance for the different approach until such time as traffic conditions permit. However, a pilot involved in an emergency situation will be given priority. If the pilot is not familiar with the specific approach procedure, ATC should be advised and they will provide detailed information on the execution of the procedure

IFR Approaches/Ground Vehicle Operations:

  • IFR Approaches:

    • When operating in accordance with an IFR clearance and ATC approves a change to the advisory frequency, make an expeditious change to the CTAF and employ the recommended traffic advisory procedures
  • Ground Vehicle Operation:

      Airport ground vehicles equipped with radios should monitor the CTAF frequency when operating on the airport movement area and remain clear of runways/taxiways being used by aircraft. Radio transmissions from ground vehicles should be confined to safety-related matters
  • Radio Control of Airport Lighting Systems:

    • Whenever possible, the CTAF will be used to control airport lighting systems at airports without operating control towers. This eliminates the need for pilots to change frequencies to turn the lights on and allows a continuous listening watch on a single frequency. The CTAF is published on the instrument approach chart and in other appropriate aeronautical information publications. For further details concerning radio controlled lights, see AC 150/5340-27, Air-to-Ground Radio Control of Airport Lighting Systems


  • It is important that pilots understand these procedures and their use prior to attempting to fly instrument approaches
  • A pilot adhering to the altitudes, flight paths, and weather minimums depicted on the IAP chart or vectors and altitudes issued by the radar controller, is assured of terrain and obstruction clearance and runway or airport alignment during approach for landing
  • 14 CFR Section 91.175(a), Instrument approaches to civil airports, requires the use of SIAPs prescribed for the airport in 14 CFR Part 97 unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator (including ATC)
  • Often times you will need to keep many approach charts handy depending on the active runway upon your commencement of an instrument approach
  • To learn more about instrument procedures, be sure to check out the Instrument Procedures Handbook online or on paperback