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FAA, industry work to make approach plates easier to understand

Instrument approach plates provide a wealth of information to enable pilots to fly approaches safely in instrument conditions, but sometimes the plates can be confusing. The FAA, general aviation associations, and the charting industry are working to update the plates to make it easier for pilots to look at the plate and know immediately what kind of navigation is required for the entire approach and any segment of the approach.

Example of new instrument approach plate.
Example of new instrument approach plate.

The FAA will be adding a box near the top of the approach plate above the briefing area that lists the type of navigation equipment necessary to enter the procedure and to fly any portion of the procedure. The title of the approach plate will continue to list the equipment required to fly the final approach segment, such as ILS or LOC.

The area, called the equipment requirements box for conventional procedures and the PBN information box for RNAV procedures, will be the only area on the plate that lists the additional equipment needed for the approach. Currently, equipment requirements can be found in the briefing strip and the planview area, and the two don’t always list the same types of equipment as being required, which can create confusion.

The National Business Aviation Association raised the issue, and the Performance Based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee developed the solution. The International Civil Aviation Organization also has adopted the same charting solution.

“This charting change will allow pilots to quickly determine the equipment required to fly a procedure,” said Rune Duke, AOPA director of airspace and air traffic, who participated on the Performance Based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee. “This change will not increase the requirements for any procedure and is solely a reorganization of information.”

 In this example of the new instrument approach plates that will be released in 2018, an ADF or DME would be required for the approach and missed approach at Williamson Country Regional Airport in Illinois. 

It will be assumed that all aircraft flying IFR are equipped with at least one VOR, as it is today, so there will not be a note stipulating that a VOR is required. The new plates, expected to begin in 2018, will clearly state in the equipment requirements box what is required to execute the procedure, such as, “ADF Required for Procedure Entry.” If multiple options are available for procedure entry, the area will list each, separated with “or”: “ADF or DME Required for Procedure Entry.” For approaches that require other navigation equipment for certain segments, they will be listed as well. For example, “DME Required for LOC Only.” Also, on a non-NDB approach that requires an ADF for one part of the segment, perhaps the intermediate or missed approach or both, it would simply say, “ADF Required.”

The area also will spell out when radar is the only way to define a fix by stating, “Radar Required To Define [insert name of fix].”

Radar is required for the procedure entry of this approach to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. The new equipment requirements box, which will be added to approach plates in 2018, will list all required navigation equipment for the approach in one location.

Performance-based navigation approaches will be handled in the same way, Duke explained. What might be new are details on navigation specification requirements. AOPA will be creating a fact sheet that will discuss the changes to the instrument approach plates; the fact sheet will detail the navigation specifications contained in FAA guidance to help pilots understand the changes. 

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Miller

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
Topics: FAA Information and Services, IFR

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