A well-worn book in my aviation library is Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s North to the Orient, which is the author’s account of the 1931 flight she and her famous spouse made from New York to China via the Great Circle Route. Modern-day pilots might envy her the lack of congestion and restrictions that characterize today’s National Airspace System (NAS), but Lindbergh stresses that some things never change:
Flight rests, firmly supported, on a structure of laws, rules, principles-laws to which plane and man alike must conform. The firm black lines which we ruled straight across Canada and Alaska, preparatory to our flight, implied freedom, but dearly won. Months, and indeed years, of preparation made such freedom possible.
The kind of straight-line freedom promised by performance-based navigation (PBN) and the NextGen technologies that we highlight in this issue is also dearly won – and achieved through years of effort and preparation.
A Handy Resource. Not surprisingly, getting the greatest benefit from new procedures and technologies requires preparation and effort on the part of the pilot. A quick Google search will produce dozens of documents with varying degrees of detail on the elements of NextGen and performance-based navigation.
If, however, you are in search of a single-source reference on both “old” and new procedures for operating in today’s NAS, take a look at the FAA’s Instrument Procedures Handbook (FAA-H-8261-1A). Originally designed as a reference for pilots who operate under instrument flight rules (IFR) in the NAS, the FAA Instrument Procedures Handbook expands on information provided in the more basic FAA Instrument Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-15). It includes advanced information for real-world IFR operations, such as detailed coverage of instrument charts and procedures.
The Instrument Procedures Handbook specifically covers IFR takeoff, departure, en route, arrival, approach, and landing. Best of all (at least for purposes of this discussion), the handbook addresses the concepts and procedures for area navigation (RNAV), required navigation performance (RNP), RNAV routes and designators, and many other aspects of operating in today’s NAS. You will find a general discussion of these topics in the handbook’s first chapter.
General aviation pilots who use-or expect to use – RNAV(GPS) approaches will find it especially helpful to read and study chapter 5, “Approach,” which presents RNAV, RNP, and approaches enabled by the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) in practical operational terms. Still another part of this chapter explains the concept and the charting of terminal arrival areas (TAA). For the TAA discussion as well as for other sections of the Instrument Procedures Handbook, the graphics and illustrations are great, too. Check it out, and let your new knowledge help you make the most of NAS modernization. (FAA Safety Briefing – MayJune 2010)