Approaches (Part Twenty-Four)

RNAV Approach Types

RNAV encompasses a variety of underlying navigation systems and, therefore, approach criteria. This results in different sets of criteria for the final approach segment of various RNAV approaches. RNAV instrument approach criteria address the following procedures:

  • GPS overlay of pre-existing nonprecision approaches.
  • VOR/DME based RNAV approaches.
  • Stand-alone RNAV (GPS) approaches.
  • RNAV (GPS) approaches with vertical guidance (APV).
  • RNAV (GPS) precision approaches (WAAS and LAAS).

GPS Overlay of Nonprecision Approach

The original GPS approach procedures provided authorization to fly non-precision approaches based on conventional, ground-based NAVAIDs. Many of these approaches have been converted to stand-alone approaches, and the few that remain are identified by the name of the procedure and “or GPS.” These GPS non-precision approaches are predicated upon the design criteria of the ground-based NAVAID used as the basis of the approach. As such, they do not adhere to the RNAV design criteria for stand-alone GPS approaches, and are not considered part of the RNAV (GPS) approach classification for determining design criteria. [Figure 4-38]

Figure 4-38. Traditional GPS approach overlay.

Figure 4-38. Traditional GPS approach overlay.

GPS Stand-Alone/RNAV (GPS) Approach

The number of GPS stand-alone approaches continues to decrease as they are replaced by RNAV approaches. RNAV (GPS) approaches are named so that airborne navigation databases can use either GPS or RNAV as the title of the approach. This is required for non-GPS approach systems, such as VOR/DME based RNAV systems. In the past, these approaches were often referred to as “stand-alone GPS” approaches. They are considered non-precision approaches, offering only LNAV and circling minimums. Precision minimums are not authorized, although LNAV/ VNAV minimums may be published and used as long as the on-board system is capable of providing approach approved VNAV. The RNAV (GPS) Runway 14 approach for Lincoln, Nebraska, incorporates only LNAV and circling minimums. [Figure 4-39]

Figure 4-39. Lincoln Muni KLNK Lincoln, Nebraska, RNAV GPS RWY 14 approach.

Figure 4-39. Lincoln Muni KLNK Lincoln, Nebraska, RNAV GPS RWY 14 approach.

For a non-vertically guided straight-in RNAV (GPS) approach, the final approach course must be aligned within 15° of the extended runway centerline. The final approach segment should not exceed 10 NM, and when it exceeds 6 NM, a stepdown fix is typically incorporated. A minimum of 250 feet obstacle clearance is also incorporated into the final approach segment for straight-in approaches, and a maximum 400-ft/NM descent gradient is permitted. The approach design criteria are different for approaches that use vertical guidance provided by a Baro-VNAV system. Because the Baro-VNAV guidance is advisory and not primary, Baro-VNAV approaches are not authorized in areas of hazardous terrain, nor are they authorized when a remote altimeter setting is required. Due to the inherent problems associated with barometric readings and cold temperatures, these procedures are also temperature limited. Additional approach design criteria for RNAV Approach Construction Criteria can be found in the appropriate FAA Order 8260-series orders.


RNAV (GPS) Approach Using WAAS

WAAS was commissioned in July 2003, with IOC. Although precision approach capability is still in the future, WAAS currently provides a type of APV known as LPV. WAAS can support the following minima types: LPV, LNAV/VNAV, LP, and LNAV. Approach minima as low as 200 feet HAT and 1/2 SM visibility is possible, even though LPV is not considered a precision approach. WAAS covers 95 percent of the country 95 percent of the time.

Note: WAAS avionics receive an airworthiness approval in accordance with Technical Standard Order (TSO) C145, Airborne Navigation Sensors Using the Global Positioning System (GPS) Augmented by the Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS), or TSO-146, Stand-Alone Airborne Navigation Equipment Using the Global Positioning System (GPS) Augmented by the Satellite Based Augmentation System (SBAS), and installed in accordance with AC 20-138C, Airworthiness Approval of Positioning and Navigation Systems.

Precision approach capability will become available as more GBAS (LAAS) approach types become operational. GBAS (LAAS) further increases the accuracy of GPS and improves signal integrity warnings. Precision approach capability requires obstruction planes and approach lighting systems to meet Part 77 standards for ILS approaches. This delays the implementation of RNAV (GPS) precision approach capability due to the cost of certifying each runway.

ILS Approaches

Notwithstanding emerging RNAV technology, the ILS is the most precise and accurate approach NAVAID currently in use throughout the NAS. An ILS CAT I precision approach allows approaches to be made to 200 feet above the TDZE and with visibilities as low as 1,800 RVR; with CAT II and CAT III approaches allowing descents and visibility minimums that are even lower. Non-precision approach alternatives cannot begin to offer the precision or flexibility offered by an ILS. In order to further increase the approach capacity of busy airports and exploit the maximum potential of ILS technology, many different applications are in use.

An ILS system can accommodate up to 29 arrivals per hour on a single runway. Two or three parallel runways operating independently can double or triple the capacity of the airport. For air commerce, this means greater flexibility in scheduling passenger and cargo service. Capacity is increased through the use of simultaneous or converging ILS approaches, which are explained further in the corresponding paragraphs below.


In order to successfully accomplish simultaneous or converging ILS approaches, flight crews and ATC have additional responsibilities. When simultaneous instrument approaches are in use, ATC advises flight crews either directly or through ATIS of the active runways. It is the pilot’s responsibility to inform ATC if unable or unwilling to execute a simultaneous approach. Pilots must comply with all ATC requests in a timely manner and maintain strict radio discipline, including using complete aircraft call signs. It is also incumbent upon the flight crew to notify ATC immediately of any problems relating to aircraft communications or navigation systems. At the very least, the approach procedure briefing should cover the entire procedure including the approach name, runway number, frequencies, final approach course, glideslope intercept altitude, DA or DH, and the missed approach instructions. The review of autopilot procedures is also appropriate when making coupled ILS approaches.

As with all approaches, the primary navigation responsibility falls upon the pilot in command. ATC instructions will be limited to ensuring aircraft separation. Additionally, MAPs are designed to diverge in order to protect all involved aircraft. ILS approaches of all types are afforded the same obstacle clearance protection and design criteria, no matter how capacity is affected by simultaneous ILS approaches. [Figure 4-40]

Figure 4-40. ILS final approach segment design criteria.

Figure 4-40. ILS final approach segment design criteria. [click image to enlarge]