Departure Procedures (Part Ten)

Area Navigation (RNAV) Departures

Historically, departure procedures were built around existing ground-based technology and were typically designed to accommodate lower traffic volumes. Often, departure and arrival routes use the same NAVAIDs creating interdependent, capacity diminishing routes. RNAV is a method of navigation that permits aircraft operation on any desired flight path within the coverage of ground- or spaced- based NAVAIDs or within the limits of the capability of self-contained aids or a combination of these. In the future, there will be an increased dependence on the use of RNAV in lieu of routes defined by ground-based NAVAIDs. As a part of the evolving RNAV structure, the FAA has developed departure procedures for pilots flying aircraft equipped with some type of RNAV technology. RNAV allows for the creation of new departure routes that are independent of present fixes and NAVAIDs. RNAV routing is part of the National Airspace Redesign (NAR) and is expected to reduce complexity and increase efficiency of terminal airspace.


When new RNAV departure procedures are designed, they will require minimal vectoring and communications between pilots and ATC. Usually, each departure procedure includes position, time, and altitude, which increase the ability to predict what the pilot will actually do. RNAV departure procedures have the ability to increase the capacity of terminal airspace by increasing on-time departures, airspace utilization, and improved predictability.

All public RNAV SIDs and graphic ODPs are RNAV 1. These procedures generally start with an initial RNAV or heading leg near the departure end runway. In addition, these procedures require system performance currently met by GPS, DME/DME/Inertial Reference Unit (IRU) RNAV systems that satisfy the criteria discussed in AC 90-100, U.S. Terminal and En Route Area Navigation (RNAV) Operations. RNAV departures are identifiable by the inclusion of the term RNAV in the title of the departure. From a required navigation performance (RNP) standpoint, RNAV departure routes are designed with 1 or 2 NM performance standards as listed below. This means you as the pilot and your aircraft equipment must be able to maintain the aircraft within 1 or 2 NM either side of route centerline. [Figure 1-27]

  • RNAV 1 procedures require that the aircraft’s total system error remain bounded by ±1 NM for 95 percent of the total flight time.
  • RNAV 2 requires a total system error of not more than 2 NM for 95 percent of the total flight time.

Figure 1-27. RNP departure levels.

Figure 1-27. RNP departure levels. [click image to enlarge]

RNP is RNAV with on-board monitoring and alerting; RNP is also a statement of navigation performance necessary for operation within defined airspace. RNP 1 (in-lieu-of RNAV 1) is used when a DP that contains a constant radius to a fix (RF) leg or when surveillance (radar) monitoring is not desired for when DME/DME/IRU is used. These procedures are annotated with a standard note: “RNP 1.”

If unable to comply with the requirements of an RNAV or RNP procedure, pilots need to advise ATC as soon as possible. For example, “N1234, failure of GPS system, unable RNAV, request amended clearance.” Pilots are not authorized to fly a published RNAV or RNP procedure unless it is retrievable by the procedure name from the navigation database and conforms to the charted procedure. No other modification of database waypoints or creation of user- defined waypoints on published RNAV or RNP procedures is permitted, except to change altitude and/or airspeed waypoint constraints to comply with an ATC clearance/ instruction, or to insert a waypoint along the published route to assist in complying with an ATC instruction. For example, “Climb via the WILIT departure except cross 30 north of CHUCK at/ or above FL 210.” This is limited only to systems that allow along track waypoint construction.


Pilots of aircraft utilizing DME/DME for primary navigation updating should ensure any required DME stations are in service as determined by NOTAM, ATIS, or ATC advisory. DME/DME navigation system updating may require specific DME facilities to meet performance standards. Based on DME availability evaluations at the time of publication, current DME coverage is not sufficient to support DME/DME RNAV operations everywhere without IRU augmentation or use of GPS. [Figure 1-28] DP chart notes may also include operational information for certain types of equipment, systems, and performance requirements, in addition to the type of RNAV departure procedure.

Figure 1-28. Flight plan equipment codes (continued on next page).

Figure 1-28. Flight plan equipment codes (continued on next page). [click image to enlarge]

Figure 1-28. Flight plan equipment codes (continued).

Figure 1-28. Flight plan equipment codes (continued). [click image to enlarge]

While operating on RNAV segments, pilots are encouraged to use the flight director in lateral navigation mode. RNAV terminal procedures may be amended by ATC issuing radar vectors and/or clearances direct to a waypoint. Pilots should avoid premature manual deletion of waypoints from their active “legs” page to allow for rejoining procedures. While operating on RNAV segments, pilots operating /R aircraft should adhere to any flight manual limitation or operating procedure required to maintain the RNP value specified for the procedure. In 2008, the FAA implemented the use of en route host automation ICAO flight plan (FP) processing for requesting assignment of RNAV SID, Standard Terminal Arrivals (STARs), or RNAV routes U.S. domestic airspace. This is part of a risk reduction strategy for introduction of the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system in October 2008. ERAM also will use ICAO FP processing and as a result aircrews should be aware that as the FAA updates to ERAM the standard FAA flight plan equipment suffix codes will change to the ICAO flight plan equipment suffix codes.

Figure 1-29. Examples of RNAV SID.

Figure 1-29. Examples of RNAV SID. [click image to enlarge]


For procedures requiring GPS and/or aircraft approvals requiring GPS, if the navigation system does not automatically alert the flight crew of a loss of GPS, aircraft operators must develop procedures to verify correct GPS operation. If not equipped with GPS, or for multi-sensor systems with GPS that do not alert upon loss of GPS, aircraft must be capable of navigation system updating using DME/ DME or DME/DME/ IRU for type 1 and 2 procedures. AC 90100 may be used as operational guidance for RNAV ODPs. Pilots of FMS-equipped aircraft who are assigned an RNAV DP procedure and subsequently receive a change of runway, transition, or procedure, must verify that the appropriate changes are loaded and available for navigation. [Figures 1-29 and 1-30]

Figure 1-30. Examples of RNAV ODP.

Figure 1-30. Examples of RNAV ODP. [click image to enlarge]

Additionally, new waypoint symbols are used in conjunction with RNAV charts. There are two types of waypoints currently in use: fly-by (FB) and fly-over (FO). A FB waypoint typically is used in a position at which a change in the course of procedure occurs. Charts represent them with fourpointed stars. This type of waypoint is designed to allow you to anticipate and begin your turn prior to reaching the waypoint, thus providing smoother transitions. Conversely, RNAV charts show a FO waypoint as a four-pointed star enclosed in a circle. This type of waypoint is used to denote a missed approach point, a missed approach holding point, or other specific points in space that must be flown over. [Figure 1-31] Pilots should not change any database waypoint type from a FB to FO, or vice versa.

Figure 1-31. Fly-over and fly-by waypoints.

Figure 1-31. Fly-over and fly-by waypoints. [click image to enlarge]

There are specific requirements; however, that must be met before using RNAV procedures. Every RNAV departure chart lists general notes and may include specific equipment and performance requirements, as well as the type of RNAV departure procedure in the chart plan view. New aircraft equipment suffix codes are used to denote capabilities for advanced RNAV navigation for flight plan filing purposes. [Figure 1-32]

Figure 1-32. Operation requirements for RNAV.

Figure 1-32. Operation requirements for RNAV. [click image to enlarge]