AIM 1-2-1

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1-2-1. Area Navigation (RNAV)

a. General. RNAV is a method of navigation that permits aircraft operation on any desired flight path within the coverage of ground or space based navigation aids 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 navigation aids.

RNAV routes and terminal procedures, including departure procedures (DPs) and standard terminal arrivals (STARs), are designed with RNAV systems in mind. There are several potential advantages of RNAV routes and procedures:

1. Time and fuel savings,

2. Reduced dependence on radar vectoring, altitude, and speed assignments allowing a reduction in required ATC radio transmissions, and

3. More efficient use of airspace.

In addition to information found in this manual, guidance for domestic RNAV DPs, STARs, and routes may also be found in Advisory Circular 90-100A, U.S. Terminal and En Route Area Navigation (RNAV) Operations.

b. RNAV Operations. RNAV procedures, such as DPs and STARs, demand strict pilot awareness and maintenance of the procedure centerline. Pilots should possess a working knowledge of their aircraft navigation system to ensure RNAV procedures are flown in an appropriate manner. In addition, pilots should have an understanding of the various waypoint and leg types used in RNAV procedures; these are discussed in more detail below.

1. Waypoints. A waypoint is a predetermined geographical position that is defined in terms of latitude/longitude coordinates. Waypoints may be a simple named point in space or associated with existing navaids, intersections, or fixes. A waypoint is most often used to indicate a change in direction, speed, or altitude along the desired path. RNAV procedures make use of both fly-over and fly-by waypoints.

(a) Fly-by waypoints. Fly-by waypoints are used when an aircraft should begin a turn to the next course prior to reaching the waypoint separating the two route segments. This is known as turn anticipation.

(b) Fly-over waypoints. Fly-over waypoints are used when the aircraft must fly over the point prior to starting a turn.

NOTE- FIG 1-2-1 illustrates several differences between a fly-by and a fly-over waypoint.

FIG 1-2-1 Fly-by and Fly-over Waypoints


2. RNAV Leg Types. A leg type describes the desired path proceeding, following, or between waypoints on an RNAV procedure. Leg types are identified by a two-letter code that describes the path (e.g., heading, course, track, etc.) and the termination point (e.g., the path terminates at an altitude, distance, fix, etc.). Leg types used for procedure design are included in the aircraft navigation database, but not normally provided on the procedure chart. The narrative depiction of the RNAV chart describes how a procedure is flown. The “path and terminator concept” defines that every leg of a procedure has a termination point and some kind of path into that termination point. Some of the available leg types are described below.

(a) Track to Fix. A Track to Fix (TF) leg is intercepted and acquired as the flight track to the following waypoint. Track to a Fix legs are sometimes called point-to-point legs for this reason. Narrative: “on track 087 to CHEZZ WP.” See FIG 1-2-2.

(b) Direct to Fix. A Direct to Fix (DF) leg is a path described by an aircraft's track from an initial area direct to the next waypoint. Narrative: “left turn direct BARGN WP.” See FIG 1-2-3.

FIG 1-2-2 Track to Fix Leg Type
FIG 1-2-3 Direct to Fix Leg Type

c) Course to Fix. A Course to Fix (CF) leg is a path that terminates at a fix with a specified course at that fix. Narrative: “on course 078 to PRIMY WP.” See FIG 1-2-4.

FIG 1-2-4 Course to Fix Leg Type

(d) Radius to Fix. A Radius to Fix (RF) leg is defined as a constant radius circular path around a defined turn center that terminates at a fix. See FIG 1-2-5.

FIG 1-2-5 Radius to Fix Leg Type

(e) Heading. A Heading leg may be defined as, but not limited to, a Heading to Altitude (VA), Heading to DME range (VD), and Heading to Manual Termination, i.e., Vector (VM). Narrative: “climb heading 350 to 1500”, “heading 265, at 9 DME west of PXR VORTAC, right turn heading 360”, “fly heading 090, expect radar vectors to DRYHT INT.”

3. Navigation Issues. Pilots should be aware of their navigation system inputs, alerts, and annunciations in order to make better-informed decisions. In addition, the availability and suitability of particular sensors/systems should be considered.

(a) GPS. Operators using TSO-C129 systems should ensure departure and arrival airports are entered to ensure proper RAIM availability and CDI sensitivity.

(b) DME/DME. Operators should be aware that DME/DME position updating is dependent on FMS logic and DME facility proximity, availability, geometry, and signal masking.

(c) VOR/DME. Unique VOR characteristics may result in less accurate values from VOR/DME position updating than from GPS or DME/DME position updating.

(d) Inertial Navigation. Inertial reference units and inertial navigation systems are often coupled with other types of navigation inputs, e.g., DME/DME or GPS, to improve overall navigation system performance.

NOTE- Specific inertial position updating requirements may apply.

4. Flight Management System (FMS). An FMS is an integrated suite of sensors, receivers, and computers, coupled with a navigation database. These systems generally provide performance and RNAV guidance to displays and automatic flight control systems.

Inputs can be accepted from multiple sources such as GPS, DME, VOR, LOC and IRU. These inputs may be applied to a navigation solution one at a time or in combination. Some FMSs provide for the detection and isolation of faulty navigation information.

When appropriate navigation signals are available, FMSs will normally rely on GPS and/or DME/DME (that is, the use of distance information from two or more DME stations) for position updates. Other inputs may also be incorporated based on FMS system architecture and navigation source geometry.

NOTE- DME/DME inputs coupled with one or more IRU(s) are often abbreviated as DME/DME/IRU or D/D/I.

Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) — Chapter 1
1-1-1 - 1-1-2 - 1-1-3 - 1-1-4 - 1-1-5 - 1-1-6 - 1-1-7 - 1-1-8 - 1-1-9 - 1-1-10 - 1-1-11 - 1-1-12 - 1-1-13 - 1-1-14 - 1-1-15 - 1-1-16 - 1-1-17 - 1-1-18 - 1-1-19 - 1-1-20 - 1-1-21 - 1-1-22
1-2-1 - 1-2-2 - 1-2-3