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GPS Instrument Approaches


Instrument Flying Handbook Menu >Navigation Systems >Area Navigation (RNAV)>GPS Instrument Approaches

There is a mixture of GPS overlay approaches (approaches with “or GPS” in the title) and GPS stand-alone approaches in the U.S.

Note: GPS instrument approach operations outside the U.S. must be authorized by the appropriate country authority.

While conducting these IAPs, ground-based NAVAIDs are not required to be operational and associated aircraft avionics need not be installed, operational, turned on, or monitored; however, monitoring backup navigation systems is always recommended when available.

Pilots should have a basic understanding of GPS approach procedures and practice GPS IAPs under visual meteorological conditions (VMC) until thoroughly proficient with all aspects of their equipment (receiver and installation) prior to attempting flight in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).

All IAPs must be retrievable from the current GPS database supplied by the manufacturer or other FAA-approved source. Flying point-to-point on the approach does not assure compliance with the published approach procedure. The proper RAIM sensitivity will not be available and the CDI sensitivity will not automatically change to 0.3 NM. Manually setting CDI sensitivity does not automatically change the RAIM sensitivity on some receivers. Some existing nonprecision approach procedures cannot be coded for use with GPS and will not be available as overlays.

GPS approaches are requested and approved by ATC using the GPS title such as “GPS RWY 24” or “RNAV RWY 35.” Using the manufacturer’s recommended procedures, the desired approach and the appropriate IAF are selected from the GPS receiver database. Pilots should fly the full approach from an initial approach waypoint (IAWP) or feeder fix unless specifically cleared otherwise. Randomly joining an approach at an intermediate fix does not ensure terrain clearance.

When an approach has been loaded in the flight plan, GPS receivers will give an “arm” annunciation 30 NM straight line distance from the airport/heliport reference point. The approach mode should be “armed” when within 30 NM distance so the receiver will change from en route CDI (±5 NM) and RAIM (±2 NM) sensitivity to ±1 NM terminal sensitivity. Where the IAWP is inside this 30 NM point, a CDI sensitivity change will occur once the approach mode is armed and the aircraft is inside 30 NM. Where the IAWP is beyond 30 NM point, CDI sensitivity will not change until the aircraft is within 30 NM point even if the approach is armed earlier. Feeder route obstacle clearance is predicated on the receiver CDI and RAIM being in terminal CDI sensitivity within 30 NM of the airport/heliport reference point; therefore, the receiver should always be armed not later than the 30 NM annunciation.

Pilots should pay particular attention to the exact operation of their GPS receivers for performing holding patterns and in the case of overlay approaches, operations such as procedure turns. These procedures may require manual intervention by the pilot to stop the sequencing of waypoints by the receiver and to resume automatic GPS navigation sequencing once the maneuver is complete. The same waypoint may appear in the route of flight more than once consecutively (e.g., IAWP, final approach waypoint (FAWP), missed approach waypoint (MAHWP) on a procedure turn). Care must be exercised to ensure the receiver is sequenced to the appropriate waypoint for the segment of the procedure being flown, especially if one or more fly-over waypoints are skipped (e.g., FAWP rather than IAWP if the procedure turn is not flown). The pilot may have to sequence past one or more fly-overs of the same waypoint in order to start GPS automatic sequencing at the proper place in the sequence of

When receiving vectors to final, most receiver operating manuals suggest placing the receiver in the nonsequencing mode on the FAWP and manually setting the course. This provides an extended final approach course in cases where the aircraft is vectored onto the final approach course outside of any existing segment which is aligned with the runway. Assigned altitudes must be maintained until established on a published segment of the approach. Required altitudes at waypoints outside the FAWP or step-down fixes must be considered. Calculating the distance to the FAWP may be required in order to descend at the proper location.

When within 2 NM of the FAWP with the approach mode armed, the approach mode will switch to active, which results
in RAIM and CDI sensitivity changing to the approach mode. Beginning 2 NM prior to the FAWP, the full scale CDI sensitivity will smoothly change from ±1 NM, to ±0.3 NM at the FAWP. As sensitivity changes from ±1 NM to ±0.3 NM approaching the FAWP, and the CDI not centered, the corresponding increase in CDI displacement may give the impression the aircraft is moving further away from the intended course even though it is on an acceptable intercept heading. Referencing the digital track displacement information (crosstrack error), if it is available in the approach mode, may help the pilot remain position oriented in this situation. Being established on the final approach course prior to the beginning of the sensitivity change at 2 NM, will help prevent problems in interpreting the CDI display during ramp-down. Requesting or accepting vectors, which will cause the aircraft to intercept the final approach course within 2 NM of the FAWP, is not recommended.

Incorrect inputs into the GPS receiver are especially critical during approaches. In some cases, an incorrect entry can cause the receiver to leave the approach mode. Overriding an automatically selected sensitivity during an approach will cancel the approach mode annunciation. If the approach mode is not armed by 2 NM prior to the FAWP, the approach mode will not become active at 2 NM prior to the FAWP, and the equipment will flag. In these conditions, the RAIM and CDI sensitivity will not ramp down, and the pilot should notdescend to minimum descent altitude (MDA), but fly to the MAWP and execute a missed approach. The approach active annunciator and/or the receiver should be checked to ensure the approach mode is active prior to the FAWP.

A GPS missed approach requires pilot action to sequence the receiver past the MAWP to the missed approach portion of the procedure. The pilot must be thoroughly familiar with the activation procedure for the particular GPS receiver installed in the aircraft and must initiate appropriate action after the MAWP. Activating the missed approach prior to the MAWP will cause CDI sensitivity to immediately change to terminal (±1 NM) sensitivity and the receiver will continue to navigate to the MAWP. The receiver will not sequence past the MAWP. Turns should not begin prior to the MAWP. If the missed approach is not activated, the GPS receiver will display an extension of the inbound final approach course and the along track distance (ATD) will increase from the MAWP until it is manually sequenced after crossing the MAWP.

Missed approach routings in which the first track is via a course rather than direct to the next waypoint require additional action by the pilot to set the course. Being familiar with all of the inputs required is especially critical during this phase of flight.

If proceeding to an alternate airport, the avionics necessary to receive all of the ground-based facilities appropriate for the route to the alternate airport must be installed and operational. The alternate airport must be served by an approach based on other than GPS or LORAN-C navigation, the aircraft must have operational equipment capable of using that navigation aid, and the required navigation aid must be operational.

IFR Flight Using GPS
GPS Errors
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