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Chapter 1 Air Navigation | Section 2. Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RN

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.

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

aim0102_At Anchor4

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

aim0102_At Anchor3

FIG 1-2-3
Direct to Fix Leg Type

aim0102_At Anchor2

(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

aim0102_At Anchor1

(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

aim0102_At Anchor0

(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.

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.

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

1-2-2. Required Navigation Performance (RNP)

a. General. RNP is RNAV with on-board navigation monitoring and alerting, RNP is also a statement of navigation performance necessary for operation within a defined airspace. A critical component of RNP is the ability of the aircraft navigation system to monitor its achieved navigation performance, and to identify for the pilot whether the operational requirement is, or is not being met during an operation. This on-board performance monitoring and alerting capability therefore allows a lessened reliance on air traffic control intervention (via radar monitoring, automatic dependent surveillance (ADS), multilateration, communications), and/or route separation to achieve the overall safety of the operation. RNP capability of the aircraft is a major component in determining the separation criteria to ensure that the overall containment of the operation is met.

The RNP capability of an aircraft will vary depending upon the aircraft equipment and the navigation infrastructure. For example, an aircraft may be equipped and certified for RNP 1.0, but may not be capable of RNP 1.0 operations due to limited navaid coverage.

b. RNP Operations.

1. RNP Levels. An RNP “level” or “type” is applicable to a selected airspace, route, or procedure. As defined in the Pilot/Controller Glossary, the RNP Level or Type is a value typically expressed as a distance in nautical miles from the intended centerline of a procedure, route, or path. RNP applications also account for potential errors at some multiple of RNP level (e.g., twice the RNP level).

(a) Standard RNP Levels. U.S. standard values supporting typical RNP airspace are as specified in TBL 1-2-1 below. Other RNP levels as identified by ICAO, other states and the FAA may also be used.

(b) Application of Standard RNP Levels. U.S. standard levels of RNP typically used for various routes and procedures supporting RNAV operations may be based on use of a specific navigational system or sensor such as GPS, or on multi-sensor RNAV systems having suitable performance.

(c) Depiction of Standard RNP Levels. The applicable RNP level will be depicted on affected charts and procedures.

TBL 1-2-1
U.S. Standard RNP Levels

RNP Level

Typical Application

Primary Route Width (NM) -
Centerline to Boundary

0.1 to 1.0

RNP AR Approach Segments

0.1 to 1.0

0.3 to 1.0

RNP Approach Segments

0.3 to 1.0


Terminal and En Route



En Route


1. The “performance” of navigation in RNP refers not only to the level of accuracy of a particular sensor or aircraft navigation system, but also to the degree of precision with which the aircraft will be flown.

2. Specific required flight procedures may vary for different RNP levels.

TBL 1-2-2
RNP Levels Supported for International Operations

RNP Level

Typical Application


Projected for oceanic/remote areas where 30 NM horizontal separation is applied


Oceanic/remote areas where 50 NM lateral separation is applied

c. Other RNP Applications Outside the U.S. The FAA and ICAO member states have led initiatives in implementing the RNP concept to oceanic operations. For example, RNP-10 routes have been established in the northern Pacific (NOPAC) which has increased capacity and efficiency by reducing the distance between tracks to 50 NM. (See TBL 1-2-2.)

d. Aircraft and Airborne Equipment Eligibility for RNP Operations. Aircraft meeting RNP criteria will have an appropriate entry including special conditions and limitations in its Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM), or supplement. Operators of aircraft not having specific AFM-RNP certification may be issued operational approval including special conditions and limitations for specific RNP levels.

Some airborne systems use Estimated Position Uncertainty (EPU) as a measure of the current estimated navigational performance. EPU may also be referred to as Actual Navigation Performance (ANP) or Estimated Position Error (EPE).

1-2-3. Use of Suitable Area Navigation (RNAV) Systems on Conventional Procedures and Routes

a. Discussion. This paragraph sets forth policy, while providing operational and airworthiness guidance regarding the suitability and use of RNAV systems when operating on, or transitioning to, conventional, non-RNAV routes and procedures within the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS):

1. Use of a suitable RNAV system as a Substitute Means of Navigation when a Very-High Frequency (VHF) Omni-directional Range (VOR), Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN), VOR/TACAN (VORTAC), VOR/DME, Non-directional Beacon (NDB), or compass locator facility including locator outer marker and locator middle marker is out-of-service (that is, the navigation aid (NAVAID) information is not available); an aircraft is not equipped with an Automatic Direction Finder (ADF) or DME; or the installed ADF or DME on an aircraft is not operational. For example, if equipped with a suitable RNAV system, a pilot may hold over an out-of-service NDB.

2. Use of a suitable RNAV system as an Alternate Means of Navigation when a VOR, DME, VORTAC, VOR/DME, TACAN, NDB, or compass locator facility including locator outer marker and locator middle marker is operational and the respective aircraft is equipped with operational navigation equipment that is compatible with conventional navaids. For example, if equipped with a suitable RNAV system, a pilot may fly a procedure or route based on operational VOR using that RNAV system without monitoring the VOR.

1. Additional information and associated requirements are available in Advisory Circular 90­108 titled “Use of Suitable RNAV Systems on Conventional Routes and Procedures.”

2. Good planning and knowledge of your RNAV system are critical for safe and successful operations.

3. Pilots planning to use their RNAV system as a substitute means of navigation guidance in lieu of an out-of-service NAVAID may need to advise ATC of this intent and capability.

4. The navigation database should be current for the duration of the flight. If the AIRAC cycle will change during flight, operators and pilots should establish procedures to ensure the accuracy of navigation data, including suitability of navigation facilities used to define the routes and procedures for flight. To facilitate validating database currency, the FAA has developed procedures for publishing the amendment date that instrument approach procedures were last revised. The amendment date follows the amendment number, e.g., Amdt 4 14Jan10. Currency of graphic departure procedures and STARs may be ascertained by the numerical designation in the procedure title. If an amended chart is published for the procedure, or the procedure amendment date shown on the chart is on or after the expiration date of the database, the operator must not use the database to conduct the operation.

b. Types of RNAV Systems that Qualify as a Suitable RNAV System. When installed in accordance with appropriate airworthiness installation requirements and operated in accordance with applicable operational guidance (e.g., aircraft flight manual and Advisory Circular material), the following systems qualify as a suitable RNAV system:

1. An RNAV system with TSO-C129/ -C145/-C146 equipment, installed in accordance with AC 20-138, Airworthiness Approval of Global Positioning System (GPS) Navigation Equipment for Use as a VFR and IFR Supplemental Navigation System, or AC 20-130A, Airworthiness Approval of Navigation or Flight Management Systems Integrating Multiple Navigation Sensors, and authorized for instrument flight rules (IFR) en route and terminal operations (including those systems previously qualified for “GPS in lieu of ADF or DME” operations), or

2. An RNAV system with DME/DME/IRU inputs that is compliant with the equipment provisions of AC 90-100A, U.S. Terminal and En Route Area Navigation (RNAV) Operations, for RNAV routes. A table of compliant equipment is available at the following website:

Approved RNAV systems using DME/DME/IRU, without GPS/WAAS position input, may only be used as a substitute means of navigation when specifically authorized by a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) or other FAA guidance for a specific procedure. The NOTAM or other FAA guidance authorizing the use of DME/DME/IRU systems will also identify any required DME facilities based on an FAA assessment of the DME navigation infrastructure.

c. Uses of Suitable RNAV Systems. Subject to the operating requirements, operators may use a suitable RNAV system in the following ways.

1. Determine aircraft position relative to, or distance from a VOR (see NOTE 5 below), TACAN, NDB, compass locator, DME fix; or a named fix defined by a VOR radial, TACAN course, NDB bearing, or compass locator bearing intersecting a VOR or localizer course.

2. Navigate to or from a VOR, TACAN, NDB, or compass locator.

3. Hold over a VOR, TACAN, NDB, compass locator, or DME fix.

4. Fly an arc based upon DME.

1. The allowances described in this section apply even when a facility is identified as required on a procedure (for example, “Note ADF required”).

2. These operations do not include lateral navigation on localizer-based courses (including localizer back-course guidance) without reference to raw localizer data.

3. Unless otherwise specified, a suitable RNAV system cannot be used for navigation on procedures that are identified as not authorized (“NA”) without exception by a NOTAM. For example, an operator may not use a RNAV system to navigate on a procedure affected by an expired or unsatisfactory flight inspection, or a procedure that is based upon a recently decommissioned NAVAID.

4. Pilots may not substitute for the NAVAID (for example, a VOR or NDB) providing lateral guidance for the final approach segment. This restriction does not refer to instrument approach procedures with “or GPS” in the title when using GPS or WAAS. These allowances do not apply to procedures that are identified as not authorized (NA) without exception by a NOTAM, as other conditions may still exist and result in a procedure not being available. For example, these allowances do not apply to a procedure associated with an expired or unsatisfactory flight inspection, or is based upon a recently decommissioned NAVAID.

5. For the purpose of paragraph c, “VOR” includes VOR, VOR/DME, and VORTAC facilities and “compass locator” includes locator outer marker and locator middle marker.

d. Alternate Airport Considerations. For the purposes of flight planning, any required alternate airport must have an available instrument approach procedure that does not require the use of GPS. This restriction includes conducting a conventional approach at the alternate airport using a substitute means of navigation that is based upon the use of GPS. For example, these restrictions would apply when planning to use GPS equipment as a substitute means of navigation for an out-of-service VOR that supports an ILS missed approach procedure at an alternate airport. In this case, some other approach not reliant upon the use of GPS must be available. This restriction does not apply to RNAV systems using TSO-C145/-C146 WAAS equipment. For further WAAS guidance see AIM 1-1-20.