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Area navigation (RNAV) permits electronic course guidance on any direct route between points established by the pilot. While RNAV is a generic term that applies to a variety of navigational aids, such as LORAN-C, GPS, and others, this section deals with VOR/DME-based RNAV. VOR/DME RNAV is not a separate ground-based NAVAID, but a method of navigation using VOR/DME and VORTAC signals specially processed by the aircraft’s RNAV computer. [Figure 15-34]

Figure 15-34. Flying an RNAV course.

Figure 15-34. Flying an RNAV course.

NOTE: In this section, the term “VORTAC” also includes VOR/DME NAVAIDs.

In its simplest form, VOR/DME RNAV allows the pilot to electronically move VORTACs around to more convenient locations. Once electronically relocated, they are referred to as waypoints. These waypoints are described as a combination of a selected radial and distance within the service volume of the VORTAC to be used. These waypoints allow a straight course to be flown between almost any origin and destination, without regard to the orientation of VORTACs or the existence of airways.

While the capabilities and methods of operation of VOR/DME RNAV units differ, there are basic principles of operation that are common to all. Pilots are urged to study the manufacturer’s operating guide and receive instruction prior to the use of VOR/DME RNAV or any unfamiliar navigational system. Operational information and limitations should also be sought from placards and the supplement section of the AFM/POH.

VOR/DME-based RNAV units operate in at least three modes: VOR, en route, and approach. A fourth mode, VOR Parallel, may also be found on some models. The units need both VOR and DME signals to operate in any RNAV mode. If the NAVAID selected is a VOR without DME, RNAV mode will not function.

In the VOR (or non-RNAV) mode, the unit simply functions as a VOR receiver with DME capability. [Figure 15-35] The unit’s display on the VOR indicator is conventional in all respects. For operation on established airways or any other ordinary VOR navigation, the VOR mode is used.

Figure 15-35. RNAV controls.

Figure 15-35. RNAV controls.

To utilize the unit’s RNAV capability, the pilot selects and establishes a waypoint or a series of waypoints to define a course. To operate in any RNAV mode, the unit needs both radial and distance signals; therefore, a VORTAC (or VOR/DME) needs to be selected as a NAVAID. To establish a waypoint, a point somewhere within the service range of a VORTAC is defined on the basis of radial and distance. Once the waypoint is entered into the unit and the RNAV en route mode is selected, the CDI displays course guidance to the waypoint, not the original VORTAC. DME also displays distance to the waypoint. Many units have the capability to store several waypoints, allowing them to be programmed prior to flight, if desired, and called up in flight.

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