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Area Navigation (RNAV) Basics: FMS/RNAV Computer

by Flight Learnings

in Navigation

RNAV is possible through use of a variety of navigation facilities and installed aircraft equipment operated in the U.S. National Airspace System. This site focuses on the more common GPS RNAV, a satellite-based radio navigation system available to aircraft equipped with a GPS receiver. In addition to its ability to receive signals from GPS satellites, a GPS receiver also contains a computer processor and a navigation database that includes much of the information found on en route and terminal procedure charts. The newer, more capable units provide map displays, traffic and weather overlays of data, contain VOR/DME/localizer/glideslope receivers, and can compute fuel usage in addition to the navigation route information. For this reason, the more descriptive term “FMS” is used on this site to refer to these GPS receivers.

An FMS allows you to enter a series of waypoints and instrument procedures that define a flight route. If these waypoints and procedures are included in the navigation database, the computer calculates the distances and courses between all waypoints in the route. During flight, the FMS provides precise guidance between each pair of waypoints in the route, along with real-time information about aircraft course, groundspeed, distance, estimated time between waypoints, fuel consumed, and fuel/flight time remaining (when equipped with fuel sensor(s)).


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