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Terminal Arrival Area (TAA) (Part Two)

in The National Airspace System

Landing Minimums

The minimums section sets forth the lowest altitude and visibility requirements for the approach, whether precision or nonprecision, straight-in or circling, or radar vectored. When a fix is incorporated in a nonprecision final segment, two sets of minimums may be published, depending upon how the fix can be identified. Two sets of minimums may also be published when a second altimeter source is used in the procedure. The minimums ensure that final approach obstacle clearance is provided from the start of the final segment to the runway or MAP, whichever occurs last. The same minimums apply to both day and night operations unless different minimums are specified in the Notes section of the pilot briefing. Published circling minimums provide obstacle clearance when pilots remain within the appropriate area of protection. [Figure 8-18]

Figure 8-18. IAP Profile Legend.

Figure 8-18. IAP Profile Legend. [click image to enlarge]

Figure 8-18. IAP Profile Legend.

Figure 8-18. (Cont…) IAP Profile Legend. [click image to enlarge]

Minimums are specified for various aircraft approach categories based upon a value 1.3 times the stalling speed of the aircraft in the landing configuration at maximum certified gross landing weight. If it is necessary to maneuver at speeds in excess of the upper limit of a speed range for a category, the minimums for the next higher category should be used. For example, an aircraft that falls into category A, but is circling to land at a speed in excess of 91 knots, should use approach category B minimums when circling to land. [Figure 8-19]

Figure 8-19. Descent Rate Table.

Figure 8-19. Descent Rate Table. [click image to enlarge]

Figure 8-19. Descent Rate Table.

Figure 8-19. (Cont…) Descent Rate Table. [click image to enlarge]

The minimums for straight-in and circling appear directly under each aircraft category. [Figure 8-19] When there is no solid division line between minimums for each category on the rows for straight-in or circling, the minimums apply to the two or more categories.

The terms used to describe the minimum approach altitudes differ between precision and nonprecision approaches.

Precision approaches use decision height (DH), which is referenced to the height above threshold elevation (HAT). Nonprecision approaches use MDA, referenced to “feet MSL.” The MDA is also referenced to HAT for straight-in approaches, or height above airport (HAA) for circling approaches. On NACG charts, the figures listed parenthetically are for military operations and are not used in civil aviation.

Visibility figures are provided in statute miles or runway visual range (RVR), which is reported in hundreds of feet. RVR is measured by a transmissometer, which represents the horizontal distance measured at points along the runway. It is based on the sighting of either high intensity runway lights or on the visual contrast of other targets, whichever yields the greater visual range. RVR is horizontal visual range, not slant visual range, and is used in lieu of prevailing visibility in determining minimums for a particular runway. It is illustrated in hundreds of feet if less than a mile (i.e., “24” is an RVR of 2,400 feet). [Figures 8-19 and 8-20]

Figure 8-20. Terms/Landing Minima Data.

Figure 8-20. Terms/Landing Minima Data. [click image to enlarge]

Figure 8-20. Terms/Landing Minima Data.

Figure 8-20. (Cont…) Terms/Landing Minima Data. [click image to enlarge]

Visibility figures are depicted after the DA/DH or MDA in the minimums section. If visibility in statute miles is indicated, an altitude number, hyphen, and a whole or fractional number appear; for example, 530-1, which indicates “530 feet MSL” and 1 statute mile visibility. This is the descent minimum for the approach. The RVR value is separated from the minimum altitude with a slash, such as “1065/24,” which indicates 1,065 feet MSL and an RVR of 2,400 feet. If RVR is prescribed for the procedure, but not available, a conversion table is used to provide the equivalent visibility in this case, of 1/2 statute mile visibility. [Figure 8-20] The conversion table is also available in the TPP.

When an alternate airport is required, standard IFR alternate minimums apply. For aircraft other than helicopters, precision approach procedures require a 600-feet ceiling and two statute miles visibility; nonprecision approaches require an 800-feet ceiling and two statute miles visibility. Helicopter alternate minimums are a ceiling that is 200 feet above the minimum for the approach to be flown and visibility of at least one statute mile, but not less than the minimum visibility for the approach to be fl own. When a black triangle with a white “A” appears in the notes section of the pilot briefing, it indicates non-standard IFR alternate minimums exist for the airport. If an “NA” appears after the “A,” then alternate minimums are not authorized. This information is found in the beginning of the TPP.

In addition to the COPTER approaches, instrument-equipped helicopters may fly standard approach procedures. The required visibility minimum may be reduced to one-half the published visibility minimum for category A aircraft, but in no case may it be reduced to less than 1/4 mile or 1,200 feet RVR.

Two terms are specific to helicopters. Height above landing (HAL) means height above a designated helicopter landing area used for helicopter IAPs. “Point in space approach” refers to a helicopter IAP to a MAP more than 2,600 feet from an associated helicopter landing area.

Airport Sketch /Airport Diagram

The airport sketch, located on the bottom right side of the chart, includes many helpful features. IAPs for some of the larger airports devote an entire page to an airport diagram. Airport sketch information concerning runway orientation, lighting, final approach bearings, airport beacon, and obstacles all serve to guide the pilot in the final phases of flight. See Figure 8-21 for a legend of airport diagram/airport sketch features (see also Figure 8-10 for an example of an airport diagram).

Figure 8-21. Airport Legend and Diagram.

Figure 8-21. Airport Legend and Diagram. [click image to enlarge]

Figure 8-21. Airport Legend and Diagram.

Figure 8-21. (Cont…) Airport Legend and Diagram. [click image to enlarge]

The airport elevation is indicated in a separate box at the top left of the airport sketch. The touchdown zone elevation (TDZE), which is the highest elevation within the first 3,000 feet of the runway, is designated at the approach end of the procedure’s runway.

Beneath the airport sketch is a time and speed table when applicable. The table provides the distance and the amount of time required to transit the distance from the FAF to the MAP for selected groundspeeds.

The approach lighting systems and the visual approach lights are depicted on the airport sketch. White on black symbols are used for identifying pilot-controlled lighting (PCL). Runway lighting aids are also noted (e.g., REIL, HIRL), as is the runway centerline lighting (RCL). [Figure 8-22]

Figure 8-22. Approach Lighting Legend.

Figure 8-22. Approach Lighting Legend. [click image to enlarge]

Figure 8-22. Approach Lighting Legend.

Figure 8-22. (Cont…) Approach Lighting Legend. [click image to enlarge]

The airport diagram shows the paved runway configuration in solid black, while the taxiways and aprons are shaded gray. Other runway environment features are shown, such as the runway identification, dimensions, magnetic heading, displaced threshold, arresting gear, usable length, and slope.

Inoperative Components

Certain procedures can be flown with inoperative components. According to the Inoperative Components Table, for example, an ILS approach with a malfunctioning Medium Intensity Approach Lighting System with Runway Alignment Indicator Lights (MALSR = MALS with RAIL) can be flown if the minimum visibility is increased by 1/4 mile. [Figure 8-23] A note in this section might read, “Inoperative Table does not apply to ALS or HIRL Runway 13L.”

Figure 8-23. IAP Inoperative Components Table.

Figure 8-23. IAP Inoperative Components Table. [click image to enlarge]

RNAV Instrument Approach Charts

To avoid unnecessary duplication and proliferation of approach charts, approach minimums for unaugmented GPS, Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS), will be published on the same approach chart as lateral navigation/vertical navigation (LNAV/VNAV). Other types of equipment may be authorized to conduct the approach based on the minima notes in the front of the TPP approach chart books. Approach charts titled “RNAV RWY XX” may be used by aircraft with navigation systems that meet the required navigational performance (RNP) values for each segment of the approach. [Figure 8-24]

Figure 8-24. RNAV Instrument Approach Charts.

Figure 8-24. RNAV Instrument Approach Charts. [click image to enlarge]

Figure 8-24. RNAV Instrument Approach Charts.

Figure 8-24. (Cont…) RNAV Instrument Approach Charts. [click image to enlarge]

The chart may contain as many as four lines of approach minimums: global landing system (GLS), WAAS and LAAS, LNAV/VNAV, LNAV, and circling. LNAV/VNAV is an instrument approach with lateral and vertical guidance with integrity limits similar to barometric vertical navigation (BARO VNAV).

RNAV procedures that incorporate a final approach stepdown fix may be published without vertical navigation on a separate chart also titled RNAV. During a transition period when GPS procedures are undergoing revision to a new title, both RNAV and GPS approach charts and formats will be published. ATC clearance for the RNAV procedure will authorize a properly certificated pilot to utilize any landing minimums for which the aircraft is certified.

Chart terminology will change slightly to support the new procedure types:

  1. DA replaces the term DH. DA conforms to the international convention where altitudes relate to MSL and heights relate to AGL. DA will eventually be published for other types of IAPs with vertical guidance, as well. DA indicates to the pilot that the published descent profile is flown to the DA (MSL), where a missed approach will be initiated if visual references for landing are not established. Obstacle clearance is provided to allow a momentary descent below DA while transitioning from the final approach to the missed approach. The aircraft is expected to follow the missed approach instructions while continuing along the published final approach course to at least the published runway threshold waypoint or MAP (if not at the threshold) before executing any turns.
  2. MDA will continue to be used only for the LNAV and circling procedures.
  3. Threshold crossing height (TCH) has been traditionally used in precision approaches as the height of the GS above threshold. With publication of LNAV/VNAV minimums and RNAV descent angles, including graphically depicted descent profiles, TCH also applies to the height of the “descent angle,” or glide path, at the threshold. Unless otherwise required for larger type aircraft, which may be using the IAP, the typical TCH will be 30 to 50 feet.

The minima format changes slightly:

  1. Each line of minima on the RNAV IAP will be titled to reflect the RNAV system applicable (e.g., GLS, LNAV/VNAV, and LNAV). Circling minima will also be provided.
  2. The minima title box will also indicate the nature of the minimum altitude for the IAP. For example: DA will be published next to the minima line title for minimums supporting vertical guidance, and MDA will be published where the minima line supports only lateral guidance. During an approach where an MDA is used, descent below MDA is not authorized.
  3. Where two or more systems share the same minima, each line of minima will be displayed separately.

For more information concerning government charts, the NACG can be contacted by telephone, or via their internet address at:

National Aeronautical Charting Group
Telephone 800-626-3677


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