Air Traffic Services Brief - RNAV Routes Through Terminal Airspace

Air Traffic Services Brief: RNAV Routes Through Terminal Airspace

UPDATE

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is following through with a July 26, 2001, commitment to advance area navigation (RNAV) rulemaking as a Category A initiative. The results of a six-year AOPA advocacy effort to chart RNAV terminal transition routes are finally beginning to be seen. RNAV terminal transition routes, referred to as Tango or “T” routes, allow Global Positioning System (GPS) equipped, instrument flight rules (IFR) operations to efficiently fly around or through Class B and Class C airspace areas. Routes have been established for Cincinnati, Charlotte, and Jacksonville thus far. In December 2006, an additional Tango route was established in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, area to replace an airway that became unusable with the decommissioning of a supporting nondirectional beacon. Click below for more information:

AOPA is very pleased the FAA is following through with a commitment to establish and chart “T” routes and is looking forward to working with the FAA to expand the development to additional terminal areas within the National Airspace System.

The issue

AOPA has been advocating for the establishment of charted RNAV airways as part of the broad efforts to move forward with a benefits-driven transition to RNAV.

The importance to our members

Strategic use of RNAV airways nationwide will reduce the cost of flying and provide aircraft owners more benefits from their IFR-certified GPS receivers. Several scenarios were identified where RNAV routes could provide a substantial benefit to users. RNAV routes will lower altitude minimums on existing Victor airways where ground-based navaid performance (minimum reception altitude) requires higher minimums. In addition, RNAV routes will allow continued use of existing airways where the ground-based navaid signal is no longer suitable for en route navigation and would otherwise be decommissioned. In establishing RNAV routes through terminal airspace, as in Charlotte, the pilot benefits from more direct routing through congested terminal environments.

Background

Since 2000, AOPA has been working with the FAA to establish and chart RNAV airways. During discussions regarding transition issues at the Spring 2000 Aeronautical Charting Forum (ACF), AOPA initiated efforts to establish and chart RNAV airways. As a result of those discussions, a subcommittee of the ACF was established, with AOPA acting as the co-chair of the group. The RNAV Technical Working Group, comprised of representatives from the industry and the FAA, worked to develop the process that is currently used for implementing and charting RNAV routes, waypoint symbology, and making recommendations to the FAA for the establishment of future “T” routes in other terminal areas.

Prior to the establishment of these routes, AOPA received numerous member complaints voicing frustration over the circuitous routing often received when transiting the Class B airspace. RNAV-capable aircraft filing flight plan equipment codes of /E, /F, or /G may file for the routes through terminal airspace. While AOPA is pleased with the implementation of the already-established routes, we continue to work with the FAA to develop and chart additional RNAV routes where the benefits of GPS navigation afford greater flexibility and more direct routing.

Many things had to occur before the FAA was able to implement RNAV airways. The agency developed en route procedures and design criteria, developed procedures for airway flight checks, and created new charting specifications. Following a July 2001 commitment to RNAV efforts from the FAA Flight Standards Service, the FAA developed rulemaking to implement and chart RNAV routes. Advanced area navigation off-airway direct routings have been established in the Northwest and Western-Pacific regions and are available for flight plan filing by all advanced navigation-equipped users.

AOPA position

AOPA continues to advocate for additional RNAV airways that would benefit users throughout the transition to RNAV and provide more flexibility via direct routing.

Status

In conjunction with the efforts of the ACF working group, AOPA has worked with the FAA to establish RNAV routes through several terminal airspace areas. An ongoing effort to establish “T” routes in other terminal areas continues. In addition, AOPA continues to advocate for additional RNAV benefits through lower minimum enroute altitudes (MEAs) on existing Victor airways and developing RNAV airways along the coasts of New Jersey and Oregon.

Charlotte
  • January 31, 2001—RNAV routes through Charlotte Class B terminal airspace were implemented.
  • March 3, 2005—The FAA begins the rulemaking process for the Charlotte, North Carolina, “T” routes by publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register.
  • June 15, 2005—The FAA completes the rulemaking process for the Charlotte “T” routes by publishing a final rule in the Federal Register.
  • September 1, 2005—The Charlotte “T” routes become effective and available for filing on IFR flight plans.
Cincinnati
  • July 15, 2005—The FAA begins the rulemaking process for the Cincinnati, Ohio, “T” routes by publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register.
  • October 26, 2005—The FAA completes the rulemaking for the Cincinnati “T” routes by publishing the final rule in the Federal Register.
  • December 22, 2005—The Cincinnati “T” routes become effective and available for filing on flight plans.
Jacksonville
  • July 1, 2005—The FAA begins the rulemaking process for the Jacksonville, Florida, “T” routes by publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register.
  • November 2, 2005—The FAA completes the rulemaking for the Jacksonville “T” routes by publishing the final rule in the Federal Register.
  • December 22, 2005—The Jacksonville “T” routes become effective and available for filing on flight plans.
Outer Banks
  • March 17, 2006—The FAA begins the rulemaking process for the Outer Banks, North Carolina, “T” route by publishing a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register.
  • June 6, 2006—The FAA completes the rulemaking for the Outer Banks “T” routes by publishing the final rule in the Federal Register.
  • August 3, 2006—The Outer Banks “T” route, T-243, becomes effective and available for filing on flight plans.
Los Angeles
  • April 23, 2007—The FAA issues a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the establishment of three new “T” routes in the L.A. Basin to enhance safety and improve the efficient use of navigable airspace in the L.A. area.
  • June 6, 2007—AOPA submits formal comments in favor of the proposed “T” routes with a minor modification.
  • July 6, 2007—FAA issues a final rule for the Los Angeles “T” routes with an effective date of August 30, 2007.
  • August 30, 2007—Los Angeles “T” routes, T-245, T-247, and T-249, become effective and available for filing on flight plans.
Augusta
  • May 22, 2007—The FAA issues a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the establishment of a new “T” route near Augusta, Georgia, to reduce pilot and air traffic controller workload and provide a non-radar route that ensures clearance from the Bulldog “A” Military Operations Area (MOA).
  • April 4, 2008—The FAA issues the final rule for the Augusta, GA “T” routes with an effective date of June 5, 2008
  • June 5, 2008—Augusta “T” route T-209 becomes effective and available for filing on flight plans
St. Louis
  • November 29, 2007—The FAA issues a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the establishment of two new “T” routes circumnavigating the St. Louis Class B airspace. The T-route structure is designed to reduce pilot and air traffic controller workload. Pilots had been unknowingly using the routes as proposed through an agreement between St. Louis Tracon and Kansas City Center. The establishment of the T-routes eliminates the need for the terminal and center controllers to coordinate and allows pilots to file an IFR flight plan using the routes, both reducing workload and increasing situational awareness.
  • January 4, 2008—AOPA submits formal comments in favor of the proposed “T” routes as proposed.
Southwest Oregon
  • January 12, 2007—AOPA drafts a letter formally requesting that the FAA create a “T” route that will allow for more efficient transit from the Oregon coast to points inland.
  • February 14, 2008—The FAA issues a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the establishment of a new “T” route in Southwest Oregon using the two points recommended by AOPA.
San Francisco/Sacramento
  • November 26, 2007—AOPA meets with the FAA to provide feedback on “T” route concepts the FAA has created in the San Francisco/Sacramento areas.
  • February 19, 2008—The FAA issues a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the establishment of four new “T” routes in the San Francisco/Sacramento area. The four routes all incorporate direct recommendations from AOPA.
Southwest Washington (Portland, Oregon)
  • April 29, 2008—The FAA issues a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the establishment of a new “T” route in Southwest Washington, for use transitioning the Portland, Oregon, area.
Houston
  • July 2, 2008—The FAA issues a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the establishment of a new “T” route in the Houston, Texas, area.

Updated Thursday, August 28, 2008