Air Traffic Services Brief -- VFR Waypoint Initiative

Air Traffic Services Brief

VFR Waypoint Initiative

The issue

In response to an AOPA proposal, a new type of navigational feature, called the VFR Waypoint, is now depicted on aeronautical charts. Currently, these waypoints are on several VFR Sectional and Terminal Area Charts (TAC) and their exact coordinates are included in navigation databases contained in Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. They assist pilots in avoiding navigational blunders into Class B and Special Use Airspace.

The importance to our members

AOPA members continuously fly under and around the busiest and most complex airspace areas in the world. Charted VFR Waypoints provide an additional navigational aid for members equipped with Area Navigation and current navigation databases.

Background

For the past several years AOPA has worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish waypoints especially for pilots operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). In the spring of 1998, AOPA submitted a request to the FAA to establish VFR Waypoints as a supplementary navigational tool for VFR operations.

In response to AOPA's proposal, the FAA and AOPA worked collaboratively to develop a process for implementation of VFR Waypoints, charting symbology, and procedures for the charting of the waypoints.

  • VFR Waypoints ease navigation for VFR pilots, using GPS and other Area Navigation receivers (e.g. LORAN) for supplemental information when operating around, under, and between airspace that may require clearance or be restricted from their operations. They provide pilots with additional tools to improve positive situational awareness.
  • VFR Waypoints have a discrete five-letter designator and their exact locations, by latitude and longitude are found in navigation databases. The waypoints all begin with the letters "VP" and have an additional three letters. The "VP" letters provide immediate recognition that the waypoint is for VFR purposes only.
  • VFR Waypoints are also used in conjunction with previously charted Visual Reporting Points. These points are used by air traffic control (ATC) for position reporting purposes. These VFR Waypoints have a five-letter identifier as well. However, in communications with ATC, the reporting point will still be referred to by the full name (i.e., Blue Lake) and not by the assigned five-letter identifier.
  • VFR Waypoints are retrievable from navigation databases. Pilots should attempt to retrieve the waypoints they intend to use in flight prior to departure. If pilots are unable to retrieve these points, they should verify they have the most recent database available. If they still cannot retrieve these waypoints, pilots should contact the manufacturer of the receiver and verify that the VFR waypoint option is available for the receiver model.

Additional benefits of VFR Waypoints to pilots are being evaluated. For example, the FAA has initiated an evaluation of VFR Waypoints to assist pilots in locating a specific mountain pass when operating in mountainous terrain. Aeronautical chart detail is seldom sufficient to assist pilots in their search for low-altitude navigation through mountainous terrain. These waypoints would pinpoint proper entrance and exit point for navigation through valleys.

AOPA position

AOPA continues to advocate this new initiative. AOPA has requested that the FAA chart VFR Waypoints in terminal areas in the United States. In addition to terminal areas, AOPA has also requested that the FAA chart VFR Waypoints to assist pilots in avoiding Special Use Airspace areas, which include Military Operations Areas, Restricted Areas, and Prohibited Areas. AOPA will also continue to advocate for their use in identifying mountain passes.

Status

  • May 1998, AOPA submitted request to chart VFR Waypoints for general aviation pilots.
  • July 1999, FAA published VFR Waypoints on two TACs.
  • September 1999, Jeppesen included the 5-letter identifiers in GPS/LORAN databases for the first time.
  • December 1999, VFR Waypoints published on a Helicopter Route Chart.
  • In March 2001, the FAA began developing the capability to publish VFR Waypoints for identifying the entry/exit points of mountain passes. The evaluation will begin in Colorado.
  • In June 2002, the FAA issued guidance that implements the VFR Waypoints program nationwide.
  • August 8, 2002, the FAA will publish VFR Waypoints on Sectional Charts assisting pilots with avoiding the Special Use Airspace areas.