New Charlotte, N.C., RNAV routes first step in AOPA effort toward nationwide RNAV airways

January 22, 2001

Thanks to AOPA efforts, new RNAV routes through the Charlotte, North Carolina, Class B airspace will be implemented January 30. This is part of a larger AOPA effort to establish RNAV airways nationwide that can be flown with IFR-approved GPS or FMS equipment.

At Charlotte, IFR overflights were routinely re-routed around the Class B airspace by as much as 50 miles. Acting on member complaints, AOPA worked with the FAA to develop the new, more direct routes.

In a Charlotte air traffic control tower letter to airmen, the FAA listed 12 new routes. Any RNAV-capable aircraft filing flight plan equipment codes of /E, /F, or /G may file for the routes through the Charlotte airspace. Pilots who don't have the appropriate GPS equipment may request vectors along the new routes. The FAA will provide vectors if workload permits.

But AOPA doesn't want the FAA to stop with Charlotte.

"RNAV airways nationwide would reduce the cost of flying and provide aircraft owners more benefits from their IFR-certified GPS receivers," said Dennis Roberts, AOPA vice president and executive director of government and technical affairs. "AOPA has asked the FAA to start work now to create and chart a nationwide RNAV system, with the first charted RNAV airway to appear by March 2003."

RNAV airways would provide more direct routings than the current VOR-based airway system. RNAV routes would give pilots easier access through terminal areas, avoiding the circuitous routings now common in many busy Class B areas.

RNAV routes could also lower altitude minimums on existing Victor airways where VOR performance (minimum reception altitude) requires higher minimums, and allow continued use of existing airways where the navaid signal is no longer suitable for en route navigation.

"But there are a lot of things that have to happen before the FAA can designate RNAV airways," said Roberts. The agency has to develop en route procedures design criteria, develop procedures for airway flight checks, and create new charting specifications.

AOPA asked the FAA to complete that work by the fall of next year.

"RNAV airways are a critical component to the transition from ground-based navigation systems to GPS navigation," said Roberts. "To encourage more aircraft owners to voluntarily equip with IFR-certified GPS receivers, the FAA should provide more real-world benefits."

The 365,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots and three quarters of the general aviation aircraft owners are AOPA members.

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