FAA eases IFR departure rule for RNAV aircraft

February 25, 2013

The FAA, making an exception to a standing rule, has begun to permit aircraft using satellite navigation to receive clearances and depart under IFR from nontowered airports more than 40 nautical miles from an operating ground-based navigation aid, and without radar monitoring.

The agency issued a notam calling pilots’ attention to Notice N JO 7110.613 that allows Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)-equipped aircraft departing from those airports to receive “departure clearances with point to point route segments, on the ground or in the air.” The points must be “published navaids, waypoints, fixes or airports retrievable from the aircraft’s navigation database.”

The FAA set a maximum distance of 500 miles between points. “However, it is strongly recommended that the first filed point be a published, En Route Low Altitude Fix within 50 nm of the departure airport to facilitate the departure clearance,” the agency said.

Before the exception was announced Feb. 20, IFR clearances would only be issued for departures at airports more than 40 miles from a navaid if the airport had a published departure procedure including a transition to the en route environment or to radar coverage. No exception was made for aircraft navigating exclusively by satellite.

AOPA has long advocated for a solution to the problem of limited IFR access from outlying airports, and welcomed the move as a good first step and a positive response to pilots’ concerns about system efficiency.

The FAA stressed that the terrain and obstacle avoidance responsibilities “still apply.”

The FAA left unchanged existing provisions allowing IFR clearances for aircraft departing from airports within 40 nm of a “filed, working navaid” provided the initial route clears the flight to that navaid.