European charted transitions

It’s not a STAR, it’s not an approach…what is it?

April 1, 2013

Hamburg Runway 23 Go ahead—try to find the DH620 fix on the ILS Runway 23 approach plate for the Hamburg airport (left). It isn’t there! As with many European arrival procedures, the fix is part of an RNAV transition. These aren’t STARs as we know them, but there’s DH620 on the RIBSO 23 RNAV transition chart (circled above, northwest of the airport).

Several years ago, after an Atlantic crossing made long and circuitous by unfavorable winds aloft, my client and I were in the home stretch to our European destination. Still on an airway 75 miles out from Hamburg, Germany, ATC cleared us “Direct Delta-Hotel-six-two-zero.” A quick scan found that DH620 was not a fix—in either our active flight plan or anywhere on the approach plate for the ATIS-advertised ILS 23. Of course, the frequency was immediately saturated, so querying ATC had to be put off while we tried to find the missing fix. The immediate good news was that simply entering direct “DH620” in the FMS was accepted, so for the short term we were headed where we were expected. The bad news was that we had no idea what ATC was expecting us to do after DH620, and couldn’t ask right away.

Furious page turning by the pilot not flying found DH620 in a cluster of 12 fixes all named “DH-something-something-something,” on a plate that appeared to be a STAR, titled RIBSO 23. Our flight-planning service had filed a STAR named the RIBSO 2A, so thinking the RIBSO 23 might be a variant of the RIBSO 2A, we attempted to reload the STAR to find DH620. With the exception of the eponymous RIBSO, however, the waypoints were completely different—and there was no DH620.

Baffled, we then found the paper chart for the filed RIBSO 2A—a separate published procedure from RIBSO 23, with legs matching perfectly what was loaded in the FMS. At this point we were holding the procedure we wanted to load in our hands (RIBSO 23), but couldn’t figure out how to get it into the FMS; no option to load the RIBSO 23 STAR existed.

Our break came with closer examination of the RIBSO 23 plate, which showed that while grouped with STARs by Jeppesen, it was titled RNAV Transition—not STAR. Out of desperation we had thought perhaps the fixes were coded in the FMS database as part of the approach procedure, rather than as a standalone arrival. We reloaded the ILS, and found “RIBSO” as a selectable transition. Choosing it resulted in the correct string of 10 fixes loading into the flight plan, properly slotted between the STAR and ILS.

Further European flying has shown these “charted transitions” to be a favored tool at busier airports, with page after page created to bridge the gap between arrival and approach. Forewarned is forearmed, and after that first panicked exposure it’s now standard operating procedure to check whether a STAR is in fact a STAR, or an elaborate portion of the approach itself.

Besides the lesson that things aren’t always what they seem when flying outside your familiar area, our hectic few minutes in the cockpit reinforced some other good lessons. Taking a bit of time to brief the arrivals into a new airport can pay off, however it’s often impossible in Europe to become familiar with every arrival the way it could be done at home. Consider that Philadelphia, a U.S. city about the size of Hamburg, has only 12 pages of STARs and DPs—compared to the 29 for Hamburg.

International flying is best performed as a two-pilot show. So many twists and turns can arise that having a second pilot and good crew resource management (CRM) makes all the difference in the world. As busy as things were for the nonflying pilot, the pilot flying simply had to keep flying the airplane in the correct direction. This can be a hard task when the right-seater is working so hard, but it’s essential to good CRM, and critical when thrown an ATC curveball—wherever the crew may be.

Neil Singer is a Master CFI with more than 7,200 hours in 15 years of flying.


GAMA issues mixed report

By Thomas A. Horne

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) released its annual report on shipments of new GA aircraft, and the news for 2012 was “mixed,” according to Brad Mottier, GAMA’s 2013 board chairman. The worldwide total number of aircraft shipped in 2012 (including helicopters, reported for the first time this year) was posted as 3,177 units worth almost $22 billion; fixed-wing aircraft delivered by U.S. manufacturers totaled 1,514 units. Compared to 2,979 aircraft delivered in 2011, 2012’s numbers were up by 198 aircraft.

GAMA has begun to include rotorcraft and turboprop-powered agplanes. Both categories boosted the shipment numbers, and GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said that without the representation of these new categories deliveries would have otherwise been “flat.” Year-end airplane shipments increased 0.6 percent to 2,133 airplane deliveries in 2012, GAMA said.

However, the 2012 turboprop-airplane category jumped 10.3 percent from 2011 to 2012 thanks to the inclusion of 169 airplanes manufactured by Air Tractor and 51 airplanes manufactured by Thrush Aircraft Inc. These two companies account for the entire net increase in turboprop sales.

The 1,044 helicopters—214 of them turbine-powered—delivered by Robinson Helicopter Company upped that category by 21.5 percent over 2011’s numbers. GAMA also said it was contemplating adding more Light Sport aircraft. Apart from these new categories, worldwide piston airplane deliveries sank from 898 units in 2011 to 881 units in 2012, a drop of 1.9 percent.

Worldwide business jet deliveries dropped from 696 to 672 airplanes, for a decline of 3.4 percent. While this was a mere handful fewer than the 680 to 720 business jet deliveries predicted for 2012 by Honeywell’s Business Aviation Forecast issued last October, it represented a continuation of the cautious trend among GA buyers of turbine airplanes. Honeywell had predicted that 30 percent of corporate flight departments had plans to buy or replace one or more business jets by 2017.

Email tom.horne@aopa.org.