Part 1: The difference between Conventional and RNAV Flight Procedures.

With airspace and flight procedure development in the forefront of the news these
days, we are going to begin a new series that discusses how airspace and flight
procedures are developed. In this series, we will discuss the following topics:

  • The difference between conventional and RNAV procedures
  • What is Metroplex and its origin
  • How airspace and flight procedures were designed in the past
  • How airspace and flight procedures are designed today
  • What processes and rules are used in these developments
  • How do aircraft fly paths in the sky
  • How to merge a local community’s concern with successful flight procedure development

 

Background

As this new series of is kicked off, it is beneficial to define the “credibility”, if you will, of the author. I am currently a Captain of the B-737 for a major airline and during my tenure at the airline, I spent 9 years in charge of their airspace and flight procedure development programs. Additionally, I am an FAA approved flight procedure designer, have been an FAA flight examiner, have consulted to the FAA and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on flight procedures and consulted to governments and companies such as Honeywell and Boeing. These series will pull from that experience and attempt to demystify airspace and flight procedure development so that they can be better understood when viewing local community, airport, and other stakeholder concerns.

Part 1: Difference between Conventional and RNAV Flight Procedures
Historically, flight procedures were built around ground based navigation aids from
which aircraft would receive signals/guidance to navigate along their flight paths. Today,
these are known as “Conventional” flight procedures. Figure 1 shows a current
Conventional flight procedure into San Francisco airport where the ground based
navigation aids are fundamental to the procedure and are identified by red circles.