CHAPTER 4 ARRIVALS
Preparation for the arrival and approach begins long
before the descent from the en route phase of flight.
Planning early, while there are fewer demands on your
attention, leaves you free to concentrate on precise
control of the aircraft and better equipped to deal with
problems that might arise during the last segment of
TRANSITION FROM EN ROUTE
This chapter focuses on the current procedures
pilots and air traffic control (ATC) use for instrument
flight rule (IFR) arrivals in the National
Airspace System (NAS). The objective is to provide
pilots with an understanding of ATC arrival procedures
and pilot responsibilities as they relate to the
transition between the en route and approach phases
of flight. This chapter emphasizes standard terminal
arrival routes (STARs), descent clearances, descent
planning, and ATC procedures, while the scope of
coverage focuses on transitioning from the en route
phase of flight, typically the origination point of a
STAR to the STAR termination fix. This chapter
also differentiates between area navigation (RNAV)
STARs and STARs based on conventional navigational
Optimum IFR arrival options include flying directly
from the en route structure to an approach gate or initial
approach fix (IAF), a visual arrival, STARs, and radar
vectors. Within controlled airspace, ATC routinely uses
radar vectors for separation purposes, noise abatement
considerations, when it is an operational advantage, or
when requested by pilots. Vectors outside of controlled
airspace are provided only on pilot request. The
controller tells you the purpose of the vector when the
vector is controller-initiated and takes the aircraft off a
previously assigned nonradar route. Typically, when
operating on RNAV routes, you are allowed to remain
on your own navigation.
TOP OF DESCENT
Planning the descent from cruise is important because of
the need to dissipate altitude and airspeed in order to
arrive at the approach gate properly configured.
Descending early results in more flight at low altitudes
with increased fuel consumption, and starting down late
results in problems controlling both airspeed and
descent rates on the approach. Top of descent (TOD)
from the en route phase of flight for high performance
airplanes is often used in this process and is calculated
manually or automatically through a flight management
system (FMS) [Figure 4-1], based upon the altitude of the approach gate. The approach gate is an imaginary
point used by ATC to vector aircraft to the final approach
course. The approach gate is established along the final
approach course 1 nautical mile (NM) from the final
approach fix (FAF) on the side away from the airport
and is located no closer than 5 NM from the landing
threshold. The altitude of the approach gate or initial
approach fix is subtracted from the cruise altitude, and
then the target rate of descent and groundspeed is
applied, resulting in a time and distance for TOD, as
depicted in Figure 4-1 on page 4-1.
Achieving an optimum stabilized, constant rate descent
during the arrival phase requires different procedures
for turbine-powered and reciprocating-engine airplanes.
Controlling the airspeed and rate of descent is
important for a stabilized arrival and approach, and it
also results in minimum time and fuel consumption.
Reciprocating-engine airplanes require engine performance
and temperature management for maximum
engine longevity, especially for turbocharged engines.
Pilots of turbine-powered airplanes must not exceed the
airplane’s maximum operating limit speed above
10,000 feet, or exceed the 250-knot limit below 10,000
feet. Also, consideration must be given to turbulence
that may be encountered at lower altitudes that may
necessitate slowing to the turbulence penetration speed.
If necessary, speed brakes should be used.