STANDARD TERMINAL ARRIVAL ROUTES
A standard terminal arrival route (STAR) provides a critical
form of communication between pilots and ATC.
Once a flight crew has accepted a clearance for a STAR,
they have communicated with the controller what route,
and in some cases what altitude and airspeed, they will
fly during the arrival, depending on the type of clearance.
The STAR provides a common method for leaving
the en route structure and navigating to your destination.
It is a preplanned instrument flight rule ATC arrival procedure
published for pilot use in graphic and textual
form that simplifies clearance delivery procedures.
When the repetitive complex departure clearances by
controllers turned into standard instrument departures
(SIDs) in the late 1970s, the idea caught on quickly.
Eventually, most of the major airports in the U.S.
developed standard departures with graphics for
printed publication. The idea seemed so good that the
standard arrival clearances also started being published
in text and graphic form. The new procedures were
named standard terminal arrival routes, or STARs.
The principal difference between SIDs or departure
procedures (DPs) and STARs is that the DPs start at the
airport pavement and connect to the en route structure.
STARs on the other hand, start at the en route structure
but don’t make it down to the pavement; they end at a
fix or NAVAID designated by ATC, where radar vectors
commonly take over. This is primarily because STARs
serve multiple airports. STARs greatly help to facilitate
the transition between the en route and approach phases
of flight. The objective when connecting a STAR to an
instrument approach procedure is to ensure a seamless
lateral and vertical transition. The STAR and approach
procedure should connect to one another in such a way
as to maintain the overall descent and deceleration profiles. This often results in a seamless transition
between the en route, arrival, and approach phases of
flight, and serves as a preferred route into high volume
terminal areas. [Figure 4-14 on page 4-16]
STARs provide a transition from the en route structure
to an approach gate, outer fix, instrument approach fix,
or arrival waypoint in the terminal area, and they usually
terminate with an instrument or visual approach procedure.
STARs are included at the front of each Terminal
Procedures Publication regional booklet.
For STARs based on conventional NAVAIDs, the
procedure design and obstacle clearance criteria are
essentially the same as that for en route criteria,
covered in Chapter 3, En Route Operations. STAR
procedures typically include a standardized descent
gradient at and above 10,000 feet MSL of 318 feet
per NM, or 3 degrees. Below 10,000 feet MSL the
maximum descent rate is 330 feet per NM, or approximately
3.1 degrees. In addition to standardized
descent gradients, STARs allow for deceleration segments
at any waypoint that has a speed restriction.
As a general guideline, deceleration considerations
typically add 1 NM of distance for each ten knots of
speed reduction required.
INTERPRETING THE STAR
STARs use much of the same symbology as departure
and approach charts. In fact, a STAR may at first appear
identical to a similar graphic DP, except the direction of
flight is reversed and the procedure ends at an approach
fix. The STAR officially begins at the common
NAVAID, intersection, or fix where all the various transitions
to the arrival come together. A STAR transition
is a published segment used to connect one or more en
route airways, jet routes, or RNAV routes to the basic
STAR procedure. It is one of several routes that bring
traffic from different directions into one STAR. This
way, arrivals from several directions can be accommodated
on the same chart, and traffic flow is routed
appropriately within the congested airspace.
To illustrate how STARs can be used to simplify a
complex clearance and reduce frequency congestion,
consider the following arrival clearance issued to a pilot
flying to Seattle, Washington, depicted in Figure 4-15
on page 4-17: “Cessna 32G, cleared to the
Seattle/Tacoma International Airport as filed. Maintain
12,000. At the Ephrata VOR intercept the 221° radial to
CHINS Intersection. Intercept the 284° radial of the
Yakima VOR to RADDY Intersection. Cross RADDY at
10,000. Continue via the Yakima 284° radial to AUBRN
Intersection. Expect radar vectors to the final approach
Now consider how this same clearance is issued when a
STAR exists for this terminal area. “Cessna 32G, cleared to Seattle/Tacoma International Airport as filed,
then CHINS FOUR ARRIVAL, Ephrata Transition.
Maintain 10,000 feet.” A shorter transmission conveys
the same information.
Safety is enhanced when both pilots and controllers
know what to expect. Effective communication
increases with the reduction of repetitive clearances,
decreasing congestion on control frequencies. To
accomplish this, STARs are developed according to the
- STARs must be simple, easily understood and, if possible,
limited to one page.
- A STAR transition should be able to accommodate
as many different types of aircraft as possible.
- VORTACs are used wherever possible, with some
exceptions on RNAV STARs, so that military and
civilian aircraft can use the same arrival.
- DME arcs within a STAR should be avoided since
not all aircraft in the IFR environment are so
- Altitude crossing and airspeed restrictions are
included when they are assigned by ATC a majority
of the time. [Figure 4-16 on page 4-18]
STARs usually are named according to the point at
which the procedure begins. In the U.S., typically there
are en route transitions before the STAR itself. So the
STAR name is usually the same as the last fix on the en
route transitions where they come together to begin the
basic STAR procedure. A STAR that commences at the
CHINS Intersection becomes the CHINS ONE
ARRIVAL. When a significant portion of the arrival is
revised, such as an altitude, a route, or data concerning
the NAVAID, the number of the arrival changes. For
example, the CHINS ONE ARRIVAL is now the CHINS
FOUR ARRIVAL due to modifications in the procedure.
Studying the STARs for an airport may allow you to perceive
the specific topography of the area. Note the initial fixes and where they correspond to fixes on the NACO
en route or area chart. Arrivals may incorporate stepdown
fixes when necessary to keep aircraft within
airspace boundaries, or for obstacle clearance.
Routes between fixes contain courses, distances, and
minimum altitudes, alerting you to possible obstructions
or terrain under your arrival path. Airspeed
restrictions also appear where they aid in managing
the traffic flow. In addition, some STARs require that
you use DME and/or ATC radar. You can decode the
symbology on the PAWLING TWO ARRIVAL
depicted in Figure 4-17 on page 4-18 by referring to
the legend at the beginning of the NACO Terminal