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Performance Based Navigation

March 2019

The FAA’s (Federal Aviation Association’s) modernization effort encompasses many innovative technologies. Some future technologies of the FAA NextGen effort include the rapidly approaching ADS-B mandate, Data Comm, enhanced ATC automation, and Performance Based Navigation (PBN).

PBN is an advanced, satellite-enabled form of air navigation. It uses an upgraded FMS* and the WAAS-enabled GPS to fly procedures and routes that require a prescribed level of navigational accuracy. Most PBN systems can navigate within 0.2nm accuracy 99.99% of the time.

There are many operational benefits, including enhanced safety, increased efficiency, reduced carbon footprint, and reduced costs. Aircraft can fly shorter, more-efficient routes to their destinations and burn less fuel.

There are several PBN procedures and routes already available. They include:

  • RNAV Standard Instrument Departures (SID): RNAV SIDs provide precise repeatable paths for aircraft from takeoff to en-route airspace. They keep departing traffic well separated from arrival traffic and reduce fuel consumption and noise.  More than 1,200 RNAV SIDs are currently available.  
  • Q- and T-Routes: The FAA’s replacing high- and low-altitude routes that rely on ground-based navigation aids (NAVAIDs) with routes that use GPS. The FAA has published more than 100 T-Routes and more than 145 Q-Routes.
  • RNAV Standard Terminal Arrivals (STAR): RNAV STAR procedures can provide a continuous descent from cruise altitude which saves fuel and reduces emissions and noise. The FAA has published more than 860 RNAV arrival procedures.
  • Required navigation performance (RNP) approaches: RNP approaches are for aircraft equipped primarily GPS enhanced by WAAS. Tens of thousands of aircraft equipped with WAAS use more than 3,800 LPV (localizer performance with vertical guidance) approach procedures at more than 1,880 airports. The majority of these airports do not have an ILS (instrument landing system) procedure.

PBN enables operational benefits in the areas of safety, flight efficiency as well as improved cost-efficiency and reduced environmental impact.

*Acronym Key

ADS-B Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast
ATC Air Traffic Control
FMS Flight Management System
GPS Global Positioning Systems
LPV Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance
NAVAIDS Navigation Aids
RNAV Area Navigation
RNP Required Navigation Performance
SID Standard Instrument Departure
STAR Standard Terminal Arrivals
WAAS Wide Area Augmentation System