The design objective of the TAA procedure is to provide a transition method for arriving aircraft with GPS/RNAV equipment. TAAs also eliminate or reduce the need for feeder routes, departure extensions, and procedure turns or course reversal. The TAA is controlled airspace established in conjunction with the standard or modified RNAVapproach configurations.

The standard TAA has three areas: straight-in, left base, and right base. The arc boundaries of the three areas of the TAA are published portions of the approach and allow aircraft to transition from the en route structure direct to the nearest IAF. When crossing the boundary of each of these areas or when released by ATC within the area, the pilot is expected to proceed direct to the appropriate waypoint IAF for the approach area being flown. A pilot has the option in all areas of proceeding directly to the holding pattern.

The TAA has a “T” structure that normally provides a No Procedure Turn (NoPT) for aircraft using the approach. [Figure 1] The TAA provides the pilot and air traffic controller with an efficient method for routing traffic from the en route to the terminal structure. The basic “T” contained in the TAA normally aligns the procedure on runway centerline with the missed approach point (MAP) located at the threshold, the FAF 5 NM from the threshold, and the intermediate fix (IF) 5 NM from the FAF.

Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 1. Basic “T” design of terminal arrival area (TAA) and legend
In order to accommodate descent from a high en route altitude to the initial segment altitude, a hold in lieu of a procedure turn provides the aircraft with an extended distance for the necessary descent gradient. The holding pattern constructed for this purpose is always established on the center IAF waypoint. Other modifications may be required for parallel runways or special operational requirements. When published, the RNAV chart depicts the TAA through the use of icons representing each TAA associated with the RNAV procedure. These icons are depicted in the plan view of the approach, generally arranged on the chart in accordance with their position relative to the aircraft’s arrival from the en route structure.

Course Reversal Elements in Plan View and Profile View

Course reversals included in an IAP are depicted in one of three different ways: a 45°/180° procedure turn, a holding pattern in lieu of procedure turn, or a teardrop procedure. The maneuvers are required when it is necessary to reverse direction to establish the aircraft inbound on an intermediate or final approach course. Components of the required procedure are depicted in the plan view and the profile view. The maneuver must be completed within the distance and at the minimum altitude specified in the profile view. Pilots should coordinate with the appropriate ATC facility relating to course reversal during the IAP.

Procedure Turns

A procedure turn barbed arrow (see Image – a) indicates the direction or side of the outbound course on which the procedure turn is made. [Figure 2] Headings are provided for course reversal using the 45° procedure turn. However, the point at which the turn may be commenced, and the type and rate of turn is left to the discretion of the pilot. Some of the options are the 45° procedure turn, the racetrack pattern, the teardrop procedure turn, or the 80°/260° course reversal. The absence of the procedure turn barbed arrow in the plan view indicates that a procedure turn is not authorized for that procedure. A maximum procedure turn speed of not greater than 200 knots indicated airspeed (KIAS) should be observed when turning outbound over the IAF and throughout the procedure turn maneuver to ensure staying within the obstruction clearance area. The normal procedure turn distance is 10 NM. This may be reduced to a minimum of 5 NM where only Category A or helicopter aircraft are operated, or increased to as much as 15 NM to accommodate high performance aircraft. Descent below the procedure turn altitude begins after the aircraft is established on the inbound course.

Image – a
Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 2. 45° procedure turn
The procedure turn is not required when the symbol “NoPT” appears, when radar vectoring to the final approach is provided, when conducting a timed approach, or when the procedure turn is not authorized. Pilots should contact the appropriate ATC facility when in doubt if a procedure turn is required.

Holding in Lieu of Procedure Turn

A holding pattern in lieu of a procedure turn may be specified for course reversal in some procedures. [Figure 3] In such cases, the holding pattern is established over an intermediate fix (IF) or a FAF. The holding pattern distance or time specified in the profile view must be observed. Maximum holding airspeed limitations as set forth for all holding patterns apply. The holding pattern maneuver is completed when the aircraft is established on the inbound course after executing the appropriate entry. If cleared for the approach prior to returning to the holding fix and the aircraft is at the prescribed altitude, additional circuits of the holding pattern are neither necessary nor expected by ATC. If pilots elect to make additional circuits to lose excessive altitude or to become better established on course, it is their responsibility to advise ATC upon receipt of their approach clearance. When holding in lieu of a procedure turn, the holding pattern must be followed, except when RADAR VECTORING to the final approach course is provided or when NoPT is shown on the approach course.

Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 3. Holding in Lieu of Procedure Turn

Teardrop Procedure

When a teardrop procedure turn is depicted and a course reversal is required, unless otherwise authorized by ATC, this type of procedure must be executed. [Figure 4] The teardrop procedure consists of departure from an IAF on the published outbound course followed by a turn toward and intercepting the inbound course at or prior to the intermediate fix or point. Its purpose is to permit an aircraft to reverse direction and lose considerable altitude within reasonably limited airspace. Where no fix is available to mark the beginning of the intermediate segment, it shall be assumed to commence at a point 10 NM prior to the FAF. When the facility is located on the airport, an aircraft is considered to be on final approach upon completion of the penetration turn. However, the final approach segment begins on the final approach course 10 NM from the facility.

Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 4. Teardrop Procedure

The Profile View

The profile view is a depiction of the procedure from the side and illustrates the vertical approach path altitudes, headings, distances, and fixes. [Figures 5, 6, and 1]

Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 5. Instrument approach chart
Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 6. IAP plan view and symbol legends
The view includes the minimum altitude and the maximum distance for the procedure turn, altitudes over prescribed fixes, distances between fixes, and the missed approach procedure. The profile view aids in the pilot’s interpretation of the IAP. The profile view is not drawn to scale. [Figures 5, 6, 1, and 7]
Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 7. More IAP profile view features
The precision approach glideslope (GS) intercept altitude is a minimum altitude for GS interception after completion of the procedure turn, illustrated by an altitude number and “zigzag” line. It applies to precision approaches, and except where otherwise prescribed, also applies as a minimum altitude for crossing the FAF when the GS is inoperative or not used. Precision approach profiles also depict the GS angle of descent, threshold crossing height (TCH), and GS altitude at the outer marker (OM).

For nonprecision approaches, a final descent is initiated and the final segment begins at either the FAF or the final approach point (FAP). The FAF is identified by use of the Maltese cross symbol in the profile view (see Image – b). [Figure 6] When no FAF is depicted, the final approach point is the point at which the aircraft is established inbound on the final approach course. [Figure 7]
Image – b
Stepdown fixes in nonprecision procedures are provided between the FAF and the airport for authorizing a lower minimum descent altitude (MDA) after passing an obstruction. Stepdown fixes can be identified by NAVAID, NAVAID fix, waypoint, or radar and are depicted by a hash marked line (see Image – c). Normally, there is only one stepdown fix between the FAF and the MAP, but there can be several. If the stepdown fix cannot be identified for any reason, the minimum altitude at the stepdown fix becomes the MDA for the approach. However, circling minimums apply if they are higher than the stepdown fix minimum altitude, and a circling approach is required.
Image – c
The visual descent point (VDP) is a defined point on the final approach course of a nonprecision straight-in approach procedure. A normal descent from the MDA to the runway touchdown point may be commenced, provided visual reference is established. The VDP is identified on the profile view of the approach chart by the symbol “V.” [Figure 1]The MAP varies depending upon the approach flown. For the ILS, the MAP is at the decision altitude/decision height (DA/DH). For nonprecision procedures, the pilot determines the MAP by timing from FAF when the approach aid is away from the airport, by a fix or NAVAID when the navigation facility is located on the field, or by waypoints as defined by GPS or VOR/DME RNAV. The pilot may execute the MAP early, but pilots should, unless otherwise cleared by ATC, fly the IAP as specified on the approach plate to the MAP at or above the MDA or DA/DH before executing a turning maneuver.

A complete description of the MAP appears in the pilot briefing section. [Figure 7] Icons indicating what is to be accomplished at the MAP are located in the profile view. When initiating a missed approach, the pilot is directed to climb straight ahead (e.g., “Climb to 2,000”) or commence a turning climb to a specified altitude (e.g., “Climbing right turn to 2,000.”). In some cases, the procedure directs the pilot to climb straight ahead to an initial altitude, then turn or enter a climbing turn to the holding altitude (e.g., “Climb to 900, then climbing right turn to 2,500 direct ABC VOR and hold.”)

When the MAP specifies holding at a facility or fix, the pilot proceeds according to the missed approach track and pattern depicted on the plan view. An alternate MAP may also be issued by ATC. The textual description also specifies the NAVAID(s) or radials that identify the holding fix.

The profile view also depicts minimum, maximum, recommended, and mandatory block altitudes used in approaches. The minimum altitude is depicted with the altitude underscored (Image – d). On final approach, aircraft are required to maintain an altitude at or above the depicted altitude until reaching the subsequent fix. The maximum altitude is depicted with the altitude overscored (Image – d), and aircraft must remain at or below the depicted altitude. Mandatory altitudes are depicted with the altitude both underscored and overscored (Image – d), and altitude is to be maintained at the depicted value. Recommended altitudes are advisory altitudes and are neither over- nor underscored. When an over- or underscore spans two numbers, a mandatory block altitude is indicated, and aircraft are required to maintain altitude within the range of the two numbers. [Figures 1-11 and 1-12]
Image – d
The Vertical Descent Angle (VDA) found on nonprecision approach charts provides the pilot with information required to establish a stabilized approach descent from the FAF or stepdown fix to the TCH. [Figure 8] Pilots can use the published angle and estimated or actual groundspeed to find a target rate of descent using the rate of descent table in the back of the TPP.
Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 8. Vertical decent angle (VDA)

Landing Minimums

The minimums section sets forth the lowest altitude and visibility requirements for the approach, whether precision or nonprecision, straight-in or circling, or radar vectored. When a fix is incorporated in a nonprecision final segment, two sets of minimums may be published depending upon how the fix can be identified. Two sets of minimums may also be published when a second altimeter source is used in the procedure. The minimums ensure that final approach obstacle clearance is provided from the start of the final segment to the runway or MAP, whichever occurs last. The same minimums apply to both day and night operations unless different minimums are specified in the notes section of the pilot briefing. Published circling minimums provide obstacle clearance when pilots remain within the appropriate area of protection. [Figure 9]

Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 9. IAP profile legend
Minimums are specified for various aircraft approach categories based upon a value 1.3 times the stalling speed of the aircraft in the landing configuration at maximum certified gross landing weight. If it is necessary to maneuver at speeds in excess of the upper limit of a speed range for a category, the minimums for the next higher category should be used. For example, an aircraft that falls into category A, but is circling to land at a speed in excess of 91 knots, should use approach category B minimums when circling to land. [Figure 10]
Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 10. Descent rate table
The minimums for straight-in and circling appear directly under each aircraft category. [Figure 10] When there is no solid division line between minimums for each category on the rows for straight-in or circling, the minimums apply to the two or more categories.The terms used to describe the minimum approach altitudes differ between precision and nonprecision approaches. Precision approaches use DH, which is referenced to the height above threshold elevation (HAT). Nonprecision approaches use MDA, referenced to “feet MSL.” The MDA is also referenced to HAT for straight-in approaches, or height above airport (HAA) for circling approaches. On AeroNav Products charts, the figures listed parenthetically are for military operations and are not used in civil aviation.

Visibility figures are provided in statute miles or runway visual range (RVR), which is reported in hundreds of feet. RVR is measured by a transmissometer, which represents the horizontal distance measured at points along the runway. It is based on the sighting of either high intensity runway lights or on the visual contrast of other targets, whichever yields the greater visual range. RVR is horizontal visual range, not slant visual range, and is used in lieu of prevailing visibility in determining minimums for a particular runway. It is illustrated in hundreds of feet if less than a mile (i.e., “24” is an RVR of 2,400 feet). [Figures 10 and 11]
Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 11. Terms/landing minima data
Visibility figures are depicted after the DA/DH or MDA in the minimums section. If visibility in statute miles is indicated, an altitude number, hyphen, and a whole or fractional number appear; for example, 530-1, which indicates “530 feet MSL” and 1 statute mile visibility. This is the descent minimum for the approach. The RVR value is separated from the minimum altitude with a slash, such as “1065/24,” which indicates 1,065 feet MSL and an RVR of 2,400 feet. If RVR is prescribed for the procedure, but not available, a conversion table is used to provide the equivalent visibility in this case, of ½ statute mile visibility. [Figure 11] The conversion table is also available in the TPP.When an alternate airport is required, standard IFR alternate minimums apply. For aircraft other than helicopters, precision approach procedures require a 600-feet ceiling and 2 statute miles visibility; nonprecision approaches require an 800-feet ceiling and 2 statute miles visibility. Helicopter alternate minimums are a ceiling that is 200 feet above the minimum for the approach to be flown and visibility of at least 1 statute mile, but not less than the minimum visibility for the approach to be flown. When a black triangle with a white “A” appears in the notes section of the pilot briefing, it indicates non-standard IFR alternate minimums exist for the airport. If an “NA” appears after the “A” (see Image – e), then alternate minimums are not authorized. This information is found in the beginning of the TPP.

Image – e
In addition to the COPTER approaches, instrument equipped helicopters may fly standard approach procedures. The required visibility minimum may be reduced to one-half the published visibility minimum for category A aircraft, but in no case may it be reduced to less than ¼ mile or 1,200 feet RVR.Two terms are specific to helicopters. Height above landing (HAL) means height above a designated helicopter landing area used for helicopter IAPs. “Point in space approach” refers to a helicopter IAP to a MAP more than 2,600 feet from an associated helicopter landing area.

Airport Sketch /Airport Diagram

Prior to all flights, pilots should take the time and study the airport layout for all of the airports that they intend to land, including those that may be used as an alternate. During the flight planning phase, study the taxi procedures for the departure airport and landing procedures for the arrival airport. The expected taxi route should be checked against the airport diagram or taxi chart, and special attention should be given to the unique or complex intersections along the taxi route. Pilots should identify critical times and locations on the taxi route (e.g., transitioning through complex intersections, crossing intervening runways, entering and lining up on the runway for takeoff, and approaching and lining up on the runway for landing).

By knowing the layout of the airport and their particular procedures, pilots are able to anticipate, understand, and safely execute all ATC directives and procedures. A major contributor to runway incursions is pilots not knowing the airport layout and procedures. This lack of situational awareness causes unnecessary accidents that can be avoided by proper flight planning. The FAA believes that following the aircraft’s progress on the airport diagram to be sure that the instructions received from ATC are being followed is one of the key procedures in reducing runway incursions. To do this, pilots must take the time prior to the flight to study all procedures so that they are not trying to learn about the airport while they are receiving ATC instructions.

The airport sketch, located on the bottom of the chart, includes many helpful features. IAPs for some of the larger airports devote an entire page to an airport diagram. Airport sketch information concerning runway orientation, lighting, final approach bearings, airport beacon, and obstacles all serve to guide the pilot in the final phases of flight. See Figure 12 for a legend of airport diagram/airport sketch features (see also Figure 5 for an example of an airport diagram).

Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 12. Airport legend and diagram
The airport elevation is indicated in a separate box at the top left of the airport sketch. The touchdown zone elevation (TDZE), which is the highest elevation within the first 3,000 feet of the runway, is designated at the approach end of the procedure’s runway.Beneath the airport sketch is a time and speed table when applicable. The table provides the distance and the amount of time required to transit the distance from the FAF to the MAP for selected groundspeeds.

The approach lighting systems and the visual approach lights are depicted on the airport sketch. White on black symbols (see Image – f) are used for identifying pilot-controlled lighting (PCL). Runway lighting aids are also noted (e.g., REIL, HIRL), as is the runway centerline lighting (RCL). [Figure 13]

Image – f
Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 13. Approach lighting legend
The airport diagram shows the paved runway configuration in solid black, while the taxiways and aprons are shaded gray. Other runway environment features are shown, such as the runway identification, dimensions, magnetic heading, displaced threshold, arresting gear, usable length, and slope.

Inoperative Components

Certain procedures can be flown with inoperative components. According to the Inoperative Components Table, for example, an instrument landing system (ILS) approach with a malfunctioning Medium Intensity Approach Lighting System with Runway Alignment Indicator Lights (MALSR = MALS with RAIL) can be flown if the minimum visibility is increased by ¼ mile. [Figure 14] A note in this section might read, “Inoperative Table does not apply to ALS or HIRL Runway 13L.”

Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 14. IAP inoperative components table

RNAV Instrument Approach Charts

To avoid unnecessary duplication and proliferation of approach charts, approach minimums for unaugmented GPS, Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS), Local Area Augmentation System (LAAS) are published on the same approach chart as lateral navigation/vertical navigation (LNAV/VNAV). Other types of equipment may be authorized to conduct the approach based on the minima notes in the front of the TPP approach chart books. Approach charts titled “RNAV RWY XX” may be used by aircraft with navigation systems that meet the required navigational performance (RNP) values for each segment of the approach. [Figure 15]

Aerospace Terminal Arrival Area
Figure 15. RNAV instrument approach charts
The chart may contain as many as four lines of approach minimums: global landing system (GLS), WAAS and LAAS, LNAV/VNAV, LNAV, and circling. LNAV/VNAV is an instrument approach with lateral and vertical guidance with integrity limits similar to barometric vertical navigation (BARO VNAV).RNAV procedures that incorporate a final approach stepdown fix may be published without vertical navigation on a separate chart also titled RNAV. During a transition period when GPS procedures are undergoing revision to a new title, both RNAV and GPS approach charts and formats are published. ATC clearance for the RNAV procedure authorizes a properly certificated pilot to utilize any landing minimums for which the aircraft is certified.

Chart terminology changes slightly to support the new procedure types:

  1. DA replaces the term DH. DA conforms to the international convention where altitudes relate to MSL and heights relate to AGL. DA will eventually be published for other types of IAPs with vertical guidance, as well. DA indicates to the pilot that the published descent profile is flown to the DA (MSL), where a missed approach is initiated if visual references for landing are not established. Obstacle clearance is provided to allow a momentary descent below DA while transitioning from the final approach to the missed approach. The aircraft is expected to follow the missed approach instructions while continuing along the published final approach course to at least the published runway threshold waypoint or MAP (if not at the threshold) before executing any turns.
  2. MDA continues to be used only for the LNAV and circling procedures.
  3. TCH has been traditionally used in precision approaches as the height of the GS above threshold. With publication of LNAV/VNAV minimums and RNAV descent angles, including graphically depicted descent profiles, TCH also applies to the height of the “descent angle,” or glidepath, at the threshold. Unless otherwise required for larger type aircraft that may be using the IAP, the typical TCH is 30 to 50 feet.
The minima format changes slightly:

  1. Each line of minima on the RNAV IAP is titled to reflect the RNAV system applicable (e.g., LPV, LNAV/VNAV, and LNAV). Circling minima is also provided.
  2. The minima title box also indicates the nature of the minimum altitude for the IAP. For example: DA is published next to the minima line title for minimums supporting vertical guidance, and MDA is published where the minima line supports only lateral guidance. During an approach where an MDA is used, descent below MDA is not authorized.
  3. Where two or more systems share the same minima, each line of minima is displayed separately.

For more information concerning government charts, the AeroNav Products can be contacted by telephone or via their internet address at:

National Aeronautical Navigation Products (AeroNav Products)

Telephone 800-626-3677