The United State Department of Transportation, via the Federal Aviation Administration, has set-up a series of guidelines for the regulation of the approach by aircraft to a complex airport environment. The FAA describes a complex airport environment as an airport facility of medium to high traffic volume; such as is the case with regional hubs or international airports. The FAA stressed on its 2007 Instrument Procedures Handbook the importance of pilots performing a detailed examination of the landing airport and it’s runway environment prior to the aircraft’s approach procedure. A detailed review of the runway distance, the turn-off taxiway, and the route of taxi to the selected parking area, are all important safety topics that need extensive briefing prior to landing. In addition to the current condition of the assigned runway, conditions such as the wetness of the pavement, the crossing wind patterns, and the possible contamination of the runway are all additional factors that the FAA recommends the pilot investigate prior to his or her approach.
The National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO) has supplied pilots with detailed airport charts from 2000 to the present that include a runway sketch on each approach chart, to provide the pilot with vital airport information. In addition, the FAA has mandated that a full-page airport diagram be published on yearly basis. The diagram needs to include the latitude and longitude information required for the initial programming of the Flight Management Computer (FMC) on-board the aircraft. The included latitude/longitude grid will show the pilot the specific location of each parking area on the airport area for use in initializing the FMS system.
Pilots making approaches at complex airports, need to familiarize thewmselves with the complete airport environment – specifically its runway-taxiway configuration, prior to commencing an instrument approach. The possible combination of high taxi volume, poor weather patterns and the ground controller workload could make the pilot’s performance on the taxi-runway environment every bit as critical as his or her performance once airborne. These rules are designed for the safety of the pilot and the nearby ground personnel. The FAA guidelines clearly take this situation very seriously and so should the pilot.
– Raul Colon
National Aeronautical Charting Office