Are you flight ready?

Glass cockpit
image: © CASA | Geoff Comfort

If you fly an IFR aircraft in Australian airspace, then by 4 February 2016, you must transition to using the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) as your primary means of navigation.

What does this mean for you and your IFR-equipped aircraft?

  • On or before 4 February 2016, your IFR aircraft must satisfy the aircraft equipment requirements set out in Civil Aviation Order (CAO) 20.18
  • As an IFR pilot, you must satisfy any aircraft equipment, licensing or training requirements associated with installing and/or using the mandated equipment as specified in Instructions and directions for performance-based navigation (PBN) (CAO 20.91)
  • From 4 February 2016, the standard navigation specifications for continental operations will be RNP 2 for en route, RNP 1 for terminal operations and RNP APCH – LNAV for non-precision approach. These specifications replace the legacy GPS RNAV en route, terminal and non-precision approach authorisations.
  • On 4 February 2016 the back-up navigation network (BNN) is established; this will result in up to 190 of the existing ground-based navigation aids being decommissioned from May 2016.

In other words, you have about nine months left to comply if you wish to continue to fly an IFR aircraft in Australian airspace.

Why is this transition to GNSS happening?

  • Globally, there is increasing pressure to make better use of airspace and to optimise the efficiency of air traffic management. While Australia has relatively uncongested airspace by global standards, it is home to one of the busiest city pairs in the world: Melbourne-Sydney; with the airspace around Perth also seeing unprecedented traffic because of continuing fly-in, fly-out resources industry activity.
  • Straight-in approaches to land, according to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) data, are about 25 times safer than circling approaches to land. The safety benefit flowing from GNSS and PBN use in approaches is further improved by adding vertical guidance during IFR approaches. The lack of such guidance is a major contributing factor to controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents, such as Lockhart River, which led to the death of 15 passengers and crew.
  • Aviation must play its part in reducing its environmental footprint – improving airspace efficiency contributes to this. This technology has the real potential to reduce unproductive flight time, unnecessary delays and fuel burn.
  • Australia has a number of ground-based navigation aids, including non-directional beacons (NDB), VHF omni-directional ranges (VOR), and distance measuring equipment (DME) which are approaching the end of their effective operational life. These navaids are 70-year-old technology, which is becoming increasingly impractical to install and maintain. The AIRAC cycle commencing 26 May 2016, will see up to 190 (165 Airservices-owned and up to 25 privately owned) of the existing 415 ground-based navaids being switched off. The remaining network of conventional NDB, VOR and DME navaids will be upgraded or replaced, forming the Industry-selected backup navigation aid network (BNN) as a GNSS contingency.
  • Not only should you, as an IFR pilot flying an IFR-equipped aircraft, satisfy the requirements above, but you should also familiarise yourself with the BNN; and which navaids are to be switched off, by checking the decommissioning list.


  1. I think this is a great direction to go in and one that while being required to IFR pilots also offers much to the VFR pilot.

    As an ex mariner I find it interesting that as I am now learning to fly that the concept of VFR even exists. It would be like becoming a master but having to say in sight of land, when land is the ship killer. I know ships travel slower and don’t have the same gravitational vulnerability if engines stop, but still, CTA procedures and precision nav are getting easier, and unlike the US, we still have big skies.

    Knowing how to use advanced nav equipment and being qualified are two different things, but even one who only plans to and then flies in VMC can get great benefit, safety and security by also maintaining an instrument Nav Plot.

    Just a thought.

  2. I would find rather than having a ‘decommissioning list’ having a list of those back up sites that will remain. Whilst I do understand I can sit down and work it out, such a list probably does exist and its publication would be helpful.

  3. K. Walters.
    Sometimes I fly vfr aircraft with mixed analogue and glass cockpit. I prefer to monitor my analogue instruments eg. altimeter, rather than the glass cockpit equivalent. I am not familiar with, or trained on glass cockpit. Given that the u.s. ntsb has found over a period that the fatality rate in Private and Business aviation equipped with glass cockpit has doubled it seems that what I am doing has a better safety outcome.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here