Besides the IAPs (which as an IFR flight you're guaranteed to use unless cleared for the visual), there are the STARs and SIDs, and using them in slow GA aircraft doesn't fully make sense to me.

For example, out of RIC there is the Colin Six Departure:

enter image description here

I would imagine that as a 150 KT puttering IFR GA aircraft you would be literally holding up any heavies behind you on a busy day, heading for that COLIN waypoint, that are trying to push the < FL010 250 KT speed limit.

Same for the STARs: your gentle 185 KT descent through 3,000 is a cork for the 747 at 240 KT on the same path but 10 NM back and 1,000 feet higher, getting lower and closer.

  1. Does this simply come down to ATC's ability separate aircraft, and
  2. Are these standard instrument approaches and departures always/often/at all used by small & slow IFR GA aircraft?
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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify what you mean by General Aviation (GA). The definition of GA is variously given as all civil aviation excluding: all scheduled airline flights; all airline or charter flights; or all §121 and §135 flights. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Feb 2 '17 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I may have been using GA wrong for a long time then. I use it to refer to basically any non-commercial flying, cargo or pax. $\endgroup$ – Connor Spangler Feb 2 '17 at 22:58
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    $\begingroup$ I see; that is a common definition. But even that definition also includes a lot of private business aviation. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Feb 2 '17 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ True. I'll stop using it as a catch-all then and find more specific phraseology. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Connor Spangler Feb 2 '17 at 23:05

I cannot speak for all of General Aviation (GA), but throughout the IFR portion of my flying career I have generally used SIDs wherever available.

NOTE: This choice of using SIDs was not always mine, as ATC will often include a SID in a clearance unless requested otherwise. A pilot has two opportunities to avoid SID's if so desired: firstly, when filing the IFR flight plan the statement "NO SIDS" can be included as a request; secondly, when receiving the IFR clearance, the SID can be declined.

I typically like using most SIDs, and I understand that ATC also likes giving them as part of a clearance. Many SIDs are essentially just radar vectors in normal usage with further instructions in case of lost comms.

My experience with SIDs has included numerous aircraft with typical climbout speeds ranging from 90–280 KIAS. As far as I have been able to tell, my aircraft's speed has never been a problem that ATC couldn't handle.

I have less experience with STARs. In flight training I used them occasionally, and ATC seemed to handle my slow speed without issue. At my current operation—which you may or may not consider to be GA—ATC rarely gives of STARs, but usually just gives us clearances direct or vectors. I personally like filing STARs since it helps me know what to expect.

A note on General Aviation (GA): multiple uses exist for the term, "general aviation" (see my query below your question). All of the definitions I am aware of would include the flights in smaller single and multi-engine aircraft that I have flown during flight training. Some of the definitions I am aware of would include some of the turboprop flying I have done (non-charter §135), some would not. But I think that all of the definitions I am familiar with would include private business aviation under §91—which includes some of the fastest civilian jets out there.

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    $\begingroup$ 1 No, I often don't perform the entire SID. I sometimes get vectors off the SID or more frequently get a "direct to" my destination or a waypoint further down the flightplan. Departure control is usually very good at getting me heading in the right directly out of there airspace; they want me out of their hair. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Feb 2 '17 at 23:07
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    $\begingroup$ To specifically address the example of the COLIN6, KRIC does have several other SIDs, but they all take you either east, northeast, or west. If you wanted to go south, ATC would probably vector or otherwise get you heading in the right direction sooner. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Feb 2 '17 at 23:15
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    $\begingroup$ 2 In my experience ATC rarely, if ever, sends us very far out of our way. I have never gotten a SID that would send me in the wrong direction very far. One example is a SID that sends me in the wrong direction about 15 miles, and if I have to fly it far enough I will. But in that case, once I have climbed high enough ATC usually gives me direct my destination in the opposite direction. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Feb 2 '17 at 23:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Answoquest 3 I have never a STAR under VFR, but I have used or consulted SIDs for guidance when making a VFR climbout in mountainous terrain. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Feb 2 '17 at 23:20
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    $\begingroup$ I fly a light single-engine airplane (Mooney), and often get assigned a STAR. When the weather is IMC, I typically fly the full STAR until ATC starts to vector me for the approach. If VMC, they often give me a shortcut (direct to a VOR near the destination) and tell me to expect a visual approach. $\endgroup$ – ammPilot Feb 4 '17 at 2:06

Some SIDs/STARs have a restriction to only turbojet or turboprop aircraft and say piston aircraft (what I suspect you meant by "GA") should use another SID/STAR, or they may have different altitude or speed restrictions (or "expect"s) for different types.

Some, like the one shown above, don't say anything about aircraft performance; this probably means that IFR traffic levels there are low enough that ATC will just vector slower traffic off the SID/STAR in the rare cases when they do actually cause a problem for faster traffic. But they still want everyone to be cleared for the SID/STAR because then both sides know what the other expects in the event of lost comms.


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