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GPS approaches being so trivially easy to establish and maintain, are there any/many US airports with instrument approaches which do not have at least one RNAV approach?

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4 Answers 4

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Very interesting question! I analysed my current navigation database*1 (AIRAC 2205), filtered for US airports with instrument approaches and grouped them into 3 categories:

  • airports with radio based approaches, but without RNAV/RNP approaches
  • airports with RNAV/RNP approaches, but without radio based approaches
  • airports with both

The result is shown here:

US Approaches

Only 25 airports (1.8%) have a radio based approach, but no RNAV/RNP available. The list is here:

K2K7, KAVX, KBAD, KC03, KCOF, 
KDYS, KHIF, KINW, KIPL, KLSV, 
KLUF, KLZD, KMCC, KMIB, KMMT, 
KMUO, KMXF, KNQI, KNRB, KOLS, 
KRCA, KSOA, KSSC, KVBG, KVNY

How does this compare to the rest of the world?

Approaches

As you can see, the percentage of airports without RNAV/RNP is much higher in the rest of the world. In particular, European*2 airports still rely much more on radio based approaches (28.6% have radio only). The global average is 18.2% for radio based only.


*1 My database does not contain all airports in the US, usually only the ones with instrument approaches available, but there is no guarantee for completeness.

*2 For European airports, I filtered for those airports with ICAO airport codes starting with E or L, which covers most of Europe.

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  • $\begingroup$ Which airport is assigned the identification code K2K7, or KC03? I think you will find there are no such airports, in any identification scheme. (This is an error in your database...) $\endgroup$
    – randomhead
    May 22 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ @randomhead K2K7 is Neodesha and KC03 is Nappanee Municipal Airport (the database uses ICAO identifiers, but these 2 don't have an ICAO identifier, so it uses K followed by the FAA code). Regarding your second point: The question says "with instrument approaches" in the body, just not in the title. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    May 22 at 11:15
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    $\begingroup$ @randomhead You're right, that's not a correct ICAO code, but you'll have to complain to Jeppesen about that ;) I assume they are doing this because some aircraft avionics require entering the ICAO code for departure/destination, so they have to include some kind of workaround in the database. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    May 22 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ Several listed airports there are military fields (KBAD, KDYS, others). Wonder if they have RNAV approaches, just not public ones. Two decades ago, the bases I flew out of had approved procedures for self-contained approaches, albeit probably not public & very possibly not via all FAA conventions. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    May 22 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ @wbeard52 I don't think there is a (legal) free source for AIRAC data. I bought my data from Navigraph (for flight simulation), and they get the data from Jeppesen. $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    May 22 at 18:48
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According to the May 2022 TERPS catalog. FAA Digital Procedures Website

There are over 3,000 airports in the U.S. national airspace with a RNAV approach comprising over 7,000 RNAV (GPS), RNAV (RNP) and GPS approaches.

There are 33 airports without any RNAV (GPS), RNAV (RNP) or GPS approaches.

Number of airports without RNAV approaches by state

TX with 7

OH with 4

CA and SC with 3

AZ and UT with 2

AK, AL, CT, FL, ID, IL, LA, MN, NV, OR, SD and WI with 1

List of airports:

12G; 1X1; 2P7; 44C; 4I9; 56D; BAD; C16; COF; DYS; F14; F41; HIF; LSV; LUF;
LZD; MCC; MGG; MMT; MUO; MXF; NOG; NQI; P19; PHH; RCA; S12; SSC; U69; VBG;
VDZ; VNY; WEA

On the opposite end, there are 1,406 airports with only RNAV (GPS) or GPS approaches.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That seems like the definitive answer, however I don't understand where the data is coming from. Any chance you could provide a link to this raw data? $\endgroup$ May 22 at 8:01
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    $\begingroup$ @randomhead that's perhaps an unfair downvote. If you read my question, I specifically ask about airports which have instrument procedures, but no RNAV ones. I'm assuming that wbeard52 was answering in this context of "airport". $\endgroup$ May 22 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ The data is coming from the U.S. digital TERPS download. faa.gov/air_traffic/flight_info/aeronav/digital_products/dtpp On the bottom of the page it has downloadable charts. Group E has a XML that can be parsed. That is where the data came from. It is for airports with at least one instrument approach. Not VFR airports. $\endgroup$
    – wbeard52
    May 22 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ @wbeard52 Could you provide the search query you used to parse the XML? I think your answer is more accurate than Bianfable's, but I'd like to compare the two. $\endgroup$ May 22 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ I downloaded the "E" version of the TERPS packet. Pulled out the XML file from the ZIP. I put imported the XML file in Excel. I then created a formula to provide me a column with the type of approach for each row. I then created a pivot table with the corresponding data. Once I had the airports, i input the airports into a database where I have catalogued information from the FAA runway database to get the airport name, city and state. $\endgroup$
    – wbeard52
    May 22 at 14:15
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Yes, there are airports without RNAV approaches. They are very common; as another answer pointed out, there are fewer than 7000 RNAV approaches spread over 19,400 airports in the NAS, and they are certainly not spread evenly. If you browse Skyvector you will see any number of examples without even trying.

As far as larger public-use airports, KMCC (McClellan Airfield, Sacramento, CA) is an example. At the time of writing, it only has ILS and VOR/DME approaches. Others nearby include KVNY (Van Nuys, CA) and KLSV (Nellis AFB).

Why? Presumably they'll get around to it eventually. Designing an approach isn't "trivially easy". It takes considerable work on the part of the FAA to design a new approach.

(Just as a reference: As of 2016, an extremely basic RNAV approach with one line of minima starts at $10,000 - not including annual maintenance costs. Which may be cheaper than whatever it's replacing... but just to show that there's non-trivial work involved.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Compared to the process of installing and maintaining a VOR, the considerable work is considerably small. One might even say it's trivial! $\endgroup$ May 22 at 3:48
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    $\begingroup$ Last year a city near me removed their ILS (and the only BC within 200 miles) because it cost them about $1M/yr to maintain. $10k for an RNAV approach is arguably trivial in comparison. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    May 22 at 4:37
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    $\begingroup$ To be clear, my point is not that an RNAV approach wouldn't be cheaper than whatever's already present. Just that it takes time and effort to create a new approach. $\endgroup$ May 22 at 4:59
  • $\begingroup$ @TrevorJohns Santa Monica has had RNAV approaches for several years now: nbaa.org/aircraft-operations/airports/smo/… $\endgroup$ May 22 at 8:03
  • $\begingroup$ Not to over simplify things, but if all the TERPs work has been done for an existing ILS or VOR approach, how much more actually needs to be done? Most GPS databases already contain ILS approaches that you can load to overlay and monitor the ILS, couldn't the FAA wave their magic wand and declare that the overlay is now an approved RNAV? It seems like it would be a largely administrative drill... $\endgroup$ May 22 at 15:46
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According to this FAA site FAA Airport Categories:

There are approximately 14,400 private-use (closed to the public) and 5,000 public-use (open to the public) airports, heliports, and seaplane bases.

According to this FAA site Instrument Flight Procedures (IFP) Inventory Summary:

There are (as of 5/19/2022) 6956 RNAV approaches, of which 69 are categorized as GPS approaches (stand-alone), 6468 categorized as RNAV (GPS) approaches, and 419 categorized as RNAV (RNP) approaches.

I'm unable to find the number of airports that do not have at least one RNAV approach. But, as you have suggested, with the expansive use of GPS/RNAV technology available for the development of Instrument Approach procedures (IAPs), the number of airports that have these IAPs is likely significant.

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