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What is an “unpublished” RNAV route, and when can you fly it?

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What is an “unpublished” RNAV route, and when can you fly it?

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3 Answers

  1. Mark Kolber on May 13, 2013

    There’s some discussion of this in the AIM but you have to look in more than one place. Specifically, you have to look at “unpublished RNAV routes” (AIM 5-3-4(b)) and “unpublished routes” in the Pilot/Controller Glossary for the broader defintion.

    But, in this case it’re really just English a route using RNAV equipment that’s not published on the charts – no V, T or Q routes with MEAs and defined courses.

    When you have a clearance to by directly between a series of VORs without being on a Victor airway, you are on an “unpublished” route. When you get a clearance to fly from the departure airport to the destination airport “direct” using GPS navigation, you are on an “unpublished RNAV route.”

    When can you fly one? Well, in addition to the usual – a clearance to do so, required altitude (1,000 AGL/2,000 AGL in mountainous terrain) and, maybe obviously, the proper RNAV equipment – the one extra requirement is that you be in radar contact.

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  2. John D. Collins on May 13, 2013


    I agree with you, an unpublished route (sometimes called a random or impromptu route) is one that isn’t charted. A charted IFR route always has a minimum altitude associated with it that provides terrain clearance. In the current AIM and in the past, anytime an aircraft is flying on an unpublished RNAV route, radar monitoring was required. This is being updated as we speak. Alaska doesn’t have the requirement that the unpublished route requires radar monitoring for over 3 years. The requirement in the CONUS was recently changed and now permits flight on unpublished routes under certain circumstances:

    FAA Order N JO 7110.613, effective 2/19/2013 states:

    Notwithstanding requirements for radar separation or radar monitoring of RNAV aircraft on random (impromptu) routes at FL 450 and below as specified in JO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control, the altitude and distance limitations of this paragraph do not apply to GNSS-equipped aircraft departing from an airport, under the following conditions:

    a. The GNSS-equipped departure must be cleared via, or reported to be established on, point-to-point route segments.
    b. The points must be published NAVAIDs, waypoints, fixes or airports recallable from the aircraft’s navigation database. The points must be displayed on controller video maps or depicted on the controller chart displayed at the control position. The maximum distance between points when applying nonradar separation must not exceed 500 miles.
    c. Protect 4 miles either side of the route centerline.
    d. Assigned altitude must be at or above the highest MIA along the projected route segment being flown, including the protected airspace of that route segment.

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  3. Mark Kolber on May 13, 2013

    That’s terrific additional information, John.

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