From aviation’s beginnings until PBN’s introduction in 2008, there have been significant changes in communication, navigation and surveillance. As regards navigation, however, one could say there were four major ‘milestones’: the first was when IFR became possible thanks to radio navigation aids (Navaids); the second was the invention of the landing system, ILS; the third was area navigation and the fourth, and perhaps the most important, was GPS, the ultimate positioning aid.  

Of these four elements, GPS could be said to have been the most ‘disruptive’ – in the approach phase of flight. Where in oceanic, en route and terminal operations GPS became an enhanced positioning source, it was in the approach phase of flight that it generated an entirely new way of doing business. It could be considered a benign revolution, as it suddenly provided the possibility of having multiple ways to execute the final approach segments thanks to GPS and its augmentations.

Now, in 2021, Navaids, landing systems, area navigation and GPS are not considered new. And neither is PBN which was introduced in 2008 through the publication of ICAO’s PBN Manual. One of the key drivers for what became PBN was the need to make a place for and systemise and regularise the use of Navaids, landing systems, area navigation and GPS in an interoperable manner.

Along with pilots, air traffic controllers are the ultimate end users of performance-based navigation. Whilst other PBN users such as airspace planners, procedure designers, data providers, manufacturers, and various engineers all have a stake and an important role in PBN, the operational reality is that pilots and air traffic controllers are the ones who use it operationally, in real time.

The very nature of PBN requires a multitude of stakeholders to work together few of whom use a vocabulary that is easily accessible outside their specialist domain. This has proved challenging for each specialist group, particularly operational controllers and pilots. That PBN obliges stakeholders to work together is a plus, but that requirement unwittingly creates a level of bewilderment as multi-disciplinary Stakeholder encounters are often characterised by exposure to a great range of PBN jargon, some of which is specific to a particular PBN specialist group, and not understood by others.

This reality is why this operational controller PBN section of this Portal has opted for the ‘less is more’ approach complete with exclusive ATC terminology. It tells controllers what they NEED to know (N2K) about PBN in order to do their job. It also highlights what is nice to know (ntn) background information about PBN.

Important! This ‘operational controller’ section does not purport to be an outline PBN syllabus for controller training, nor does it attempt to be, nor seek to be, a pro forma for ATC ratings or licencing. Similarly, whilst this section may refer to items listed in each Navigation Specification of Volume II of the ICAO PBN Manual (Doc 9613) under ATC knowledge and training, the approach taken in this section of the Portal is more concrete.

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