SIAPs: Precision Paths for Special IFR Landings

November 7, 2023

On a recent flight into Henderson NV with a student I had a firsthand experience with Special Instrument Landing Procedures (SIAPs) . I decided to have the student practice an VFR Practice Approach into the airport.  We loaded the airport into the G1000 FMS and hit the Procedures button to pick our approach and was presented with no less than 5 approaches.  RNAV 17R LNAV+V, RNAV N 17R LNAV+V, RNAV 35L LNAV+V, RNAV GPS-B LNAV and finally a VOR-C. 

As I was inbound from the south, I loaded the RNAV 35L, and selected the furthest out IAF to load the full procedure.  After loading the approach, I jumped on to my iPad and went to grab the plate, and to my surprise, I found only the RNAV GPS-B and the VOR-C.  Perplexed, I called ATC and asked them what route to expect, they simply said, fly whatever you want and maintain VFR.  OK….hmmmm. Since I had no other plates to use, I loaded the RNAV GPS-B and shot the approach with the student. 

SIAPs on screen

The rest of the flight and the return back home were uneventful, but I had a nagging question about the disparity between the Flight Deck and my iPad, the two had never disagreed, and I needed to find out why.

I decided the best authority was to call up Las Vegas Tracon and figure out what was going on.  The super helpful controller informed me the RNAV 17R LNAV+V, RNAV N 17R LNAV+V and RNAV 35L LNAV+V approaches were all “Signatory Approaches”.  I had never heard that term before and decided to do some additional research.

It turns out Signatory Approaches are Instrument approaches created by different carriers or individuals that needed an approach into an airport that didn’t already exist, so the FAA creates them, at a cost.  These particular approaches were created by a well known fractional jet company that needed some specialized approaches into Henderson’s airport, and these three were created.  

In the latest edition of Quick Tips, please take a few minutes and learn more about these procedures and remember, ALWAYS CHECK YOUR GPS AGAINST YOUR APPROACH PLATE.  Not all approaches are available to all IFR Pilots!

Special Instrument Procedures

Special Instrument Approach Procedures (SIAPs) are tailor-made flight paths that enable aircraft to land at specific airports under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), even under challenging conditions. Unlike Standard Instrument Approach Procedures, which are publicly available for all IFR-rated pilots, SIAPs are custom-designed for particular operators or situations, such as corporate fleets or remote airfields.

As of October, 2023, the use of SIAPs now exceeds over 100 U.S. airports, and requires more than simply an instrument rating and a chart to use them. The FAA aims to inform pilots to be sure they understand what makes these places special within the inFo for Operators, 17015, Essentially, these Special Instrument Procedures demand specific crew training and often special equipment on board the airplane.

Although Special Instrument Procedures may resemble standard approach charts and could be present in an aircraft’s electronic database, pilots are cautioned against requesting or accepting clearance for these procedures from Air Traffic Control (ATC) without explicit authorization from the FAA’s Flight Standards. The FAA has noted cases where ATC mistakenly cleared flights for these specialized procedures. Such incidents pose safety risks, as crews may lack the requisite training and equipment to safely execute these complex approaches.

The FAA highlights how to request and the processing of SIAPs in Order 8260.60. The process is quite stringent and demands extensive attention to detail. In short, an operator must submit a detailed application to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This application includes a proposal of the approach path, safety assessments, and proof of the operator’s capability to design and fly the procedure. The FAA rigorously evaluates the proposal for its impact on existing traffic, airspace structure, and safety before granting approval.

The costs involved in developing a SIAP can be significant. It’s estimated that developing a new approach can cost around $25,000, while annual maintenance fees, which ensure the procedure remains safe and up-to-date with any airspace changes, can be about $4,000. This maintenance includes periodic validation flights by the FAA to verify the procedure’s integrity.

For approved operators, the benefits of having a SIAP are substantial, allowing for more efficient and safer approaches into their chosen airports. However, due to the costs and complexity involved, SIAPs are more common among larger aviation operators with specific operational needs.

To get more information about obtaining your Instrument Rating, visit Aviation Seminars today!