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GPS Database Currency

This is an update and expansion of an earlier post.

Prepping for a recent flight to KFAT and then to KPAO, where we expected to make an instrument approach at both airports, we checked the database and it was out of date by a cycle. It was easy enough to update but it did generate this conversation with the CFI I was flying with.

From the AIM my interpretation is that you can use waypoint verification for the enroute portion of the flight but not approach and departure if they rely on GPS. Since the ILS is out of service at KFAT and KPAO only has a GPS approach you would need a current database to land IFR at either airport. (Although I think you could still fly the Localizer to either runway at KFAT with a sidestep or circle to land.) Keep in mind that the AIM is not regulatory, but is given lots of weight when a pilot deviation occurs.

5-1-16. RNAV and RNP Operations

c. The onboard navigation database must be current and appropriate for the region of intended operation and must include the navigation aids, waypoints, and coded terminal airspace procedures for the departure, arrival and alternate airfields.

d. During system initialization, pilots of aircraft equipped with a Flight Management System or other RNAV-certified system, must confirm that the navigation database is current, and verify that the aircraft position has been entered correctly. Flight crews should crosscheck the cleared flight plan against charts or other applicable resources, as well as the navigation system textual display and the aircraft map display. This process includes confirmation of the waypoints sequence, reasonableness of track angles and distances, any altitude or speed constraints, and identification of fly-by or fly-over waypoints. A procedure must not be used if validity of the navigation database is in doubt.

5-4-1. Standard Terminal Arrival (STAR) Procedures

Use of STARs requires pilot possession of at least the approved chart. RNAV STARs must be retrievable by the procedure name from the aircraft database and conform to charted procedure.

5-5-16 RNAV and RNP Operations

a. Pilot.

2. Pilots are not authorized to fly a published RNAV or RNP procedure (instrument approach, departure, or arrival procedure) unless it is retrievable by the procedure name from the current aircraft navigation database and conforms to the charted procedure. The system must be able to retrieve the procedure by name from the aircraft navigation database, not just as a manually entered series of waypoints.

3. Whenever possible, RNAV routes (Q- or T-route) should be extracted from the database in their entirety, rather than loading RNAV route waypoints from the database into the flight plan individually. However, selecting and inserting individual, named fixes from the database is permitted, provided all fixes along the published route to be flown are inserted.

The aircraft we were flying has a Garmin GNS 530W and the Flight Manual Supplement includes this text. (Emphasis mine.)

2.4 Navigation database

GPS/SBAS based IFR enroute, oceanic, and terminal navigation is prohibited unless the flight crew verifies and uses a valid, compatible, and current navigation database or verifies each waypoint for accuracy by reference to current approved data.

“GPS”, “or GPS”, and “RNAV (GPS)” instrument approaches using the Garmin navigation system are prohibited unless the flight crew verifies and uses the current navigation database. GPS based instrument approaches must be flown in accordance with an approved instrument approach procedure that is loaded from the navigation database.

My conclusion is that we couldn’t make the flight unless we had a current database. What do you think?

The reason that our GPS can’t be used with manually entered approach data points is that it automatically switches from terminal mode to approach mode with greater sensitivity and it couldn’t do that if data points are manually entered while that is not an issue en route.

As aside, the airline he flies with does allow out of date databases as long as every point is verified, but they have different equipment and letters of authorization that I do.

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