Welcome to the SIDs, STARs & Approach Tutorial series! Covered in the next 3 topics we’ll cover how to load a departure, an arrival and an approach into your flight plan between two airports. These words may be foreign to you if you’ve never heard of these acronyms or have no clue what a departure, arrival or an approach is. I encourage you to read through each of the parts in these tutorials to familiarize yourself with these new features. It can be a lot to take in at first, but after some practice you’ll be a pro!
Table of Contents
The flight plan for this series will fall into the 3 Tutorials listed below:
- Part 1: The Departure Procedures Tutorial you are here
- Part 2: The Arrival Procedures Tutorial
- Part 3: The Approach Procedures Tutorial
Please feel free to jump to one of the other tutorials at anytime or continue to the end of Part 1 and Part 2 where it will sequence you over to the next appropriate tutorial.
In Part 1 of this series we will be discussing the Standard Instrument Departure or SID. So, what is a SID? An interesting way to think of a SID is to imagine an onramp you would take to get onto the highway in your car. A SID will prepare you and get you onto highway safely and hopefully without conflict to others.
At the end of this tutorial you’ll be able to:
- Add a Departure
- Determine what departure and transition is appropriate for your flight
SIDs – Standard Instrument Departures: This is an instrument procedure defined on aeronautical charts that lead aircraft out and away from an airport on a predetermined route for a short period of time. Some SIDs will have climb and speed restrictions. Be mindful when looking at your Navigation Log or NavLog, to see if there are any altitudes you’ll be stopping at momentarily. Generally the altitude restrictions on SIDs are to ensure proper aircraft separation with those aircraft who could be on an Arrival above you.
Transition: The word “Transition” is used all throughout aviation. You’re probably familiar with transition when calling Tower and asking for a “transition” through their airspace. To add onto your knowledge bank, a Transition in this tutorial will refer to a branch on the SID/STAR that you will break off to head in the direction of your destination. Not all SID/STAR procedures will have a transition but do keep an eye out for them as they will be beneficial when wanting a more direct route.
Route of Flight
Route of Flight
For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll be planning a flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (KPHX) to Denver International Airport (KDEN) via the MRBIL1 Mr. Bill One departure – LARKS2 Larks Two arrival – ILS35L to land on Runway 35L.
Route: KPHX MRBIL1.JARPA RSK.LARKS2 KDEN
The first step that we want to do when we spawn in is to determine which runways are in use as found on the ATIS or on the map, because we’ll need to use this information when determining what runway we’re going to use on the departure.
Step 1: Procedure Menu
Once you have that determined, we’re ready to start building our Flight Plan (FPL). To begin, tap on the airport to bring up the airport information tab. Tap on the airport tab to bring up the expanded view and click on PROC at the bottom of that tab to bring up what you would find in Image 1.1. Once you’re in this view, tap on “Select Departure”.
Tapping on “Select Departure” will bring you to an overview of all departures that have been loaded to that airport. The various departures are in different colors to assist with differentiating between them. It’s important to note that not all departures are of the same length. Some departures, will have altitudes on fixes, some will not. This is because in the real world these departures do not have altitudes assigned to them.
Step 2: Procedure Overview
In Image 1.2 you’ll find all of the SIDs that Phoenix has available. Each has a unique name with a number attached to it. The number only indicates the version number for that specific procedure. Next to that you will see 5 Rwys or 6 Rwys. This indicates how many runways are available for that departure procedure. If you look at a diagram for KPHX you’ll find that there are only 3 runways. While true, there are 3 pieces of runway, but there are a total of 6 positions that you can take off from at that airport. Each runway surface carries a weight of a possible 2 runways for takeoff. Ex. (Runway 8 and Runway 26 share the same surface but are considered two runways)
As mentioned earlier, your objective is to select the departure procedure that will take you towards your destination. It’s important to note that some airports are limited in their departure procedures. You may have to use a departure procedure that takes you in the opposite direction.
Note: Keep in mind, if flying on the Expert Server, respect the ATIS and file procedures that ATC has listed. These are listed to ensure smooth operation and organization of the airspace. This helps out your fellow pilots have an enjoyable experience.
Step 3: Procedure Selection
Continuing with our FPL we’re going to select the MRBIL1 departure since that will get us going in the correct direction to get to Denver.
Step 4: Transition Selection
We can further fine tune our departure and pick a transition that will break us off into a more desirable direction towards our destination. In this example, I’ve chosen JARPA. Tap on JARPA on the list of fixes, and then click “SELECT” at the bottom.
Step 5: Runway Selection & FPL Overview
The final step in creating your SID is to select the runway you plan on using. Keep in mind, ATC may select a different runway for you to depart from. Be mindful when arming NAV later on so as to not cut across parallel runways just after takeoff (if applicable).
Note: You will occasionally find runways that have the letter “B” next to their runway. KPHX has runways 07L and 07R. In Image 1.5 you’ll see that we have only one runway listed as RW07B. The “B” next to the runway indicates that both runways are/can be used for that departure and transition selected.
I have chosen to depart from Runway 25R and selected this from my drop down as listed by [RW25B]. Once you have selected your runway, click on “Add to Flight Plan”. After all of these steps have been completed, your route will auto populate on your map and should look like Image 1.6.
Important: The phrase “route will auto-populate” indicates that you should see your FPL be represented on your map from your departure airport to the transition point on your SID. You’re entire FPL will not be filed until you have completed the Arrival and Approach phases (if applicable).
Continue to Part 2 of this series to fill in the rest of your FPL.
In Image 1.6 below, we have successfully implemented our departure procedure into our FPL. We can view that this procedure is loaded by opening our FPL and seeing that the waypoints have been grouped and labeled in green. Any procedure you load, (SIDs, STARs, Approach, Tracks) will group these waypoints as such.
After you have successfully input your SID, it would be important to note that you may add waypoints along your route of flight as you normally would. For those planning on medium range or long haul flights, some of these may include step climb waypoints. Please refer to the Step Climbing Tutorial for more information on how to maximize your aircraft performance.
Choose a SID and Transition that takes you as towards your destination
If a runway number has the letter “B” next to it as found in Step 5, it identifies that the procedure is/can be used by a set of parallel runways.
Use caution when arming NAV right after departure especially when departing from an airport with parallel runways. Use caution to not cut other aircraft off.
Be mindful of what ATIS details for airports with parallel runways. Straight out departures may be applicable, and you’ll need to activate a new leg on your FPL.
Be observant of weather conditions when determining what departure procedure would be appropriate. This includes looking at the airport layout, METAR, listening to ATIS and/or reading the D-ATIS (Digital ATIS).
ATC instructions have priority over the flight plan unless directed to “Resume Own Navigation”.
Consider using the “Step Climb” method on longer flights to increase your aircraft range and overall performance.
For Part 2 of this series, head over to:
If you have any questions on any of these tutorials, please don’t hesitate to drop your question in the comments below. Please try to keep the questions separated in each topic so that myself or another helpful community member can answer your question in a prompt manner.