Have you ever wondered as a passenger or as an aviation enthusiast on what it takes for pilots to navigate the aircraft to and from busy airports? Apart from checklists and manuals entirely related to the aircraft, pilots also carry charts allowing aircraft to safely take-off and arrive at an airport. These procedures called Standard Instrument Departure Route (SID) and Standard Arrival Route (STAR) are illustrated in charts called instrument procedures.
What are SIDs and STARs?
SID is a predefined route depicted on a chart by which an aircraft should proceed from take-off to en-route phase. It includes vital information such as waypoints to follow, speed to maintain, and frequencies to contact ATC. The chart also lays down procedures about the route to follow in case of an emergency.
STAR is a predefined route by which an aircraft is guided from en-route to arrival phase. It also includes various information similar to SID.
SID and STAR are produced with an objective for the safe and expedited passage of aircraft at busy airports with multiple runways or even one runway. Sometimes each runway has a different SID and STAR. Neighbouring airports within close range of a busy airport often create a traffic hazard. SID and STAR help in mitigating that risk of collision within a certain radius of an airport before the aircraft path enters an en-route phase. Flight crew shall comply with these routes unless explicitly cancelled or amended by air traffic controllers.
Typically SIDs and STARs have speed restrictions, checkpoints to pass-through, and flight levels to maintain. Interestingly these charts help aircrew and ATC to communicate in standard phraseology which eliminates long and cluttered transmission. Generally, most airports have multiple SID and STAR to cater to different directions. Pilots before entering the cockpit while filing the flight plan mark down the SID and the STAR that is convenient for the route. This helps ATC in planning to clear aircraft accordingly.
Interested to know what SID and STAR charts contain? See below!
The image above clearly explains important details pilots usually look for in a SID or STAR chart. In modern aircraft, pilots need not hand fly to navigate through these turns or maintain altitude. The onboard computers contain all SIDs and STARs of all airports allowing pilots to just monitor these charts as the aircraft eases through these routes. Not just that, the aircraft also maintains other restrictions like altitude and speed as provided in the chart.
Who build these charts?
Jeppesen, a Boeing owned company manually designs these charts inline with Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP – an ICAO regulated published material usually designed by state authority) while taking into consideration the airport layout, its surroundings, and any constraints. Jeppesen charts popularly known as Jepps charts include SID, STAR, en-route and various other instrument approach procedures.
Most airlines around the globe have started to use Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) which includes these charts on a digital tablet. This certainly makes the job of a pilot easier!