Now that you’ve seen an overview of approach plate basics, it’s time to dive in to the individual components of an approach plate.  This lesson starts with the margin data.
Many pilots dismiss the margin data on FAA approach plates as simply being the airport name and the name of the approach they are going to fly.  While those two important items are on every plate, there is a lot of useful data to be found in the margins.
The most important items in the margin data are the approach name and airport name.
The approach name tells you not only the name of the approach but what equipment is required to fly that approach.  Here are some examples:

  • ILS or LOC RWY 09
    • This approach requires a full ILS receiver or a localizer receiver, and is aligned within 30 degrees of RWY 09
  • ILS/DME RWY 09
    • This approach requires both a full ILS receiver and a DME receiver.  It is aligned within 30 degrees of RWY 09
  • VOR RWY 09
    • This approach requires a VOR receiver only, and is aligned within 30 degrees of RWY 09
  • VOR or GPS RWY 09
    • This approach requires either a VOR receiver or an IFR certified GPS, and is aligned within 30 degrees of RWY 09
  •  NDB – A
    • This approach requires an ADF receiver and has circling minimums only, not aligned with a runway
  • GPS – C
    • This approach requires an IFR certified GPS and is not aligned with a runway, circling minimums only

In addition to not being aligned with a runway, an approach procedure may have a letter designator if the descent rate inbound from the final approach fix is greater than 400ft per nautical mile.
The airport name indicates the actual name of the airport of landing.  While most airports have a name that coincides with the city they are located in, some airports have a specific name which is what you will be expected to use for communication.
The amendment date in the upper right is the Julian date of the last amendment.  In our example it is 11097.  This is the 2011 – the 97th day of year.  This corresponds to April 7, 2011.
Next, the city and state of the airport are located in the upper left as a reference.
The last piece of information at the top of the cart is the FAA computer identifier for the approach.  This number will almost always be preceded by the letters AL for approaches within the United States.  This designator is for FAA and technical use only, and doesn’t affect any chart data.
Moving to the bottom of the chart, the amendment number and date are more clearly displayed.  The FAA is moving toward using calendar date for amendments, so you will see a mix of calendar and Julian dates depending on the last revision to the chart.
It is important to pay attention to amendment dates if you are flying with 2 pilots or 2 sets of approach plates.  Ensure that both plates are the same amendment number.  Yes, I’ve had a situation where I had a final approach course of 323 and the other pilot had 321 (he was 2 amendments off).
In the center of the bottom margin is the latitude and longitude of the airport.  This information can be helpful for programming your navigational system, if you need to re-calibrate it on the ground.
Finally in the bottom right is the procedure name and airport name listed in the same way as at the top of the chart.
Now we’ve gone beyond the approach plate basics and it’s time to cover the pilot brief section of the chart.
Approaches are important, but have you brushed up on holding lately?