Famous Pavement

Hollywoods best get stars on the sidewalk. This approach earns stars beside its many notes. Be careful, or your silver-screen dreams might become a spot on the six oclock news.


Few strips of pavement have made it to the big screen. There’s Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway and at least one runway: Van Nuys Runway 16R. Brian Terwilliger did some pioneering hi-def film work on his terrific film of the same name. You should definitely see his latest, Living in the Age of Airplanes. That way you can tell me if it’s any good.

If you decide to fly the ILS into that same runway, however, put down your popcorn and take a close look at the notes crowding the plate like extras crammed ’round the tables of free food.

What’s My Motivation?

It’s a tired truth that you should always be prepared for the missed approach but the truth is that we often are not. Rarely is this a huge problem because every missed approach starts the same way: Climb.

The catch off Runway 16R at Van Nuys is that the climb is short lived. Start with the textual missed-approach instructions. “Climb to cross VNY 1.5 DME or FIM R-101 at or below 1750 …” [Emphasis added.]

Given that DA is 1119, that’s an easy bust just waiting to bite you. Go missed in any twin short of an Apache and you’ll be leveling off before the gear hits the wells. I’ll bet busts here are like the infamous Teterboro Nine departure, whose 1500-foot climb restriction is violated so often the FSDO must have a form letter for it.

For clarity, we jump down to the profile view and look at the graphical representation of the missed approach procedure. We see the graphical climb arrow followed by the restriction with 1750 sporting a bar across the top. It is, indeed, at or below. There’s even a note reminding you that if you start the miss early, you may need to descend before you start the missed procedure. How counterintuitive is that?

So that we don’t bust, we want to know exactly where along the miss we must be at or below 1750 feet. Based on DME, that should be easy—except that it’s DME off the VNY VOR, not the localizer I-VNY. For GPS users, this won’t matter, but anyone expecting DME off the localizer would find nothing at all. You can tell there’s no DME on I-VNY by the lack of the TACAN/DME Channel at the bottom of the information box in the plan view.

If you’re going to do this with DME, most equipment has the capability to tune one VOR/DME or VORTAC station, then select a hold mode on the DME to enable you to tune the navigator to a different frequency without the DME following along. It sounds difficult, but it’s easy: tune the DME frequency of 113.1 for VNY, engage hold mode, tune the ILS of 111.3.

Don’t have DME or don’t want to bother? Do it with VOR radials. A quick glance up from the profile view to the plan view shows the R-101 you must cross clear as day, right?

Not so fast. The R-101 that you’re turning and climbing toward east of the approach, is the second R-101 on this missed approach procedure. The Fillmore R-101 is the radial that starts on the far west of the plan view and cuts just past the departure end of the runways.

That makes much more sense, as you must climb straight ahead to cross this radial. After you do that, you’ll make the depicted climbing left turn to 4000 feet and intercept the VNY R-101 for a right turn outbound to the missed approach holding fix at AMTRA.

But again, if you weren’t ready for this, the moment of confusion alone could be all you need to end up somewhere you shouldn’t be. “I’ve got a phone number for you. Advise when ready to copy.”

You’ve got FIM tuned (and identified) to use VOR to identify that 1750-foot altitude restriction. As soon as you cross the radial and start your climbing turn, you’ve got to use the VNY R-101 for the course to AMTRA. At least you don’t have to fiddle with the OBS.

The reason for the altitude restriction is clear from a glance at a larger chart. This missed approach is right under the approach corridor to Burbank Bob Hope airport. Make an early climb on the miss and you’re a hood ornament for a Southwest 737. And they wouldn’t like that, given their already unfortunate history with Burbank. No, best to stay low and leave ’em alone. (Actually, it’s not—quite—as bad as it seems. On glideslope to Burbank’s Runway 8 you’re at 2755 feet crossing the Van Nuys runways. That’s 1005 feet of separation if both airplanes get it right. And if their altimeters are set and working correctly. OK, maybe it is as bad as it seems.)

Hollywood Hills

If you watched the film of 16R, you may remember the cinematically convenient displaced threshold that seems to truck on forever before actual runway numbers appear and invite the camera to land.

That displacement shows in three places on the chart. The most notable is in the profile view, where an asterisk precedes, “Displaced threshold.” It’s sort of odd to make a big deal about this, but the figure-eight-shaped marker on the diminutive airport diagram shows the displacement is quite far down the runway. Finally, that in the airport diagram says there are declared runway distances in the Airport/Facility Directory, which show there’s a whopping 1431 feet of runway striped with arrows for takeoff, but behind velvet ropes for landing.

The glideslope will carry you over this area as you follow it down. The published threshold crossing altitude of 55 feet is for the landing threshold, not brick one of the runway. However, if the visibility is low, you must remember that there’s about 1500 feet of no-man’s land between the approach lights emerging from the mist and the actual point where you land. It’s likely this issue is at least part of the reason the ILS has twice the DA and twice the required visibility of a typical ILS.

The disconnect could be confusing at the least if you weren’t prepared for it. This situation is being clarified on charts as they get updated to a new phraseology that might read something like, “TCH 55 at displaced THLD; 115 at runway end.”

There are other interesting oddities about this approach. If you ever flew the full procedure from VNY, there’s an unusual right-angle turn from one radial to another before a more-than-right-angle intercept to the localizer. That could be sporting with a strong southwest wind. You don’t want to overshoot too far as terrain and obstacles are real factors is this approach. That might be why it’s ILS only. The glideslope is unusually steep at nearly four degrees.

Like the starlet hoping for fame, it looks like you get one lucky break on this approach. The notes say that the, “inoperative table does not apply,” but it gives no new visibility minimums for inoperative equipment. Is the approach NA if the approach lights are missing some bulbs?

No. In the absence of new numbers, this actually means the requirements don’t change even if some components of the approach lighting system have taken a long lunch. Don’t get too excited. While this seems like a boon, it’s actually because the approach already has the higher visibility requirement.

Ah well. At least when you land your tire marks will mix with those of the stars.

Jeff Van West has begrudgingly accepted that the only way he’ll make it into the movies is by actually, you know, paying for a ticket.


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