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Avoid This Mistake When Flying Your Next STAR Arrival


Arrival procedures make your planning easy, but they also result in more pilot deviations than almost any other procedure. Don't make this mistake on your next flight...

First, Let's Review STARs

Standard Terminal Arrival Procedures (STAR) streamline inbound IFR traffic into defined routes. They usually start with a transition, and the one we're flying, the TEJAS 4 Arrival, starts at the Corpus Christie VOR. But the TEJAS arrival also routes traffic from other areas to the west, like San Antonio. Eventually, all of these transition routes merge, and the aircraft join the same route. On the TEJAS arrival, that happens at GMANN.

Arrivals help center and approach control organize traffic flowing into a terminal area. And you don't have to fly a jet to fly an arrival. ATC usually assigns an arrival procedure when we return to the Denver area in the Cirrus.

Want to learn more about STARS? Click here.

Transition Routes Often Lead To Specific Runways

While STARs bring aircraft onto one shared route, they often split at the end into transition routes for various runways. It's the same concept as transition routes from various directions as you first join the arrival.

Runway transitions usually direct aircraft to either side of an airport for separate downwind legs to parallel runways. Each runway transition will have its own set of fixes, and sometimes minimum altitudes. Let's take the TEJAS 4 Arrival for example. As you can see, there are separate downwind legs for various runways. This is shown both on the graphical depiction and in a textual description.

Not every airport with a STAR will have individual runway transitions. Many STAR procedures will end with a singular vector before ATC directing you onto an approach.

You Were Given A Last-Minute Runway Change

It's extremely common to receive last-minute runway changes at large airports around the country. When flying an arrival, you have an extra step you need to remember.

You MUST change the arrival runway in your aircraft's flight plan. Whether that's changing the runway on an FMS or a G1000 database, forgetting this step could leave you turning the wrong direction to fly an incorrect transition. In a busy terminal environment, this could quickly create a traffic conflict and trigger a pilot deviation from ATC.

Flying an incorrect STAR transition is one of the most commonly reported deviations made by pilots. It almost always happens after a last-minute runway change as the crew is busy managing descent/arrival planning.

Have You Flown A STAR Recently?

When did you last fly a STAR? Did you fly a runway transition? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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