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A little "how to fly transitions in Germany"

Michael Krause

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Hello everybody,

we lately are running into a lot of pilots unfamiliar with the transition concept in Germany and as traffic nowadays is so busy that it's hard to explain it during controlling I thought it might be helpful to create a little how-to in the hope of better understanding.

Transitions in Germany are usually a way to reduce the amount of time-critical radio transmissions in the approach phase to the larger airports by replacing the vectoring into the downwind to the landing runway by defined RNAV waypoints which are always coded beginning with the last two characters of the airport you are flying to and 3 digits usually starting with a 4 - so if you fly to Frankfurt, EDDF these waypoints are called DF4xx, at Berlin-Tegel (EDDT) they are called DT4xx or at Hamburg, EDDH they are called DH4xx. For pilots we are sure are familiar with the airport we sometimes even shorten those to just "waypoint 4xx" as the letters are clear anyway. Now let's have a look at how these transitions look like - I take my base Munich, EDDM as the example as I'm most familiar with it but the overall scheme is roughly identical everywhere. Let's imagine we are flying to EDDM and runways 08 are in use and we come from the North-West - usually you will file the ANORA 3A STAR - filing STARs in Germany is compulsory but even if you aren't aware of this all STAR charts into Munich have the sentence "When reaching the first point of a STAR using the STAR to the clearance limit is mandatory" on them.

So let's head over to our charts (https://vatsim-germany.org/pilots/aerodrome/EDDM) and have a look at the STARs from NW:

I marked the important things in yellow here - some descent planning, the famous sentence to "fly until the clearance limit" and to expect transition or radar vectoring otherwise to enter the holding.
The clearance limit for all these STARs is ROKIL - so if you don't get any further clearance that's where you enter into the holding - usually pilots call "approaching clearance limit" or "approaching ROKIL"  if they are less than 5 nm from ROKIL and the frequency isn't totally overloaded - otherwise just hold, there is usually a reason why you didn't get a further clearance and just continuing will most certainly make the situation for the approach controller worse if he is already overloaded (which most likely is the reason you didn't get a further clearance yet). These Clearance Limits are somehow the safeguard for the approach airspace - the enroute clearance you got at your departure airport de-facto ends here.

So how will we continue from here - either you will get vectors - in low traffic situations a straight-in for the ILS 08L or 08R is the norm - or you will get a transition clearance - so let's look at the appropriate chart for that - runways 08 are in use so we take this transition chart (charts from Navigraph, Lido or EAD are all sorted a bit different here but you should find them either as a separate chart or included into the ILS approach charts):


You see here all the clearance limits from all sides into EDDM and from each of them a transition to final starts - our clearance limit was ROKIL, so you can expect to get the ROKIL 08 transition (for runways 26 there of course is the ROKIL 26 transition as well). Here you now see all these DM4xx waypoints I was talking about before - from ROKIL they first form an upwind which then leads into the downwind from DM412 to DM427 and is actually "endless" (continue on the heading after DM420) as the turn to final will always be a vector by ATC. In your FMC/MCDU you will usually not see all these points but only the edge points or those with a speed or altitude restriction (those pesky memory limitations in those steam-age FMCs...). Don't be surprised if we clear you direct to one of the other waypoints you see here - this is always a shortcut for you and sometimes you will even get a "direct DM431" which will bring you straight into the final. Very often you will get something like "proceed direct DM424 there-after DM420" - so just use the DCT function of your FMC/MCDU and insert these two waypoints after each other - I marked such a potential situation with the blue arrows - it safes you about 30 nm and the controller only has to give you one instruction instead of two to get you onto the downwind ("turn right HDG 170" and a time-critical "turn right HDG 260" for the downwind turn).

And that's already it - might look a bit overwhelming at first but it's really simple when you did it once.

Now how to find the transition in your FMC/MCDU? It's not an arrival/STAR but an approach transition - so you usually have to first select one of the runways until it will appear with the other approaches. In most high-traffic situations you won't have a runway assignment yet when you get the transition clearance as this usually is done by the Director position to which you will be handed off on downwind abeam the airfield - so just pick the runway you will most likely get (you can see them in the FMS coding at the bottom) - the northern runway for arrivals from the north (via ROKIL and LANDU) the southern runway from the south (via BETOS and NAPSA) - cargo can generally expect the southern runway for shorter taxi-in. And even if Director will then select a different runway for you - from abeam the airfield on downwind you still have 20+ nm until your turn onto the ILS - so plenty of time to switch to the other runway.

This was Munich - now is it the same everywhere in Germany?
Not 100%, but the system is very very similar - the position of the clearance limit on the STAR might differ - in Munich it is inside the STAR, at other places it is already at the beginning. Some airports move now to call them RNAV STARs like in Hamburg or some in Frankfurt. At some airports they lead into the final (EDDH) at others you shall continue on the heading after the last point. The important thing I wanted to get over is that you don't have to be afraid in case you get such a waypoint or transition clearance - have a look at the charts - I hope you know now what you have to look for - but also don't be afraid to tell us if you are unable and want vectors - this in any way is better than just reading back the instruction you got but flying something else. We have a lot of cases lately where we get a readback for "ROKIL 08" but then the pilot flies ROKIL-MIQ which is the rest of the STAR - this first looks like it's correct as the heading is very similar but in the end results in short notice vectors and additional workload the controller didn't expect or even totally undefined routings after reaching MIQ directly to the airfield which is always an adrenaline rush if the downwind is full.

If you have questions - don't hesitate to ask - that's why I brought this up here - our skies are getting so busy that we rely on these procedures to keep our head over the water as they are a huge time and transmission saver! 🙂


Edited by Michael Krause
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Good idea Michael! 

At Boston, and I'm sure at plenty of other busy terminal areas around the world, we see people programming incorrect transitions and/or missing altitudes from time to time. Given how new this is even in real life, and how much trouble professionals had with "descend via" when it was first implemented in the US, it's not surprising that we see the odd issue on the network. Frankly, I'm impressed at how many people are able to fly a "descend via" procedure correctly, especially given that you basically have to use an add-on product to be able to do it. 

We've created an alias that we send to pilots, pointing them directly to a quick resource similar to yours. In general, I've found most pilots on the network seem to have a desire to learn and do better. Normally, when I use the alias below, I get good feedback from pilots ("oh, I didn't realize there were transitions", "huh, my FMS doesn't show those waypoints", "I guess I should request vectors next time", etc.). I like to think that politely and professionally offering support to pilots is a key role we controllers play in the evolution of the network.


The following message is sent from BVA Air Traffic Control and is designed to identify learning opportunities for pilots on the network: it appears that the cleared arrival may have been flown incorrectly. RNAV “descend via” procedures can be challenging to set up in your aircraft. We encourage you to review the following link for more information on correctly flying the Boston RNAV arrival procedures: www.bvartcc.com/star

We have a similar one for RNAV departures that gets used when pilots climb through their assigned top altitude and/or if they fly runway heading expecting a turn from us.

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Evan Reiter
Boston Virtual ARTCC/ZBW Community Manager


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Another great post Michael.   I always enjoy flying in and out of the German airports due to the extent and quality of the ATC.  That said, we the pilots need to do our homework.  It took me a few trips to get some grip of the STARS as I would find the transitions were not in my FMC and in some cases I had to select a specific runway irrespective of what the ATIS would show to allow the FMC to display the full transition, then as you say, make a late change to the runway selection when on approach.

I think posts like this help a great deal, as sometimes the extent of charts at these airports can be a bit overwhelming and having someone "walk through" the procedure helps embed the learning.


Edited by Andrew McCabe
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Something to note: sometimes ATC will assign an RNAV Transition that is tied to another runway that you will be landing on! In most or all FMCs the only way to access those RNAV Transitions is to insert another runway than the one that you expect to land on.

Practical example: you fly to EDDF/Frankfurt and you arrive from the West via waypoint "UNOKO". ATC advises you to expect an ILS approach to runway 25 LEFT and instructs you to follow the UNOKO 25 NOVEMBER (UNOKO25N) transition. Now, when you insert runway 25L on your APP-page, you will NOT have access to UNOKO25N, but only to UNOKO25S. This is because the "25N"-transitions are tied to runway 25R and "25S"-transitions are tied to runway 25L. Now, the easiest way to follow the instructed RNAV Transition is to temporarily insert any of the approaches to runway 25R into your FMC to make UNOKO25N availble. Then select this RNAV Transition until you receive radar vectors. Once you are done with the RNAV Transition, you can re-insert the appropriate approach to runway 25L before you intercept the final approach path. If your aircraft has a "RTE 2"-function, you could use that one to prepare the final approach while you follow the RNAV Transition on "RTE 1".

That's how we do it in the real world.

Edited by Andreas Fuchs
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/15/2020 at 6:24 PM, Andreas Fuchs said:

we need to keep pushing out this kind of educational information on all VATSIM-channels

Totally agree, great posts by the German vACC! Thanks guys. Some shares will be made soon 🙂 

Assistant to the Vice President
Europe, Middle East and Africa
Supervisor Team Leader


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  • 1 month later...

I wish I read this before flying into Frankfurt for the first time today. Very helpful... Langen Radar instructed me to fly the UNOKO 25N RNAV transition but I had no idea what he was talking about and couldn't find it anywhere in my FMS. The controller quickly got frustrated and just issued me vectors, and I was understandably embarrassed. 

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  • 1 year later...

@Michael Krause thank you so much for writing this. I flew into Munich tonight from Vienna for the first time in ages and was pretty confused by the STAR and transition. I was hoping you might be able to help me clarify one small thing. I understand the overall system here as you laid it out in your original post. However, for the NAPSA 1B STAR and the NAPSA 26 transition, how would you commonly get routed from the OTT VOR onto the transition? Would you go all the way back east to NAPSA via a vector?

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The key part on the charts for the STARs are the words "Clearance Limit".  If you check the chart below, it states this above the hold at NAPSA:


 This means you're only cleared to proceed as far as NAPSA unless otherwise specified by ATC directly.   So even though the STAR is drawn to OTT, your clearance is to NAPSA only.

If you then look at the transition chart:


...again you'll see the words "Clearance Limit".   You'll then be cleared from the hold to the relevant point on the transition from there.

A final point to note from the STAR chart is that those arrivals are only to be used for COM failure.  When planning a flight, it's always worth checking that the SIDs/STARs provided by your flight planning tool are actually giving you valid procedures rather than one that "fits".  Some are only available to particular aircraft types/weights, only under certain circumstances etc although interestingly this one doesn't say this on the Navigraph chart...

Hope this helps.

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Trevor Hannant

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That makes much more sense. After posting my question last night I took a second look and had started putting things together regarding holding at NAPSA or going directly onto the transition, but that immediately begged the question of "what's the purpose of the STAR if you don't use it?". Seeing that it's for lost comms makes a little more sense, but it still makes me wonder, why not just make the transition the STAR and put OTT on it with a note about lost comms? The Jeppesen version on Navigraph already shows OTT on the transition so it'd just be a matter of adding a text box, basically. Seems like it would be more efficient that way and cut down on the many different charts you have to look at.

Nothing anyone here can control, just curious if there's a reason besides lost comms why the STAR is broken out like that when the transition seems to really be the actual STAR.

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Most (not all) STARs and Standard(=full) Instrument Approach Procedures are meant to be used in case of COM or ground based radar equipment failure only. With radar control, ATC will pick you up for vectoring at some point on the arrival (STAR) or transition. Even in the real world ATC does not always issue us with STAR-instructions, they simply assume that we will follow the standard arrival route from our last enroute fix to the initial approach fix.

47 minutes ago, Michael Gold said:

Nothing anyone here can control, just curious if there's a reason besides lost comms why the STAR is broken out like that when the transition seems to really be the actual STAR.

In the real world ATC can assume that there are experienced and well trained pilots in the cockpits of arriving aircraft. One of them will know what has to be done. Here, in our simulation environment, more experienced members outside the virtual cockpits do assume the role of "captains"(=more experienced and knowledgable), you just have to ask the right questions. As you did.

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