Approaches and STARS

Pro Member Chief Captain
Michael Thomas (SteveT) Chief Captain

Hi there everyone,

Is there any way in how you can decide what STAR to use on arrival to a particular airport?

Do I need an approach chart for my arrival airport, and if so how do I determine which STAR I use from that, as my approaches seem to be going a little wobbly recently 😂

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Pro Member Captain
Bindolaf Captain

Specify U.S. or Europe please, but as a rule of the thumb, answer this question:

"At which FIX will I be entering the destination airport's TMA?"

That's the STAR you should use 🙂

If you want to get more specific I'd be happy to help more.


I use these for STARS and approach charts for Uk and the Netherlands. The UK site you have to register but its free.

Pro Member Chief Captain
Michael Thomas (SteveT) Chief Captain

Thanks for those links, and Bindolof, Europe please 🙂 ..By the way what is TMA..and when you say fix is that another word for waypoint?

Pro Member Chief Captain
Jonathan (99jolegg) Chief Captain

Section of that post written by Bindolaf - nicely explained:

An airport has an area of sky around it that it "owns". It's called a TMA and you can imagine it thus:

The airport is a farm and all around it there is a fence. On the fence there are gates (let's say 4 or 5). These are the only entry and exit points to the farm. If you want to leave the farm you can't just run willy nilly along the fields, because you might upset the pigs, or the sheep, or the horses. Therefore, our good farmer has cut paths leading from the main farmhouse (the runways) to the gates (the entry/exit points to the TMA). These paths, called SID (Standard Instrument Departures) are specific procedures for getting from the runway to the exit point (which is usually an intersection). From there, you join an airway leading to a VOR.

The reverse procedures (for getting from a TMA entry point to the runway) are called STAR (Standard Arrivals) and are basically the same thing: Instrument procedures on how to fly safely inside a crowded airspace.

As you may have guessed, these are IFR procedures, but contrary to popular opinion, VFR flights don't just take off and do whatever they like. There are "standard" VFR departures too, with mandatory report points and the like.

Pro Member Chief Captain
Michael Thomas (SteveT) Chief Captain

Thanks very much for that Jon 🙂

Pro Member Captain
Bindolaf Captain

haha where did you dig that up 😛

Anyway. that's it basically what a TMA (Terminal Maneuvering Area) is. That's what a STAR is and you select it based on how you approach the terminal area.

If you're approaching Athens (LGAV) let's say (an airport I know well, hence the example): Athens has many entry points (NEVRA, ABLON from the north PIKAD, NEMES, ASTOV from the west VELOP, BADEL from the south and VARIX, KEPIR from the east). Your flight plan will take you (stop at) one of those points. That point is the name of the STAR you're going to use.

The STAR also has a suffix, depending on which runway you're approaching. So for example the STAR is PIKA1C if you're approaching runways 03 L/R but PIKA1A if you're approaching 21 R/L.

You STILL enter the TMA from PIKAD, but the route INSIDE the TMA is a little different. How you choose the runway? Look at the weather (or if there is ATC online, check the ATIS). If the wind is runway heading +/- 70 degrees, that's your runway. For example, runway 03 (L or R - for Athens L is the runway for arrivals usually) is good for winds from 320 to 100. Runways 21 (L or R - obviously 21R is the usual arrival) is good for wind 140 to 280.

This still leaves two pieces of the pie (100 to 140 and 280 to 320). What happens there? CROSSWIND LANDING BABY! Yep, your skills are put to the test Wink

Hope this helped more than confused - if you need more, let me know.

Pro Member Chief Captain
Michael Thomas (SteveT) Chief Captain

Well thank you Bindolof for all that....thats made it clear. I will try a flight tommorow morning and I will get back to you to tell you how my approach went, and will also let you know if I have any Questions.

Thanks again sir 🙂

Pro Member Captain
nottobe Captain

I am just not sure when you are supposed to fly the STAR, it seems that the ATC always do the vectoring for me, I just follow the vector and dont need to make decisions my own.......(and dont even need to know where I am)
its the same with departure, I am always told to fly runway heading, then at some point of the climb, atc will guide me to my own navigation.....
I simply dont undersand how to use and when to use a procedure....
by the way, I fly with Radar Contact, supposedly a most realistic ACT for the simulator....

Pro Member Chief Captain
Solotwo Chief Captain

When using a Radar Contact, when approach gives you a runway, then in the menu select IAP approach for that runway, and you can do any approach that you want. But usually ATC will vector you after a certain point on the STAR.

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