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What is PBD in Aviation? (Place Bearing Distance)

Updated: February 26, 2024

Understanding Place Bearing Distance (PBD) in Aviation

In the world of aviation, precise navigation is of utmost importance. Pilots rely on various tools and techniques to determine their position and navigate through the skies safely and efficiently. One such tool is the Place Bearing Distance (PBD) system. In this article, we will delve into the concept of PBD, its significance in aviation, and how it aids pilots in their navigation endeavors.

The Basics of Place Bearing Distance (PBD)

Place Bearing Distance, commonly known as PBD, is a navigation term used to describe a specific point or location in relation to an aircraft's current position. It consists of three components: place, bearing, and distance. Let's break down each component to gain a better understanding:

Place: The place refers to a specific point or location in the airspace. It could be an airport, a navigational aid, or any other landmark. The place is typically identified by its name or a unique identifier, such as an airport code or a radio frequency.
Bearing: Bearing represents the direction from the aircraft's current position to the designated place. It is expressed in degrees, ranging from 0° to 360°, with 0° being true north and 180° being true south. Pilots use instruments like a compass or an attitude indicator to determine the bearing accurately.
Distance: Distance denotes the measurement of how far the designated place is from the aircraft's current position. It is typically expressed in nautical miles (NM) or statute miles (SM). Pilots can calculate the distance using onboard navigation systems, such as GPS (Global Positioning System), or reference it from charts and other navigational aids.

By combining these three components, pilots can establish a precise point in the airspace and navigate towards or away from it based on their flight plan or ATC (Air Traffic Control) instructions. PBD is particularly useful during instrument flight, where pilots heavily rely on navigation aids and instruments to navigate in low visibility or adverse weather conditions.

Applications of Place Bearing Distance (PBD)

PBD finds various applications in aviation, aiding pilots in their navigation and decision-making processes. Let's explore some of the key applications of PBD:

1. Approach Procedures

When pilots are approaching an airport for landing, they follow specific approach procedures to ensure a safe descent and landing. PBD plays a crucial role in these procedures by providing pilots with accurate information about their position relative to the airport and the runway.

Pilots may receive instructions from ATC to fly to a specific fix or navigational aid using PBD. For example, they may be instructed to fly to a certain VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Range) station and then turn to a particular heading for the final approach. By following the PBD instructions, pilots can navigate precisely and align themselves with the runway for a smooth landing.

Additionally, PBD is utilized in instrument approach procedures, such as the ILS (Instrument Landing System) approach. The ILS approach provides vertical and horizontal guidance to pilots, enabling them to make a safe landing in low visibility conditions. PBD helps pilots track their position relative to the ILS components and adjust their course accordingly.

2. Enroute Navigation

During the enroute phase of a flight, pilots rely on PBD to navigate along their planned route. They may have to fly to specific waypoints or navigational aids using PBD instructions provided by ATC or depicted on their flight charts.

For example, pilots may be instructed to fly to a particular VOR station, then turn to a specific heading, and maintain a certain distance from the VOR. By adhering to these PBD instructions, pilots can efficiently navigate through the airspace and ensure accurate position reporting to ATC.

PBD is also used in RNAV (Area Navigation) systems, where pilots can program their flight management systems (FMS) with PBD waypoints. These waypoints, defined by their coordinates and distances from other waypoints, allow pilots to navigate along a desired path, even if no ground-based navigational aids are available.

3. Holding Procedures

In situations where air traffic congestion or other factors require aircraft to hold or maintain a specific pattern, PBD is crucial for accurate positioning and navigation. Holding patterns are predefined racetrack-like paths that pilots follow until they receive further instructions from ATC.

PBD instructions are used to establish the holding pattern and determine the entry and exit points. For example, pilots may be instructed to hold at a specific VOR station, flying outbound on a certain radial and maintaining a specific distance from the station. By precisely following the PBD instructions, pilots can ensure safe and efficient holding operations.


Place Bearing Distance (PBD) is an integral part of aviation navigation, allowing pilots to determine their position, course, and distance from specific points in the airspace. By utilizing PBD, pilots can safely navigate during approach procedures, enroute segments, and holding operations. It serves as a crucial tool for maintaining situational awareness and following ATC instructions accurately. Understanding the concept of PBD is essential for aspiring pilots and aviation enthusiasts alike, as it forms the foundation of precise and efficient navigation in the skies.

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