Flight Redemptions

What is TERPS in Aviation? (Terminal Instrument Procedures)

Updated: March 02, 2024

Understanding Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS)

Terminal Instrument Procedures, commonly known as TERPS, are a crucial aspect of aviation that ensures the safe and efficient navigation of aircraft during approach and departure at airports. These standardized procedures provide pilots with the necessary information and guidelines to navigate through various phases of flight, especially in low-visibility conditions or challenging terrain. In this article, we will delve into the details of TERPS and their significance in aviation operations.

The Importance of Terminal Instrument Procedures

Terminal Instrument Procedures play a vital role in aviation, ensuring the safety and reliability of air travel. Whether it's guiding pilots during takeoff, approach, or landing, TERPS provide the necessary framework for pilots to navigate through complex airspace systems and challenging weather conditions. These procedures are designed to optimize the use of available technology and provide a standardized approach to flight operations.

TERPS are particularly crucial in low-visibility situations, such as fog, rain, or snow, where pilots heavily rely on instrument flight rules (IFR) to navigate. By following the prescribed procedures, pilots can maintain separation from other aircraft, avoid obstacles, and stay on track throughout their flight. This helps to minimize the risk of accidents and ensures a smooth and predictable flow of air traffic, even in adverse conditions.

The Components of TERPS

TERPS consist of several components that work together to facilitate safe and efficient flight operations. Let's take a closer look at some of the key elements:

Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs): SIDs are pre-defined departure routes that provide pilots with a seamless transition from the terminal area to the en-route phase of flight. These procedures include specific instructions on climb rates, headings, and altitudes to ensure aircraft separation and avoid obstacles. SIDs also help to streamline air traffic flow and reduce congestion around busy airports.
Standard Terminal Arrival Routes (STARs): STARs are designed to facilitate the transition from the en-route phase of flight to the approach phase. These procedures provide pilots with a standardized route, including altitude and speed restrictions, that guides them to the terminal area. STARs help to ensure a smooth and organized flow of traffic, reducing controller workload and enhancing safety.
Instrument Approach Procedures (IAPs): IAPs are vital for safe landings, especially in low-visibility conditions. These procedures guide pilots from the initial approach fix to the runway, ensuring a precise and controlled descent. IAPs include various types of approaches, such as precision approaches (ILS, MLS) and non-precision approaches (VOR, NDB), each tailored to specific navigational aids and aircraft capabilities.

TERPS and Safety Considerations

TERPS are meticulously designed to prioritize safety and minimize the risk of accidents. These procedures take into account various factors such as terrain, obstacles, airspace restrictions, and aircraft performance capabilities. By adhering to TERPS guidelines, pilots can navigate through challenging conditions while maintaining a safe margin from potential hazards.

One key safety consideration in TERPS is obstacle clearance. During the design of instrument procedures, significant attention is given to identifying and mitigating potential obstacles that may pose a risk to aircraft. By establishing minimum obstacle clearance altitudes (MOCA) and ensuring proper obstacle identification, TERPS provides pilots with a clear understanding of the safe altitudes and routes to follow.

Additionally, TERPS also consider the performance capabilities of different aircraft types. Procedures are designed with specific speed, climb, and descent requirements to ensure that aircraft can safely navigate through various segments of the flight. By tailoring procedures to aircraft capabilities, TERPS reduces the risk of conflicts and enhances the overall safety of air travel.

It is worth noting that TERPS are regularly reviewed and updated to incorporate new technology, changes in airspace structure, and improvements in navigational aids. These updates ensure that procedures remain up to date and aligned with the latest industry standards, further enhancing the safety and efficiency of air travel.


Terminal Instrument Procedures (TERPS) are an essential component of aviation, providing pilots with the necessary guidelines and information to navigate through different phases of flight. These standardized procedures ensure the safety and efficiency of air travel, particularly in low-visibility conditions or challenging terrain. By following TERPS, pilots can maintain separation from other aircraft, avoid obstacles, and navigate accurately, minimizing the risk of accidents. With regular updates and improvements, TERPS continue to play a vital role in enhancing the safety and reliability of air travel.

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