background image





Helicopter IFR Operations

than that published in the procedure, until canceling


IFR obstruction clearance areas are not

applied to the VFR segment between the MAP and
the landing site. Obstacle or terrain avoidance from
the MAP to the landing site is the responsibility of the


Upon reaching the MAP defined on the

approach procedure, or as soon as practicable after
reaching the MAP, the pilot advises ATC whether
proceeding VFR and canceling IFR, or complying
with the missed approach instructions. See para-
graph 5

−1−15, Canceling IFR Flight Plan.


If the visual segment penetrates Class B,

C, or D airspace, pilots are responsible for obtaining
a Special VFR clearance, when required.


−1−4. The Gulf of Mexico Grid System


On October 8, 1998, the Southwest Regional

Office of the FAA, with assistance from the
Helicopter Safety Advisory Conference (HSAC),
implemented the world’s first Instrument Flight
Rules (IFR) Grid System in the Gulf of Mexico. This
navigational route structure is completely indepen-
dent of ground

−based navigation aids (NAVAIDs)

and was designed to facilitate helicopter IFR
operations to offshore destinations. The Grid System
is defined by over 300 offshore waypoints located 20
minutes apart (latitude and longitude). Flight plan
routes are routinely defined by just 4 segments:
departure point (lat/long), first en route grid
waypoint, last en route grid waypoint prior to
approach procedure, and destination point (lat/long).
There are over 4,000 possible offshore landing sites.
Upon reaching the waypoint prior to the destination,
the pilot may execute an Offshore Standard Approach
Procedure (OSAP), a Helicopter En Route Descent
Areas (HEDA) approach, or an Airborne Radar
Approach (ARA). For more information on these
helicopter instrument procedures, refer to FAA AC

−80B, Approval of Offshore Standard Approach

Procedures, Airborne Radar Approaches, and
Helicopter En Route Descent Areas, on the FAA
website under Advisory Circu-
lars. The return flight plan is just the reverse with the
requested stand

−alone GPS approach contained in the

remarks section.


The large number (over 300) of waypoints in

the grid system makes it difficult to assign
phonetically pronounceable names to the waypoints
that would be meaningful to pilots and controllers. A
unique naming system was adopted that enables
pilots and controllers to derive the fix position from
the name. The five

−letter names are derived as



The waypoints are divided into sets of

3 columns each. A three

−letter identifier, identifying

a geographical area or a NAVAID to the north,
represents each set.


Each column in a set is named after its

position, i.e., left (L), center (C), and right (R).


The rows of the grid are named

alphabetically from north to south, starting with A for
the northern most row.


LCHRC would be pronounced “Lake Charles Romeo
Charlie.” The waypoint is in the right

−hand column of the

Lake Charles VOR set, in row C (third south from the
northern most row).


In December 2009, significant improvements

to the Gulf of Mexico grid system were realized with
the introduction of ATC separation services using

−B. In cooperation with the oil and gas services

industry, HSAC and Helicopter Association Interna-
tional (HAI), the FAA installed an infrastructure of

−B ground stations, weather stations (AWOS)

and VHF remote communication outlets (RCO)
throughout a large area of the Gulf of Mexico. This
infrastructure allows the FAA’s Houston ARTCC to
provide “domestic

−like” air traffic control service in

the offshore area beyond 12nm from the coastline to
hundreds of miles offshore to aircraft equipped with

−B. Properly equipped aircraft can now be

authorized to receive more direct routing, domestic
en route separation minima and real time flight
following. Operators who do not have authorization
to receive ATC separation services using ADS


will continue to use the low altitude grid system and
receive procedural separation from Houston ARTCC.

−ADS−B equipped aircraft also benefit from

improved VHF communication and expanded
weather information coverage.


Three requirements must be met for operators

to file IFR flight plans utilizing the grid: