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Martyn Wills
Flight Precision Ltd
Teesside International Airport


It is evident, both from recent

experiences, and from papers ICAO specifies criteria for ILS
previously presented at IFIS and reference datum height and
other forums, that a degree of threshold crossing height and
confusion exists in both the attaches great importance to them.
understanding of threshold This paper investigates the
crossing height and how it is background to the ICAO
measured. requirements, looks at how we
measure the parameters, and
questions the relevance of the
To appreciate the applicability of application of ILS reference datum
threshold crossing height, both height.
from an operational perspective,
and in terms of its measurement by
flight inspection, it is necessary to ICAO REQUIREMENTS
understand both the background of
the ICAO requirements, and how
the ILS is used operationally. ILS Reference Datum Height
(RDH), what is it? From the
definitions stated in ICAO Annex
Once these questions have been 101: A point at a specified height
answered, it is essential that the located above the intersection of the
method of flight inspection runway centre line and the threshold
measurement is commensurate and through which the downward
with the parameter requirements, extended straight portion of the ILS
both in terms of accuracy and glide path passes. This seems quite
method of measurement. straightforward, so why do we need
it? ICAO annex 101 goes on to
state in The downward
This paper seeks to understand the extended straight portion of the ILS
concepts surrounding the glide path shall pass through the ILS
measurement of threshold crossing reference datum at a height ensuring
height, and question the safe guidance over obstructions and
applicability of some of those also safe and efficient use of the
concepts. runway served. This means that the
aircraft should be high enough to
safely clear any obstructions on the
ground, but low enough to make

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the best use of the runway length RDH as close to 15m as
available. These two objectives are practicable.
mutually exclusive. Safe obstacle
clearance would predicate a high
threshold crossing height to RDH and TCH
maximise terrain clearance, but this
would reduce the runway distance
available for landing. ICAO Annex 101 talks of ILS
Reference Datum Height, or RDH.
Threshold Crossing Height is
Annex 101 goes on to state The referred to as Achieved Reference
height of the ILS reference datum for Datum Height (ARDH). It is often
Facility Performance Categories II and assumed that the two are the
III ILS shall be 15 m (50 ft). A same. Indeed, in an ideal world,
tolerance of plus 3 m (10 ft) is with perfectly flat terrain, they
permitted. In arriving at the above would, to all intents and purposes
height values for the ILS reference be the same. To understand TCH,
datum, a maximum vertical distance of it is best to look at how the
5.8 m (19ft) between the path of the glidepath is used by the automatic
aircraft glide path antenna and the path flight control systems during
of the lowest part of the wheels at the autoland. The data used here is for
threshold was assumed. Annex 112 the Smiths SEP6 autopilot, the first
appendix 5; table 2 further states system certified for Cat III autoland.
that the data accuracy for
Threshold Crossing Height for
precision approaches shall be 0.5m During descent from glidepath
or 1ft with an integrity classification intercept, the aircraft vertical
of 1x10-8 (critical) guidance channel follows the
glidepath beam. At 133 on the
radio altimeter (1600 prior to
Instrument Approach Procedure threshold), glidepath guidance is
designers use the ILS Reference disconnected, and the aircraft
Datum Height to determine the enters an attitude-hold phase,
obstacle clearance surfaces of the having memorised and averaged
approach in accordance with ICAO the previous 10 seconds of aircraft
DOC81684(Pans-Ops). This is why attitude data. This continues until
the reference datum height is 70 on the radio altimeter, when the
quoted as 15m with only a positive radio altimeter takes over the
tolerance. If the instrument vertical guidance, flaring out the
approach procedure is constructed aircraft for landing. For a typical
using a reference datum height of aircraft approach speed of 175kts,
15m, then any increase in RDH the part of the glidepath that
serves to increase the safety determines the TCH is therefore
margin of the procedure. The the portion between 4500 and
problem with increasing the RDH is 1600 from threshold. This may be
that for a level runway with a 3 different to the extended straight-
glidepath, each 1m increase in line portion between points A & B
RDH pushes the touchdown point used to calculate RDH.
20m further down the runway. It is Attachment C to volume 1 of Annex
therefore desirable to have the 101recognises this difference, and

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specifies that the measurement of ARDH/TCH, but may have little

ARDH be calculated over the effect on RDH.
segment of 6000 to 1000 prior to
threshold. Although recognising the
operational significance, annex 10
makes no specifications for ARDH; RELEVANCE OF ILS
however, Annex 112 specifically REFERENCE DATUM HEIGHT
states the data quality requirement
for TCH.
When the concept of autoland
using ILS was introduced in the
Where there is a significant cross- early 1960s, glidepath siting and
slope and forward-slope between the determination of RDH by flight
the glidepath and the runway, the inspection were both carried out by
glidepath structure may show a simple geometry of glidepath back
pronounced early flare set distance, threshold elevation
characteristic. In this instance, relative to the glidepath, and mean
there may be marked differences glidepath angle as calculated using
between RDH and ARDH/TCH. In optical tracking techniques. To the
most cases, TCH is higher than best of my knowledge, there has
RDH due to the curvature of the not been any grave safety
glidepath, but this is not always so. concerns raised by the use of this
If the glidepath exhibits marked simple method during the past 40
negative flare, the ARDH may be years experience of autoland.
significantly lower than the RDH.
The older version of DOC80713
specifically mentioned the Considering the potential errors in
undesirability of negative flare; the measurement by all of the variables
current edition makes no reference concerned in calculation of RDH, it
to it. Annex 101 states: In regions may lead to questioning the
of the approach where ILS glide path accuracy requirements for RDH
curvature is significant, bend measurement. Indeed, do we need
amplitudes are calculated from the to know the value for RDH?
mean curved path, and not the
downward extended straight line. It is
assumed from the basic physics of The purpose of the ILS RDH is
the glidepath, that the curved twofold:
portion will be upwards. Any
tendency to downward curvature 1 The basis for the
will have a detrimental effect on calculation of the

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obstacle assessment vertical glidepath
surfaces for the displacement due to
instrument approach perturbations of 1.2m is
procedure design. In this assumed. Thus with a
instance, the ILS RDH is 15m RDH, there should
assumed to be 15m. be a clearance of 8m
(Pans-Ops4 21.1.3). between the aircraft
ICAO does allow for a wheels and the runway
higher RDH to be surface at threshold.
promulgated for reasons
of obstacle clearance in
attachment C to Vol 1 of The important factor here is
Annex 101. ARDH or TCH. The ARDH
should be high enough to
preserve obstacle clearance but
The obstacle assessment the final path angle over the
surfaces are calculated on a range 6000 1000 is also
RDH of 15m. This allows a important in determining the
target level of safety of 1x10- touchdown point.
7 to be achieved. If the RDH

is higher than 15m, then

safety is increased. For cat I operations, where the
decision height is not less than
200, the aircraft is 3,800 or
However, the glidepath 1,160m from touchdown at
might radiate a lower than decision height. The importance
promulgated angle and yet of ARDH in this instance is quite
remain within the operating low provided that the aircraft is
tolerances. In this instance, in a stable attitude at the
the RDH could be lower than decision height whereby the
15m. This would invalidate pilot can take control and land
the basic premise of the using visual references.
obstacle surface
assessment and the
instrument approach For Cat II operations, the
procedure design. decision height may be as low
as 50. In this instance, ARDH is
very important to ensure that
2 To provide a safe safe obstacle clearance is
threshold crossing height maintained and the aircraft is
for aircraft whilst making well positioned in relation to the
maximum use of the touchdown point as the pilot has
available runway. Annex little time for large corrections to
101 assumes a maximum the aircraft path after decision
of 5.8m between the path height.
of the aircraft glide path
antenna and the path of
the lowest part of the The Cat III case was examined
wheels at the threshold. earlier. Here, the ARDH is very
Additionally, a maximum important to ensure safe

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obstacle clearance; also, the is dependant on the position
final path angle, and the runway chosen for the siting of the
slope from threshold will measurement system. Most of
influence location of the these systems are sited based on
touchdown point. the premise that the glidepath
signal originates from the base of
the glidepath mast. The physical
MEASUREMENT OF height of the tracking system
REFERENCE DATUM HEIGHT dictates that the measurement
point is some distance ahead of the
glidepath such that the
The accuracy of measurement of measurement device is located in
RDH depends on the method of the plane of the nominal glidepath.
measurement used, and to a This is further complicated by the
certain extent, the interpretation of placement of the measurement
what RDH actually is. system towards the runway, but
away from the runway centreline.
Automatic flight inspection systems
Before the advent of computer define an aiming point from which
analysis of flight inspection data, all angular calculations are made.
the calculation of RDH was simply This is normally a theoretical point
a geometric calculation based on on the runway centreline abeam
the mean measured glidepath the glidepath equipment, at the
angle, the back set distance of the same elevation as the base of the
glidepath from threshold, and the glidepath mast, from which the
difference in elevation between glidepath signal is assumed to
glidepath and threshold. This is the originate.6
same process outlined in
attachment C to part 1 of annex 101
to determine the siting of the
glidepath equipment.

When measuring glidepath angle

with a theodolite or other optical
tracking system, the derived angle

Glidepath BFSL
Mean A-B

Mean 6000 1000


Glidepath Tracker


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It can be seen from the attempts to refine this process
(exaggerated) diagram above that further in recent years by
several interpretations of RDH are calculating the BFSL between
possible. Firstly there is the line of points A and B6, and using this
glidepath 0ddm, the dashed line on data to redefine the aiming point,
the diagram. There is the arithmetic allowing a recalculation of angle,
mean angle as measured by the structure and RDH/ARDH.
theodolite system, the double line Although there is some merit in this
on the diagram. The Best Fit process, the experience of Flight
Straight Line (BFSL) between Precision Ltd is that the results
points A and B, and the TCH as obtained do not show a great deal
measured between 6000 and of repeatability for more unusual
1000, either as an arithmetic glidepath siting conditions
mean, or by BFSL. compared to traditional methods,
and the spread of values is
sometimes quite large. Where
This gives two possible values for there are significant distortions to
RDH, and two possible values for the overall glidepath structure, this
TCH, depending on the method method can produce excessive
used for calculation. corrections to the elevation of the
glidepath aiming point as
calculated from the BFSL. In these
The siting of the tracking device as situations, differences of up to 6m
mentioned earlier, or definition of in calculated RDH have been
the aiming point in automatic flight noted. The question also remains
inspection systems, further as to which is the correct value of
complicates this situation. It is from RDH?
these points that all angular
calculations are made; therefore
the choice of these points is Although this refined process
fundamental to the calculation of allows for a redefinition of the
RDH/ARDH. aiming point for RDH, it does not
allow a redefinition of the aiming
point for calculation of ARDH/TCH.
The siting of optical tracking Thus the inherent errors in
devices is at best an engineering ARDH/TCH still remain. If the
judgement based on assumptions glidepath curvature is upwards,
of the origin of the glidepath signal then ARDH/TCH should be higher
and estimations of the local than RDH, and safe obstacle
topography. The procedures for clearance will be preserved. If the
determining this point vary from glidepath exhibits a downward
state to state. curvature prior to threshold, then
TCH and obstacle clearance may
be compromised.
The calculation of an aiming point
for automatic flight inspection
systems still assumes the origin of A more fundamental matter to the
the glidepath signal, but does bring question of measurement of RDH
some degree of uniformity in is the definition of threshold itself.
measurement. There have been National Authorities, individual

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airports, and flight inspection remaining within Cat I/II angular
organisations all have different operating tolerances, and 0.6m for
interpretations on the definition of Cat III. Can one assume that if the
threshold. The DOC81684 definition RDH is not less than 15m at the
is The beginning of that portion of the promulgated glidepath angle, the
runway useable for landing. The obstacle surface assessment
application of that definition means safeguards the operation to the
different things to different people. limits of tolerance of the glidepath
To illustrate the problem, FPL angle?
asked the UK CAA to make a
statement on the definition of
threshold, and three different FLIGHT INSPECTION ISSUES
departments had three different
views, the answer is not so
obvious. Changing the definition of Problems currently arise in the
threshold from the leading edge of measurement of RDH/ARDH
the piano keys to the threshold because the technology is available
lighting bar (typically 6m) changes to the flight inspection
the RDH calculation by 0.3m for a organisations to calculate these
3 glidepath. parameters by more advanced
methods than were previously
possible, and come up with
A further observation is the answers that may be significantly
relationship between the glidepath different from traditional methods.
angle, within the operating ILS installation engineers are also
tolerances, and RDH. The graph able to use advanced computer
below illustrates the effect of modelling techniques to optimise
changing the glidepath angle on glidepath siting by three
the RDH. This assumes a 3 dimensional terrain modelling
glidepath with a RDH of 15.0m rather than the more basic methods
when operating at the promulgated outlined in annex 10. This gives
angle. rise to incompatibilities between the
flight inspection measurement
Change of RDH with GP angle
methodology and the ILS siting
RDH (m)

Cat I/II It is not reasonable to site an ILS
for a planned RDH by one method,
13.00 and then validate the RDH value by
3.23 3.18 3.13 3.08 3.03 2.98 2.93 2.88 2.83 2.78 flight inspection using a totally
GP Angle (degrees) different method. The two methods
are incompatible.
It can be seen that the change in
RDH with glidepath angle is
It is also irrational to henceforth
significant, even though the
change the flight inspection
glidepath remains within the
measurement methodology and
operating tolerances. Calculated
find that Cat III ILS systems that
RDH may change by 1.1m from
have been operating satisfactorily
the nominal with the glidepath

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for more than 30 years no longer based on. Aircraft operations are
meet ICAO requirements purely much more concerned with ARDH,
because the flight inspection which is rarely published. It may be
measurement philosophy has better to publish all ILS RDH as
changed. 15m, only quoting the measured
RDH if it falls outside of ICAO
There is a requirement for greater
understanding between the ILS
installation engineers and the flight The current diversity of
inspection organisations to ensure measurement methods and the
that the methods of measurement subsequent results is undesirable.
are appropriate to validate the There is a need to agree a
premise on which the planned ILS common methodology of
performance is based. measurement that is consistent
regardless of the flight inspection
service provider or type of flight
CONCLUSIONS inspection system used. It is
irrational to henceforth change the
flight inspection measurement
It is clear that RDH is critical to the methodology and find that Cat III
obstacle surface assessment for ILS systems that have been
ILS Instrument Approach operating satisfactorily for more
Procedure design, but from Pans- than 30 years no longer meet ICAO
Ops, the actual value is not critical requirements purely because the
provided it is not less than 15m. flight inspection measurement
The actual value only becomes philosophy has changed. This
critical if a higher value of RDH has factor must be considered before
been chosen to facilitate obstacle changes are implemented.
clearance and this must be
It is the TCH parameter that so
much importance is attached to in
If safeguards are built in to Pans- Annex 112, but experience would
Ops obstacle surface assessment indicate that the accuracy required
criteria to allow for the glidepath is not achievable with the diverse
angle tolerance, then any methods of measurement used for
assessment of RDH should be flight inspection, and the glidepath
corrected to the promulgated angle tolerances are much wider
glidepath angle rather than that than the desired tolerance on TCH.
existing at the time of the flight
ARDH/TCH is an important
parameter for the operation of the
RDH is published in the facility data aircraft and the behaviour of the
for an ILS in national and aircraft during autoland. The path
international publications. This is angle during this final segment also
largely irrelevant if the RDH has a bearing on the safe operation
exceeds the 15m that the obstacle and the location of the touchdown
surface assessment has been point. The difficulty here is the

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accuracy and applicability of the
measurement by flight inspection. REFERENCES
The obvious method of validation is
to equip the flight inspection aircraft 1. ICAO Annex 10
with a certified category II autopilot Aeronautical Telecommunications Vol I

capable of coupled approaches to 2. ICAO Annex 11

Air Traffic services
an MDH of 50, and assess the 3. ICAO DOC 8071
threshold crossing height directly. Manual on testing of radio navigation aids
This is probably impractical and the 4. ICAO DOC 8168
cost prohibitive for most flight Pans-Ops

inspection companies, therefore, 5. FAA Order 8240.47C

Determination of RDH
thought must be given to 6. 11th IFIS Proceedings
standardisation of measurement Methods of computing glidepath
that results in consistent and characteristics in modern flight inspection
systems - Buchheim
accurate determination of TCH. 7. 11th IFIS Proceedings
Problems & solutions for ILS Cat III
airborne & ground measurements
European & US views and perspectives.
The philosophy used for ILS siting Greving/Spohnheimer
criteria must be commensurate with
the flight inspection methodology
used for validation of parameters
such as RDH and vice-versa. If the
flight inspection community is to
adopt advanced techniques of
determining ILS parameters such
as those outlined in FAA Order
8240.47C5, then the ILS siting
criteria and modelling techniques
must also change to take this into

This paper raises several issues,

and leaves many questions
unanswered. The situation whereby
the measurement of a parameter
specified as critical by ICAO is
open to so much interpretation and
differences due to measurement
techniques cannot continue. Rather
than prescriptive regulation of flight
inspection, it may be better to
fundamentally review the ICAO
requirements regarding the
applicability of RDH and
ARDH/TCH, together with the
associated influencing factors,
before deciding on the optimum
method for validation. What is
needed is a fresh perspective.

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