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PANS-OPS is an air traffic control acronym of procedures for air navigation services – aircraft operations. PANS-OPS are rules for designing instrument approach and departure procedures. Such procedures are used to allow aircraft to land and take off when instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) impose instrument flight rules (IFR).

ICAO rules[edit]

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) outlines the principles for airspace protection and procedure design to which all ICAO signatory states must adhere. The regulatory material surrounding PANS-OPS may vary from country to country.

Handling of obstacles[edit]

Similar to an obstacle limitation surface (OLS),[clarification needed] the PANS-OPS protection surfaces are imaginary surfaces in space that guarantee an aircraft a certain minimum obstacle clearance. These surfaces may be used as a tool for local governments in assessing building development. Where buildings may (under certain circumstances) be permitted to penetrate the OLS, they cannot be permitted to penetrate any PANS-OPS surface, because the purpose of these surfaces is to guarantee pilots operating under IMC an obstacle free descent path for a given approach.

Other PANS[edit]

PANS-ATC: Procedures for Air Navigation Services – Air Traffic Control
PANS-ATM: Procedures for Air Navigation Services – Air Traffic Management (rules of the air and air traffic services ICAO Doc. 4444)

History, Pans-Ops software[edit]

In 1989 Ian Whitworth programmed the very first commercially available off the shelf instrument procedure design software conforming to ICAO document 8168 Pans-Ops. This software was first demonstrated at Bailbrook College in Bath England in 1992 to a procedure design course. Prior to this all procedure design was done with pencil, tracing paper and a calculator. The software was programmed on a 386 IBM laptop computer and written in the “LISP” programming language.