By means of a combination of high-resolution electron microscopy (HREM) and high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-STEM) techniques, we have directly revealed that periodic arrangements in different manners for flattened hexagons constructed with atom columnar clusters can form two Al-Ni-Rh crystalline approximant phases. In contrast to periodic arrangements of flattened hexagons, configurations and distributions of various defects in these structurally-complicated alloy phases have been examined and their structural characteristics discussed. HREM observations clearly show that structural defects in Al-Ni-Rh crystalline approximants are of phason type and they are correlated with incorrect arrangements of atom columnar clusters. The distribution of high density planar defects can destroy the long-range periodicity in at least one direction in the pseudo decagonal symmetry plane. By means of the HAADF-STEM imaging technique, the existence of ill-formed atom columnar clusters in the core area of a linear defect, which is usually not visible in HREM observations, has been clearly revealed.