What it Takes to Be an Airline Pilot

by JeffKanarish on January 22, 2015


Here’s a brief timeout from our discussion on ATC communication to look at what it takes to be an airline pilot. I have had many student pilots write to me asking about what it takes to be an airline pilot. I think the following article at Lifehacker.com tells the story best.

Pay attention to the very last paragraph in which the interviewer asks airline pilot Chris Manno “What advice would you give to those aspiring to join your profession?” I have been giving the same answer for years.

Here is the link to the article: http://lifehacker.com/career-spotlight-what-i-do-as-an-airline-pilot-1678983694


If you are a pilot who hates to work with ATC because you feel doing so would restrict your flying freedom, I’ve got surprising news for you. Working with ATC can actually lighten your load and help you enjoy your flight. This is especially true when you have to fly around Class B and other airspace closed to VFR aircraft.

In today’s show, we are going to talk about how to work with ATC in and around Class B. That’s right, you heard me correctly, I said we are going to cover flying VFR inside of Class B.

The structure of Class B resembles an upside-down wedding cake (less flowers).

While we are talking about achieving the seemingly impossible, I’m going to tell you how to use ATC to thread the needle between prohibited areas, restricted areas, MOA’s, warning areas, TFR’s, and alert areas. Think we can pull all of that off, plus your Question of the Week, in only 25 minutes? Let’s find out. Spin Engine #1 and let’s get started.

Pre-show:Your story can help other pilots. If you have ever declared an emergency, or had a situation in which you wished you had declared an emergency, I’d love to hear from you. Your experience may help save another pilot’s life. If we tell your story, I will protect your identity and hold confidential any information you would prefer to remain non-public. Write to me at Jeff@ATCcommunication.com and tell me about your emergency or the time you had an urgent condition and wished you had declared an emergency.

Show Notes:

  1. Flying VFR is not as free as it seems when you have to navigate near Class B airspace.
  2. Trying to fly underneath or around Class B puts you in a very compressed area with dozens of other aircraft.
  3. ATC can help you remain clear of the Class B and clear of other aircraft as you pass by or under Class B.
  4. When approaching Class B, your sectional chart or terminal area chart will tell you who to contact, when to contact, and the frequency to use.
  5. Tampa App Box

  6. Initial contact with ATC should be a brief introduction: Who you are calling; your call sign; your position; and “VFR”. Note: Although I don’t mention this in the show, you may say, “request VFR flight following” in your initial radio call. I prefer simply saying, “VFR,” but “request VFR flight following” is not excessive for initial radio contact.
  7. Also not mentioned in the show: You may report your position by telling ATC you are over a charted landmark, if applicable. Charted landmarks are identified by a magenta flag and a label on sectional and terminal area charts.
  8. charted landmark

  9. Do not brain dump by trying to tell the controller everything you know in your first radio contact.
  10. ATC will assign a transponder code and remind you to remain clear of the Class B airspace.
  11. Once ATC has your aircraft in radar contact, the controller will give you the local altimeter setting. He will ask you to verify your altitude and give him your request.
  12. After you verify your altitude and give ATC your request, ATC will remind you to remain VFR and advise the controller if you change altitude.
  13. ATC will then help you steer clear of the boundaries of the Class B and provide traffic advisories until you reach your destination or exit his airspace.
  14. Although ATC will help you navigate around Class B, you are ultimately responsible for remaining clear of Class B airspace.
  15. The FAA has placed VFR Transition Routes inside of some Class B structures.
  16. VFR Transition Routes are designed to let VFR aircraft navigate through Class B airspace without interfering with the flow of fast-moving traffic inside the Class B.
  17. VFR Transition Routes are a great deal for you when flying VFR because they allow you to take a shortcut through Class B. This saves a lot of time and air miles that would be required to detour all the way around Class B.
  18. I strongly recommend getting in touch with ATC for flight following anytime your route will take you near prohibited or restricted areas.
  19. ATC can not only help you navigate around airspace closed to VFR aircraft, ATC can also let you know if a part-time restricted area, MOA, or warning area is currently inactive.
  20. ATC is a great resource when your route of flight passes near a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR).
  21. TFR’s are not depicted on any navigation chart. If you miss written notification of a TFR becoming active on your route of flight, ATC can give you an alert and steer you around the TFR.
  22. Alert areas are not closed to VFR aircraft, but they present a hazard in a the form of very dense air traffic. ATC can provide timely traffic advisories and avoidance vectors when you fly inside of an alert area.
  23. I pay close attention to the comments pilots make at my website. I also read the reviews of my books at Amazon.com. Your comments and reviews help me update and adjust the content of my books and website.

    If you have questions or comments about anything you read in my books or at ATCcommunication.com, please write to me at Jeff@ATCcommunication.com. I love hearing from you.

Your Question of the Week:

You are VFR, approaching Class Bravo airspace over Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. As you approach the southern entry point of the VFR Transition Route that passes through the Class B structure, you tune in Phoenix Approach’s radio frequency. The radio frequency is very busy and you cannot find a break in the radio traffic to announce your intentions to Phoenix Approach.

Your fuel on board is getting low. You know you need to press on northbound through the VFR Transition Route to have any chance of making it to your destination north of Phoenix with a comfortable margin of fuel remaining in the tank.

Here’s your question. Since the VFR Transition Route that passes through the Phoenix Class B Airspace is reserved specifically for VFR aircraft, and the parameters for flying that corridor are published on your terminal area chart, is it permissible to enter the route immediately and then advise Phoenix Approach of your intentions after you have entered the corridor?

When you think you know that answer to that question, go to http://ATCcommunication.com/answers. There you will find a complete answer along with a full explanation of how that answer was derived.


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