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.

Consequences of Declaring an Emergency with ATC

by JeffKanarish on November 26, 2014

My airplane has a problem. A big problem. I think I can handle it. No, I’m sure I can handle it. Maybe I can handle it. Can I handle it? I’m not sure.I had better declare an emergency with ATC and get some help.

But what if this turns out to be nothing? What if I declare an emergency and it isn’t really an emergency? What will the FAA say? I’m sure they will want to investigate and that will not turn out well. I’ll just handle this on my own and see what happens.

In today’s Radar contact show, we are going to talk about the consequences of declaring an emergency with ATC. You are going hear from the FAA’s Safety Team and from air traffic controllers on this topic. We are going to find out if declaring an emergency will put your pilot’s license in jeopardy.

Have you ever been confused by taxi instructions or forgotten your taxi instructions? I have, and so have thousands of other pilots. In this show, we’ll talk about some things you can do right now to make copying taxi instructions a whole lot easier. Ready to taxi? Let’s go!

Special Note from Me to You

If you have ever had to declare an emergency with ATC, I would love to hear from you. Or, if you have ever not declared an emergency, and wish you had, I would love to hear from you. Either way, please write to me at jeff@ATCcommunication. There may be an opportunity to teach other pilots a bit more about emergencies based on your experience. I solemnly promise I will keep any information confidential, including your identity, you tell me to keep confidential. Send me an email any time. I’m right here.

Show Notes:

  1. In our last Radar Contact Show I asked you to take a 2-question survey about whether or not you would hesitate to declare an emergency when the situation required it.
  2. To date 291 people have taken that survey. 21.43% of those who answered said they would hesitate to declare an emergency.
  3. When asked why in the survey, respondents who said they would hesitate answered one of 2 ways. 1) They would hesitate to declare an emergency if they were not confident they had an actual emergency situation. 2) Fear of an FAA investigation following the emergency declaration.
  4. I submitted the data from the survey to the head of the FAA’s Safety Team.
  5. The response from the FAA was this: The FAA is obligated to investigate violations of the FAR’s no matter how it learns of violations. If a pilot does something intentionally criminal or intentionally violates the FAR’s, whether or not that action results in an emergency, the FAA is going to take a look at it.
  6. However, the FAA does not investigate pilots who declare an emergency simply because an emergency was declared. The notion that you will draw unwanted focus on your flying skills or training simply because you declare an emergency is utter nonsense.
  7. If your emergency develops into an aircraft accident in which your aircraft is damaged or destroyed or people are injured, the FAA will want to take a look at that. They are not there to hammer you. They want to examine the accident itself to see if something can be done to prevent a similar problem in the future.
  8. The AIM Chapter 6-1-2 says most pilot have no problem declaring an emergency when the situation is obviously dangerous, as is the case for fire, aircraft damage, etc. Some pilots will hesitate to declare an emergency if the situation doesn’t seem immediately threatening.
  9. If you are ever concerned for the safety of your flight, that is an urgent condition. The AIM says you should not hesitate to ask for help immediately.
  10. Even if what you thought was an emergency turns out to not be an emergency, you are perfectly legal and welcome to cancel your emergency status with ATC. There is no negative consequence for canceling an emergency once the situation that prompted an emergency no longer exists.
  11. Recall this whole discussion began with a pilot who’s airplane, I believe, lost cabin pressurization at 31,000. He did not declare an emergency but requested to descend to a lower altitude.
  12. ATC was not able to let the aircraft to descend to as low an altitude as the pilot needed. The pilot subsequently lost consciousness, allegedly from hypoxia, and died.
  13. It is my opinion, if the pilot had immediately declared an emergency when he first learned of his problem, ATC would have made his flight a top priority and cleared hm to descend to as low an altitude as he needed. He might have lived to fly another day.
  14. Did you know an air traffic controller can declare an emergency for your flight, even if you don’t? It’s true. An air traffic controller can put your flight under emergency status if he feels it is necessary to give your aircraft priority handling.
  15. Air traffic controllers are ready and willing to help you if you ever find yourself in trouble while flying.
  16. Controllers truly value their role as lifeguards for pilots and passengers. They even give out an annual award to the air traffic controller who performs the best save of a flight in trouble.
  17. If you are ever concerned for the safety of your flight, don’t sit there and second-guess the situation. Declare an emergency immediately and get all of the help you need to safely resolve your situation. There are no negative consequences for declaring an emergency. The FAA will not investigate simply because you declared an emergency.
  18. If you are still worried about declaring an emergency when needed, know there are options to help defend your actions.
  19. If you file an report detailing your actions via NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) within 10 days of the incident, the report will provide immunity against potential enforcement action by the FAA. There other conditions in the FAA’s immunity policy which you may read about at the ASRS website.
  20. Here is a link to the ASRS website. You may find the FAA’s enforcement policy regarding ASRS reports under the menu tab “Program Information” and the menu item titled “Immunity Policy.”
  21. Also realize, though I don’t think you will ever need one for simply declaring an emergency, there are lawyers who specialize in aviation law.
  22. If you have ever misunderstood or failed to remember your taxi instructions, join the club of thousands of other experienced pilots who have the same problem.
  23. If you don’t understand or didn’t fully copy your taxi instructions the first time ground control gives them to you, ask for a repeat.
  24. Instead of trying to remember your taxi instructions, write them on paper. Only write when your aircraft is not moving. Never attempt to look down and write while you are taxiing.
  25. Write as little as possible. Your goal is to write just enough to interpret your own notes.
  26. Examples: Ground Control says, “Runway 33, taxi via right Alpha, then join Bravo with a left on Alpha 1 and hold short of Runway 26 on Bravo,” I would write,  33 r A -B l A1 B/26. This would read as Runway 33. Right Alpha. Join Bravo with a Left Alpha 1. Hold short of Runway 26 on Bravo. For “Runway 7, taxi via Charlie and cross Runway 19, I would write 7 C x19.
  27. I have more examples and practice exercises for you in my workbook, Radio Mastery for VFR Pilots Workbook, available at Amazon.com.
  28. Listen to the taxi instructions given to other pilots before you call for taxi. You will probably get similar instructions.
  29. Get familiar with the airport’s layout by studying the taxi chart before you call for taxi. Trace the most logical route or routes from your parking position to the active runway.
  30. Verbalize, either out loud or in your head, the steps in the route from parking to the runway as you trace the route with your finger. This exercise should mentally prep you for what the ground controller is about to say to you on the radio.

Your Question of the Week:

You are approaching the runway at Savannah, Georgia. The tower controller says to you, “Runway 10, cleared to land. Your landing will be over a raised cable on the runway, 1,476 feet from the approach end.” Here are your questions: First, why is there a raised cable positioned on the runway? Second, based on this information, where should you plan to touch down on the runway? When you think you know the answers to those questions, go to ATCcommunication.com/answers.

Use ATC to Save Your Life

September 21, 2014

Daher-Socata TBM-850. Source: fr.wikipedia.orgEarlier this month, a single-engine turboprop aircraft crashed into the ocean near Jamaica. Early indications are the airplane’s cabin pressurization system failed and the pilot lost consciousness due to hypoxia. The plane continued flying on autopilot until fuel ran out and the engine quit. Could ATC have helped prevent this accident? The […]

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Aircraft Radio Discipline Before You (Think You) Need It

September 4, 2014

We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Hey, we’re already there! If you are just starting your career or avocation as a pilot, you are probably thinking about the basics of radio communication. Specifically, you would be happy to fire off a radio transmission without getting tongue-tied: Town and Country Tower, Cessna 9130 […]

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Pop Quiz: All About Landing Clearance

August 2, 2014

If you have never visited ATCcommunication.com before, trust me, this article is about ATC radio communication. The following is a silly introduction. We’ll get serious about ATC comm right after the intro. Saturday Night Live skit. Billy Crystal as Willie. Christopher Guest as Frankie. Willie: You know, the other day, I took one o’ them, […]

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Aircraft Radio Simulator v. 2.1: New Features

July 23, 2014

An updated demonstration version of the Aircraft Radio Simulator is now available online for flight test. Here are the new features added to the Aircraft Radio Simulator ver. 2.1: Navigation around the airport traffic pattern using landmarks.   Fully controllable flaps.   Nosewheel steering.   Main wheel brakes.   Improved aircraft performance.   Adjustable heading […]

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When to Not Respond to ATC (Really!)

May 31, 2014

See no ATC. Hear No ATC. Speak no ATC. As pilots we are trained to respond to ATC each and every time ATC talks to us. Did you know there are times when you should not talk to ATC? It’s true. In this 40th edition of Radar Contact, you and I will cover those times […]

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Timing is Everything in ATC Communication

April 7, 2014

Two people speaking to each other at the same time does not communication make. It’s true in a face-to-face encounter and it’s true when trying to communicate with ATC. When 2 pilots try to transmit at the same time, the result is just a bunch of noise on the radio. In this show, we are […]

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Aircraft Radio Simulator Version 2.0 Demo

March 23, 2014

The Aircraft Radio Simulator Ver. 2.0 Demo It has been years in the making. Today, at long last, I am pleased to announce the release of the Aircraft Radio Simulator Version 2.0 demonstration. Before we go any further, some words of caution. This is only a demonstration. It is not the full Aircraft Radio Simulator […]

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Control Tower Options

March 14, 2014

“Dice right, ice cream, alert, 654 Jose. . . Brown Richmond 96 double . . . hut hut!” What?! I’ll give you a hint: Football and air traffic control. Here’s another hint: trying to understand Tower’s instructions does not have be painful if you know what is coming next. If that still doesn’t make any […]

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