Transiting Airspace with Flight Following

Pilots who are receiving radar advisories, better known as VFR Flight Following, often wonder if they will be cleared to enter airspace along their route.

For example, assume you’re flying VFR between Albany, OR (S12) and Scappoose, OR (KSCP).

(To see the route below on charts at SkyVector.com, click here.)

As you can see on the chart below, the direct route takes you over Salem (KSLE), a Class D airport; just west of the Class D airspace at Aurora, OR (KUAO); and later through the Class D airspace at Hillsboro (KHIO). The course also tracks just west of the busy Class C airspace that surrounds Portland International Airport (KPDX).

Albany-Scappoose.jpg

After takeoff, you contact Cascade Approach for flight following, get a squawk code, and, without restrictions from ATC, proceed on the direct route to KSCP. An overcast layer at 3000 ft. MSL restricts your cruise to at or below 2500 ft.

Do you have to contact the towers at KSLE and KHIO for permission to transit their airspace? Although you’ll remain legally clear of the Class D airspace at KUAO if you can remain on the direct course, what if you need to zig and zag to avoid clouds? Should you contact Aurora Tower? What about the Class C airspace at KPDX?

The September 2017 issue of Air Traffic Procedures Bulletin (PDF), a newsletter for air traffic controllers published by the FAA, clarifies the roles of pilots and air traffic controllers when pilots are receiving flight following. The bulletin notes that pilots and controllers have shared responsibility.

VFR Aircraft Receiving Radar Advisories (VFR Flight Following) Approaching Class D

What are ATCs responsibilities? Who is responsible for the pilot’s communication responsibility within the Class D surface area?

Many times, pilots receiving VFR Radar Advisories believe that as long as they are talking to one ATC facility, they have fulfilled their responsibility for entering a Class D airspace. Pilots may believe that controllers will tell them when/if they are approaching a Class D surface area. As controllers, we have a responsibility to coordinate with the appropriate ATC facility having jurisdiction over the airspace.

First, controllers must follow the guidance in Air Traffic Control (JO 7110.65, PDF available here):

As controllers, we have a responsibility to coordinate with the appropriate ATC facility having jurisdiction over the airspace, FAA Order JO 7110.65W states:

2-1-16. SURFACE AREAS

b. Coordinate with the appropriate control tower for transit authorization when you are providing radar traffic advisory service to an aircraft that will enter another facility’s airspace.

NOTE− The pilot is not expected to obtain his/her own authorization through each area when in contact with a radar facility.

But the bulletin notes that pilots also have a regulatory requirement to establish two-way communications before entering Class D or Class C airspace, as noted in the AIM and other sources.

The pilot’s responsibility to meet their radio communication requirement to enter Class D airspace is NOT eliminated when receiving VFR Radar Advisories. The Aeronautical Information Manual, 3-2-1, states:

d. VFR Requirements. It is the responsibility of the pilot to ensure that ATC clearance or radio communication requirements are met prior to entry into Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace. The pilot retains this responsibility when receiving ATC radar advisories. (See 14 CFR Part 91.)

To resolve this conflict, the bulletin goes on to explain:

Since both the controller providing VFR Radar Advisories and the pilot who is receiving the advisories have a clear responsibility, there can be some confusion about which party is communicating with the ATC facility having jurisdiction over the Class D surface area. 14 CFR 91.129 includes language that specifies that it is the pilot’s overall responsibility for complying with the Class D communications requirement.

There are a few ways controllers can assist pilots when providing VFR Radar Advisories that will ultimately help with controller workload. Since the pilot is responsible for their Class D communication requirement, if the controller coordinates with the ATC facility having jurisdiction over the surface area, let the pilot know, so they do not query you. If you are too busy to coordinate, you are required to terminate VFR Radar Advisories in a timely manner so the pilot is able to contact the Class D ATC facility prior to entry.

It’s also important to note that air traffic control facilities have letters of agreement (LOA) to establish local procedures, such as entry and exit routes at busy airports, handoffs between facilities, and similar matters. These LOA are not typically published for pilots. An LOA may allow an approach facility to send aircraft under its control through a Class D surface area at specific altitudes and along certain routes. Or the LOA may streamline the coordination required before one controller allows an aircraft to enter another controller’s airspace.

For more information about your obligation to follow ATC instructions, see Compliance with ATC Clearances and Instructions—Even When VFR.

For more information on this topic, see BruceAir’s Guide to ATC Services for VFR Pilots.

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Flying without Paper Charts

I recently gave a presentation about flying RNAV procedures at the Northwest Aviation Conference. As usual, I asked how many pilots in the audience were using tablets like iPads in the cockpit. Most of the folks raised their hands. It’s astonishing how quickly the aviation community has adopted this technology.

Nevertheless, questions persist about the legality of “going paperless” in the cockpit, at least for typical GA pilots operating light aircraft under 14 CFR Part 91. Here are some key references to help you understand the rules and good operating practices.

The best background is in AC 91-78-Use of Class 1 or Class 2 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), which explains:

This advisory circular (AC) provides aircraft owners, operators, and pilots operating aircraft under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91, with information for removal of paper aeronautical charts and other documentation from the cockpit through the use of either portable or installed cockpit displays (electronic flight bags (EFB).

The AC also notes:

This AC is applicable to instrument flight rules (IFR) or visual flight rules (VFR), preflight, flight, and post flight operations conducted under part 91, unless prohibited by a specific section of 14 CFR chapter I.

And it explains:

EFB systems may be used in conjunction with, or to replace, some of the paper reference material that pilots typically carry in the cockpit. EFBs can electronically store and retrieve information required for flight operations, such as the POH and supplements, minimum equipment lists, weight and balance calculations, aeronautical charts and terminal procedures…The in-flight use of an EFB/ECD in lieu of paper reference material is the decision of the aircraft operator and the pilot in command. Any Type A or Type B EFB application, as defined in [AC 120-76] may be substituted for the paper equivalent. It requires no formal operational approval as long as the guidelines of this AC are followed.

You can find further guidance on the FAA website here. And Sporty’s has a good overview of the topic here. For information about using iPads and the like on practical tests, see this item at AOPA.

If you fly IFR using an approved GPS navigation system, you can find additional guidance (and common sense advice) in documents such as the Operational Suitability Report for the Garmin GTN series navigators, published by the FAA in 2011, and available in the FSIMS system, here.

The following Type B applications were evaluated under this report:

(1) Chart capability is limited to Approach Charts, Standard Terminal Arrival Routes, Departure Procedures and Airport Diagrams. Access to the chart information is accomplished by touching the chart symbol on the screen home page. Scaling is accomplished by touching the plus or minus signs on the screen. Chart information is in standard chart layout, oriented in portrait view. It is possible to overlay an approach chart on the navigation display. Navigation Display Approach Chart overlays however, are always oriented so that North on the chart is at the top of the display. Caution should be taken when using this feature, as it can be confusing in some circumstances.

(2) En route charts are not available to view in the GTN 7XX series of units. Airways and associated navigation aids and intersection names are displayed on the navigation display but not in chart format. Because en route chart view is not available, operators will be required to have immediately accessible a suitable approved aeronautical information source of en route charts.

A typical installation includes a GTN 7XX paired with a GTN6XX. Since the GTN6XX series of navigator does not have chart capability a second GTN7XX with charts and an independent power source may be installed to provide the necessary backup. Another method of redundancy could be for the operator to carry an approved stand alone Class I, or Class II EFB device onboard the aircraft. Otherwise, a set of paper charts is required to provide chart redundancy.

In the case of a single unit installation, paper charts (including approach, departure and arrival procedure, airport diagram and en route charts) must be onboard the aircraft or an approved stand alone Class I, or Class II (with a suitable approved source of aeronautical data) device may be substituted for paper charts.

Garmin Guidance on Database Updates

Garmin has published guidance for updating its GTN avionics with a Flight Stream and Database Concierge. Web page here; PDF here.

The Flight Stream 510, an SD card that is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled, works with GTN-series avionics. It provides a wireless connection to the GTN to update databases and to provide GPS and ADS-B information to apps such as ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot. The FS510 is part of the Garmin Connext series of products and services.

 

New Edition of AC 00-6 Aviation Weather

FAA has published a new edition of AC 00-6 – Aviation Weather (PDF), the 1975 handbook that explains weather theory for pilots.

New scientific capabilities now necessitate an update to this AC. In 1975, aviation users were not directly touched by radar and satellite weather. In 2016, much of what airmen understand about the current atmosphere comes from these important data sources. This AC is intended to provide basic weather information that all airmen must know. This document is intended to be used as a resource for pilot and dispatcher training programs.

The new edition of the companion handbook, AC 00-45 Aviation Weather Services, which explains aviation weather reports and forecasts and the briefings available to pilots, is also available at the FAA website.

Simulated Wake-Turbulence Encounter

I do the exercise below with my stall/spin/upset students to simulate the disorienting effect of a wake-turbulence encounter. We perform 1-1/2 aileron rolls to inverted and then push and roll to recover to normal upright flight. The exercise is confusing at first, and the nose always drops well below the horizon during the “upset.” It’s a great way to help pilots understand what could happen if they were caught in a wintip vortex.

Wake turbulence caused by wingtip vortices is major hazard to small aircraft.

WakeTurbulence

The wingtip vortices are a by-product of lift. You can find detailed information about wake turbulence in FAA Advisory Circular AC 90-23 and in the Aeronautical Information Manual (Chapter 7, Safety of Flight; Section 3, Wake Turbulence).

 

 

 

FAA Releases List of VORs to be Shut Down

FAA has published a list of 308 VORs that it plans to shut down in phases by 2025. The notice in the Federal Register appeared on July 26, 2016. The notice includes a list of VORs that the FAA wants to decommission.

This document provides the discontinuance selection criteria and candidate list of VOR Navigational Aids (NAVAIDs) targeted for discontinuance as part of the VOR MON Implementation Program and United States (U.S.) National Airspace System (NAS) Efficient Streamline Services Initiative. Additionally, this policy addresses the regulatory processes the FAA plans to follow to discontinue VORs.

For background on the FAA’s plans, see Latest Info on VOR Shutdowns here at BruceAir. Note that under this plan, only about one-third of the existing network of VORs will be decommissioned.

According to the FAA notice:

The following criteria were used by the FAA to determine which VORs would be retained as a part of the MON:

— Retain VORs to perform Instrument Landing System (ILS), Localizer (LOC), or VOR approaches supporting MON airports at suitable destinations within 100 NM of any location within the CONUS. Selected approaches would not require Automatic Direction Finder (ADF), Distance Measuring Equipment (DME), Radar, or GPS.Show citation box

— Retain VORs to support international oceanic arrival routes.

— Retain VORs to provide coverage at and above 5,000 ft AGL.

— Retain most VORs in the Western U.S. Mountainous Area (WUSMA), specifically those anchoring Victor airways through high elevation terrain.

— Retain VORs required for military use.

— VORs outside of the CONUS were not considered for discontinuance under the VOR MON Implementation Program.

The following considerations were used to supplement the VOR MON criteria above:

— Only FAA owned/operated VORs were considered for discontinuance.

— Co-located DME and Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) systems will generally be retained when the VOR service is terminated.

— Co-located communication services relocated or reconfigured to continue transmitting their services.

According to the FAA notice:

The FAA remains committed to the plan to retain an optimized network of VOR NAVAIDs. The MON will enable pilots to revert from Performance Based Navigation (PBN) to conventional navigation for approach, terminal and en route operations in the event of a GPS outage…

The VOR MON is designed to enable aircraft, having lost Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) service, to revert to conventional navigation procedures. The VOR MON is further designed to allow aircraft to proceed to a MON airport where an ILS or VOR approach procedure can be flown without the necessity of GPS, DME, ADF, or Surveillance. Of course, any airport with a suitable instrument approach may be used for landing, but the VOR MON assures that at least one airport will be within 100 NM.

Short Aerobatic Videos

I have collected short excerpts from a recent aerobatic flight near Seattle, WA to demonstrate a few basic aerobatic maneuvers. Each video shows the maneuver first from the left wingtip and then from my perspective in the rear cockpit of the Extra 300L.

You can find many more videos at my YouTube channel, BruceAirFlying.