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To B, or not to B: The Basics of Class B Airspace in VFR Operations

to b or not to b the basics of class b airspace in vfr operations Airplane GEEK To B, or not to B: The Basics of Class B Airspace in VFR Operations

You’re planning a route on a VFR sectional and come across an airport surrounded by class B’s solid blue circles. You know that class B is known for being the busiest and one of the most restrictive controlled airspace’s. So what do you need to know about this airspace to navigate with confidence? Good question, here’s what you need to know.

Requirements/Limitations

  • ATC clearance (Ex. Skyhawk 099SP, cleared to enter the CLE Bravo)
  • Establish and maintain two-way communication prior to entering
  • Mode C transponder (within 30 nm, up to 10,000 msl)
  • Weather minimums
    • Visibility: Three statute miles
    • Cloud clearance: Clear of clouds
  • At least a private pilot certificate
  • Student pilot operations restricted
  • Speed restriction:
    • Inside the bravo: 250KIAS
    • Underneath the bravo: 200KIAS 

Your Level of Certification Matters!

According to FAR 61.95 if you are a student pilot you must have received both ground and flight training from an authorized flight instructor at that specific Class B airspace area in which you intend on operating within. You must also have received a logbook endorsed by your flight instructor who gave you the flight training, and the endorsement must be dated within the 90-day period preceding the date of the flight in that Class B airspace.

Remember! A major thing to keep in mind is that every Class B is tailored differently and may have different requirements. This being said, as a student pilot there are some Class B airspaces that regardless of FAR 61.95 do not permit operation due to high volume operations. These are:

  • Andrews Air Force Base, MD
  • (The William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport)Atlanta, GA
  • (General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport)Boston, MA
  • (Chicago-O’Hare International Airport)Chicago, IL
  • (Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport)Dallas, TX
  • (Los Angeles International Airport)Los Angeles, CA
  • (Miami International Airport)Miami, FL
  • (Newark International Airport) Newark, NJ
  • (John F. Kennedy International Airport)New York, NY
  • (LaGuardia Airport)New York, NY
  • (San Francisco International Airport) San Francisco, CA
  • (Washington National Airport)Washington, D.C.

Special Area, Special Training!

Some class B airspaces require more than just standard training. A very restrictive Class B I want to point out is DCA or Ronald Reagan Washington National airport. This airport requires all pilots to partake in a special awareness training before operations under VFR within 60 nm of the DCA VOR/DME. This is due to close proximity to prohibit areas, restricted areas, and the capital building. If you’re interested in taking the training for free, visit www.faasafety.gov. The training takes approximately 40 to 45 minutes to complete. 

to b or not to b the basics of class b airspace in vfr operations 1 Airplane GEEK To B, or not to B: The Basics of Class B Airspace in VFR Operations

VFR Routes

This is one topic that is less known amongst pilots. There are published VFR routes for transitioning around airspaces such as class B that have been established by the FAA and industry initiatives. These routes are not used or intended to discourage VFR pilots from requesting clearance from ATC to operate within the class B. They are simply designed to assist pilots in planning their flights into, out of, and around complex terminals and class B airspaces.The following routes established are VFR flyway, VFR Corridor, and class B Airspace VFR transition route. All pilots must continue to adhere to VFR rules and continue to see and avoid other traffic.

Figure 1: VFR Flyways (Depicted by blue arrows with designated altitudes to surface. An ATC clearance is NOT required to fly them. These routes will be depicted on TAC (Terminal Area Charts) if offered. Eventually all TAC‘s will include a VFR flyway planning chart. The ground references are a guide to improve visual navigation.)

to b or not to b the basics of class b airspace in vfr operations 2 Airplane GEEK To B, or not to B: The Basics of Class B Airspace in VFR Operations

Figure 2: VFR Corridors (It does not extend down to the surface like a flyway but consists of a defined lateral and vertical limit, it’s a ‘hole’. Exercise extreme caution to avoid other VFR traffic using the corridor. Communication nor clearance is required with ATC.)

to b or not to b the basics of class b airspace in vfr operations Airplane GEEK To B, or not to B: The Basics of Class B Airspace in VFR Operationsto b or not to b the basics of class b airspace in vfr operations 3 Airplane GEEK To B, or not to B: The Basics of Class B Airspace in VFR Operations

Figure 3: VFR Transition Routes (These routes are special flight courses depicted on a TAC that assists transitioning a class B airspace. These routes are designed to show pilots where to position their aircraft outside of or clear of the class B Airspace where they can expect an ATC clearance with minimal or no delay. ATC clearance and contact is required.) 

to b or not to b the basics of class b airspace in vfr operations 4 Airplane GEEK To B, or not to B: The Basics of Class B Airspace in VFR Operations

Many general aviation pilots fine class B airspace intimidating and would prefer to avoid it completely. However, knowledge is powerful and I believe with the proper training, a pilot can learn to operate safely and competently within class B airspace. Even in the event of using a VFR route, understanding your options in and around a class B airspace permits and promotes safer operation. Once you get the hang of it, class B airspace isn’t too challenging but it does require your full attention and a bit of practice. 

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