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Charts, Airports and Procedures
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; Sectional Change; VFR Charts; ...Runway Lights; ...All Available Information; ...Aviation Charts; ...Reading the Sectional; ...VOR Box; ...World Aeronautical Charts (WAC); ...Class Bravo Airspace; …Controlled Airports;. ...Towered Procedures; ...Class D Airport Departures; …At Runway You Can Request; …Class-D Airport Arrivals; …Two-mile Reports; …Air Traffic Control; …A Pattern to Patterns; …Visual Estimation of Ground Distance; …Airport Operations; ...Knowing the Runway; ... The Long and Short of Runways; … Review of the Different ATC Services; …About Towered Airports; ...Clearances; ...Lights; ...Mistakes; ...Runway Patterns; ...The Unusual; ...Radio; ...A Better Method to Fold Charts; ....How to Arrive at an Airport; ...

Planning the flight should take twice as long as the flying of your plan.

---Sectional charts now have runway information regarding pattern directions using the letters RP with all others being Left Pattern.

To learn all of the symbols used on a sectional do not rely on the legend. Get a copy of the "Aeronautical Chart Users Guide'. Expect to find changes in every issue of a new sectional.

Sectional Change

---No more solid black square in corner of VORTAC box. Instead you will find circle with an H for HIWAS..

VFR Charts
NOAA Aeronautical Chart User's Guide is a source of chart terms and symbols with charting symbols organized by chart type. Available from the Government printing office Golden Gate Ave in downtown S. F. at 1-800/638-8972. State charts are obtained from the Aviation Dept. from each state. Years ago I wrote to all the states on a route across the country and back. I received 37 pounds of charts, guides, and information. Do it.

VFR area charts (TAC) are scaled 1:250,000 or 3.5 nm per inch. Sectional charts are 1:500,000 or 7 nm per inch. WAC charts are 1:1,000,000 or 14 nm per inch. Sectionals are replaced every 6 -months as are area charts. Where TACs occur in sectionals they are outlined in white. WACs do not carry airport communications information or Classes D or E airspace. MTRs are not shown either. TACs are used to clarify the separation of Classes B, C, and D airspaces.

To fly without a chart or an out-of-date chart is an FAR violation since you do not have all available information. This only becomes a factor when something else attracts the FAA's attention. Pilots should have VFR charts available. Every color, number and mark on a sectional is significant. I do not believe it is possible to know all the ramifications that exist on a sectional. Even keeping up with the changes is daunting. The more complex the area the more likely it is that there will be errors. Your flying proficiency is directly related to knowing your charts.

Runway lights
AIM 2-3-3 presents threshold stripes for IFR runways such that 4 stripes = 50', 6 = 75', 8 = 100', 12 = 150'16 = 200'. Touchdown zone marks are 500' from beginning of threshold lights. I50' long aiming point marks are 1000' from beginning of threshold lights. Edge lights are usually white but on IFR runway yellow exists on last 2000'. IFR centerline lights are red and white for the last 2000' and red for the last 1000'. Taxiway turnoff lights are now called taxiway leadoff lights and are alternating green and yellow from the runway centerline to the runway hold bar. The new obstruction lighting system is in the AIM 2-2-3

Land and hold short lights have pulsating white lights at the LAHSO point. The runway end lights are red toward the runway and green from the approach side. During low visibility stop-bar lights extend across the taxiway to warn of the hold short position they are called runway guard lights. Yellow clearance bar lights are at the holding position of some taxiways. An airport beacon with a green and two quick white flashes indicates a military airport. A beacon operating at a controlled airport during the daytime indicates that the airport is below VFR minimums either of visibility (3 miles) or a ceiling less than 1000'.

All Available Information
FAR 91.103 says, "Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. This includes weather, fuel, alternates, plane performance, runway/airport information, and possible delays. Radio frequencies, ATC services, terrain, airspace, and local services are not in the FARs but belong in your "All Available Information" kit. Materials such as the AIM require that you have a subscription to remain current. The FBO AIM will not satisfy the AAI requirement. Materials are available for on site use at all ATC facilities.

First get your charts, a World Aeronautical Chart is good for planning long trips, a sectional set is required but not mentioned specifically in the FARs, a VFR Area chart is required by FAR if you plan to fly in, under, or over Class B airspace. The first planning step is to draw a course line on the WAC and then transfer it over to your Sectionals and Area Charts.

Using these course lines you are ready to locate any Special Use airspace along the route to note minimum altitudes, hours of operation, and areas where extra precautions may be advisable. Use the Airport/Facility Directory and any available airport guide to get en route airport information to elaborate on the rather limited chart data. You could use 'Post-it's' but I prefer a black marker to give pattern altitudes and frequencies. This is a good time to get any special frequencies that are not normally available such as Center. You may need access to IFR charts for these as well as IFR approach/departure courses and altitudes. In low visibility conditions you must plan to avoid IFR routes.

All information from charts and publications may be out of date anywhere from thirteen days to six months. The accuracy of your information must be verified by getting all local and distant NOTAMs along the route. Local NOTAMS-L may not be available until you approach an area while airborne. NOTAMs are the latest valid information and may extend, cancel or replace any prior information that is printed.

While en route listen to Flight Watch on 122.0 or even on the following frequencies that are intended for high altitude aircraft but are available as an option to a pilot who is flying in isolated areas such as behind the Sierras; 135.7 Oakland, 135.92 Seattle, 133.02 Salt Lake, and 135.9 Los Angeles. Many VORs have weather broadcasts where the VOR information box has a small black square in the corner. TWEBs and HIWAS may be broadcast over navaids.

It is not against the FARs to fly while having out-of-date charts in the aircraft. You may even used them but if such use should cause an accident or an FAR violation. An additional action can be brought against you for not having current charts.

Aviation Charts (first)
The first charts were published in 1926 of the principle airways. They were long and narrow and extended only 40 miles to each side of the airway. 1 inch equaled 8 miles. (A sectional has 1 inch to 7.8914 miles). Water was colored blue, cities yellow, railroad black and highways white. Airports were red circles. Sea level land was dark green, at 1000' it became |light green, at 2000' light brown, above 3000' darker brown. The charts were useful but so narrow that any diversion for weather could fly you off the map.

A chart will not tell you where you are unless you know where you are. Not knowing where you are is the one of most stressful things that can happen in flying. Reading a chart under stress is not likely to be a successful situation.  The universal use of GPS will affect the use of charts.  Chart reading skills will deteriorate.

Reading the Sectional
Open the San Francisco Sectional and locate the lower left corner that has 36-degrees with 125-degrees below and to the right. Now fold the chart so that only ocean is visible except at the upper right corner which shows Point Reyes. Leave the Legend to the right out flat as you not that the vertical line is not straight but has a slight curve. The bottom line is also curved, as you should note by the width of the white margins. Note the caution box below the 125-degrees, related to uncharted hazards below 200 feet.

The 36-degree line is the degrees of Northern Latitude it is parallel to the 37-degree; line about 9 inches above. The top of the sectional goes slightly beyond the forty- degree; line of latitude or 40th parallel. The space between every degree on the sectional is divided into 60 divisions and each division is a nautical mile. This is true only on the vertical lines. There are sixty divisions between the vertical lines but they vary in distance from 48 to 45 nautical miles due to the tapering of the distance toward to pole. You never measure distance on the horizontal lines of latitude.

Vertically between 36-degree; and 37-degree; there are divisions and subdivisions. Half way between every degree either vertically or horizontally there is a full line marking the thirty-minute (30')or halfway point between degrees. It is very easy to confuse a 30' line with a degree line. Degree lines will have their numbers to the lower left at every interior intersection. Horizontally each nautical mile is one-minute. There are sixty minutes in every degree. From the degree line every five degrees has a marking that extends farther to the left; every ten degrees has a marking extending farther both left and right. Use of these subdivision markings makes it easier to count degrees.

Go back to the lower left corner of the sectional. Count up the 125-degree; line of west longitude or meridian five spaces. Mark this line and then repeat the process on the 124-degree; meridian. Use a straight edge to connect the two points with a line. This Line is knows as the 36-degrees 05' N. Go back to the left corner and count over on the 36-degree; parallel for 15 spaces and mark the crosshatch. Go up to the 37-degree; parallel and repeat the count and mark. Draw a vertical line between the two marks. This line is known as the 125-degree; 15' W line of longitude or is it the 124-degree; 45' W meridian. Which?

We have created a problem for ourselves. 36-degree; 05' N worked because we were counting toward 37-degree;. By counting from 125-degree; to the right we may tend to use the 15 count when it is actually the 45' point from 124-degree;. I deliberately tried to expose you to one of the most common errors in locating coordinates. You must always start your count for latitude from the bottom and the count for longitude from the right. The next most common error is in not using a long ruler to draw your lines. It is very easy to draw a line between two points that are not going to give a parallel line.

Where these two lines cross is a point that is unique in the world. 36-degrees 05' N-124-degrees; 45' W. Every place on the earth can be so identified and located. Locate Mt. Whitney near Death Valley and see what coordinates you get. Check with the coordinates given on the chart legend. Practice at least ten different locations by giving yourself coordinates that would be located on the San Francisco Sectional. Next mark at least ten airports on both sides of the sectional and determine the coordinates.

To locate a particular airport for which you do not have a designator. You can put the geographical coordinates into your Loran or GPS and the navaids will work just as well. Fifteen years ago I did this while going to Medford, Oregon from the Nut Tree. Crossing the threshold the Loran indicated 1/2 mile to airport center. (I taught LORAN in WWII)

The quadrangles bounded by the ticked lines are but 1/4 of the area in a degree square. It isn't a square or a rectangle but it does measure 60' to a side. Every quadrangle is 30 nautical miles high but the width is quite variable. Call them wreckedangles? Each figure that has land has a highest known obstruction elevation. The given figure is rounded upward to the next hundred and then an additional hundred is added. Maximum elevation figures on a sectional have a fudge factor to account for possible errors. After rounding any elevation to the next highest hundred, another hundred is added. In mountains an additional 300' is added. These margins may only partially correct for altimeter setting errors. You are required by FAR to have an altimeter setting from within 100 miles. The closer the setting location the better.

The sectional aeronautical chart is essential to all forms of visual navigation. Your eyes use a comparison of land features to chart features to determine how relationships compare. When comparisons match, you know where you are.

A sectional is aligned to true north. The Lambert Conical Projection of the chart makes all straight lines very nearly the direction you fly before figuring in isogonic variation and deviation. This works very well when you know that the winds given by the FSS and Weather Bureau are also measured by direction from true north.

The lines of longitude and latitude on the sectional divide it into a series of wrecked-angles (sic) with 30 ticks marked on each side. Only the north-south ticks can be used for distance measuring since the lines of latitude are parallel. Each wrecked-angle has a Maximum Elevation Figure, which, within 100', tells the MSL altitude required to over fly all obstacles.

Within many wrecked-angles the topography is shown in eight colors which shade from green to dark brown to indicate altitude. Most chart symbols resemble earth features. Small roads are shown only when deemed useful for navigation. Fly with the chart open and pointed in the direction you are going. In each quarter of a degree depicted there is a maximum elevation figure. In most areas this figure is rounded to the next higher 100' but in mountainous areas it is rounded to the next higher 100' plus an additional 300'.

Airports are either magenta (uncontrolled) or blue (controlled). It is important that the pilot become totally familiar with the chart legend as it applies to information available at the airports and through the use of radios. Airspace depiction is shown by types of line/color combinations to cover Classes B, C, D, E, and G. It is illegal to fly without a current chart for the area.

The Hazardous In-flight Weather Advisory Service is broadcast over VORs that have a Small solid square in the lower right corner of the VOR information box.

Arcata, California VOR gives TWEBs or Transcribed Weather Broadcasts about route information, NOTAMs and special information. A solid circle around a white T in the upper left corner of the VOR box shows this ability. (Changed as of 2005)

The altitude of your transponder mated encoder is always based on 29.92 and computer adjusted for the ATC read-out. Nothing you do to your altimeter will make a difference in what ATC sees. Every new radar controller is required to confirm your cockpit altimeter setting to compare with his read-out.

World Aeronautical Charts (WAC)
WACs have half the scale of Sectional Charts so the price is cheaper for the area depicted. Class B and C airspace is only outlined without altitudes. Class D and Class E surface (CZ of non-tower) is not shown at all. Space limits have eliminated many obstacles, towns, and frequencies. Maximum elevation figures (MEF) cover 60 nautical mile wrecked angles (sic). WACs are best for fast airplanes or for long flight planning. (Required Practical Test Knowledge-frequent oral test question) WAC charts show MOAs but do not show MTRs. The width of a MTR can vary up to ten miles to each side. See AIM 3-41 +.

Class Bravo Airspace
Expect to pay a landing fee if landing at a Class B airport. Wake turbulence and extensive taxiing to expensive parking is to be expected. If you do not have the rating and equipment for flying into Class B you can expect to hear from the FAA. FAR 91.129 gives the operational requirements. Most of the large Class B airports do not allow student operations. A student endorsement is required in those Class Bs that allow student operations. You cannot enter Class b unless your are given a clearance.

FAR 91.131 requires you to have an encoding transponder. Your transponder will warn TCAS equipped aircraft of your location and proximity. VFR aircraft are not required to have a VOR but you will be expected to abide by any headings and altitudes assigned regardless of your altitude and location. You are usually free to select your own route and altitude below Class B but you should advise ATC of any changes you Class C or D field that will give the same amenities at far less cost. At any unfamiliar airport you should request progressive taxi instructions. Prior to departures in underlying Class B airspace you will be given specific instructions as to direction and altitude restrictions. Readback all such restrictions as they occur. FAR 91.117 limits speeds below Class B to 200 knots or slower. Speed in Class B has an upper limit of 250 knots.

I have yet to find a reason to fly into a Class B airport. There is always an underlying information and make sure that you understand what is expected.

Controlled Airports
I like to think that avoiding airports where you lack competence is a sign of good judgment. I have never flown into SFO. I've never had a reason and haven't looked for one. I have been into Boston's Logan but I did not feel welcome. Meigs field in Chicago was an unhappy experience because of the management. They had me park in a jet tiedown at $60 per night in a C-150 after they delayed giving me fuel until after closing time. All, very deliberate.

The basic rule is that you should not fly into a situation for which you are neither knowledgeable nor trained. Training would teach you to study the airport diagrams, checkpoints for call-up, arrival routes, and post-landing procedures. Frequencies including those of clearance delivery, the most likely unfamiliar procedure, are organized in anticipated order. You may want to rehearse or even write down what you expect to say. Expect to copy some sort of arrival and departure clearance procedure with a read-back for an accuracy check. Your ability to listen is going to be just as important as your talking. Small aircraft are an endangered species around large aircraft.

A week ago, 10-10-98, I flew into Santa Ana's John Wayne Airport in the L.A. Basin. Cloud altitudes and poor visibility and unfamiliarity made the use of ATC assistance very necessary. We found that one one runway at Santa Ana was in use. The G. A. runway was under repair.  IFR would have meant extensive delays and routing.

By opting for a VFR arrival we had more pilot control of our options. Our First choice was to remain on top of the clouds at 4,500 as long as we could. The limiting factor of this decision was the need for an area large enough for a VFR descent below the clouds. We found and used such a hole some 15 miles from the airport. In addition to vectors we used GPS to retain our situational awareness.

As we neared the airport we were told to circle some four miles to the north while awaiting instructions. After two or three turns we were given a heading and told to fly directly over the airport and tower to make a left downwind to the runway. We were filtered in between two airliners for our landing.

Two days later our departure was arranged quite contrary to our VFR requests. We were told to climb to 8500 and proceed VFR through the Class B airspace on a 310-degree heading. We had requested VFR through the
corridor at 4500. The higher altitude made us fly into stronger headwinds but avoided much heavy traffic both in weight and numbers.

As we departed Class B we descended and turned to get more favorable winds. Several years previously we had been forced to fly completely around the Class B airspace on an IFR flight to the same destination.  Interesting how choices can make such a large difference.

Don't expect a welcome mat if you're flying a C-150. An arrival at a major airport of a C-150 could back up traffic for miles. Coming into Class B airspace requires a clearance, an encoding altimeter and communications equipment. Be sure you know the procedure for making transponder code changes as well as the proper terminology. You are probably VFR so you must remain clear of clouds and have three mile flight visibility. Your greatest aircraft hazard is from behind.

Follow all instructions as precisely as you can. If in doubt, get clarification. When you need help ask for it. Don't loiter. Such instructions as 'hold short' must be read back. As a stranger, it might be wiser to read back everything every time. Expect to hear changes in your instructions. Keep ATC advised of your flight conditions. Allow plenty of room so ATC will have time to make adjustments. Course changes are usually easier for ATC to make than altitude changes.

Towered Procedures
As a local or unfamiliar pilot you must be aware of what is changing, different, and unfamiliar. Local NOTAMS are required reading. Airports are like the weather, always changing. Airports with precision approaches have approach lighting systems of 2,400 to 3,000 feet with red lights to each side of the threshold outside of the white lights. The extended white lights hare a single line of sequenced flashing white lights. (ALSF or SSALR) Non-precision approaches may have MALSR systems with white lights and flashing red centered on the runway. Most lights have variable intensities that are controlled by the tower or by the pilot when the tower closes.

VASI and PAPI lights are guides to the visual approach slope. The more red showing, the lower the aircraft is on the approach slope. Any flight below the slope is intruding on obstacles and is contrary to FARs. REIL lights are white
strobe lights that show each side of the threshold. Runway edge lights on instrument runways are white, yellow or red depending on the amount of runway remaining. Blue lights show the edges of taxiways while green show the middle of taxiways. Red stop bar lights across a taxiway centerline are runway hold short indicators. Never cross stop bar lights until they are turned off and an ATC clearance says to proceed.

When taxiing in an unfamiliar situation you should read back all taxi instructions and get directions if any part of an instruction is unclear. Night taxiing should keep strobes and landing lights off for the benefit of other aircraft until cleared for takeoff. ATC is required to get a 'hold-short clearance read back from you but good practice is to read back every taxi clearance.

Class D Airport Patterns and Procedures
Except for traffic conditions where ATC (Air Traffic Control) has override powers, airport pattern directions, and altitudes are decided by local jurisdictions.

Class-D Airport Departures
From a single runway there are nine standard departures that may be requested if there are no special considerations. If departures can be made from both ends then we have a total of eighteen. If left traffic is standard there are two of these eighteen that need not be requested. They are the two left standard (45 degree) departures, one from each end.

1. If no request is made you are expected to make a left standard departure. The tower may ask for confirmation of as standard departure just to make sure.

At Runway You Can Request...
1. straight out
2. left crosswind
3. left downwind
4. left 270
5. right standard
6. right crosswind
7. right downwind
8. right 270
9-101  On course to any place in the world.

...on course (destination) may be appended to any of these. You can optionally just say request left/right turn on course (destination) The advantage of naming a destination is that other aircraft are given a more specific idea of the flight line you will be flying. A low visibility or weather related departure would be to request a climb in the pattern.

Typical call would be..."Podunk tower Cessna 1234X ready 32 request right 270 on course Lost Hills" No punctuation should be used in talking or writing airplane.

Class-D Airport Arrivals
To a single runway there are seven standard arrivals. There are two non-standard arrivals that are relatively hazardous. If no special considerations interfere any of the seven may be requested. If the pattern direction is known a 45 degree entry into the pattern need not be requested. However, the tower must be advised that you will report right or left downwind. As a standard procedure, except for the downwind entries, all other arrivals require a two-mile report unless otherwise advised. The purpose of the report is to allow the tower time to locate you and plan a safe sequence for your arrival.

--straight in
--right base
--right downwind
--right standard (45)
--left base
--left downwind
--left standard (45)
--direct entry to left downwind (not recommended)
--direct entry to right downwind (not recommended)
The arrival of Brite Radar Display has raised the ante...
--ATC may want you to report on the 45 to any arrival runway.
--An additional change in preferred radio is to mention the ATIS in the last two words of your call-ups to both tower and ground.

All of these can be modified by pilot request or ATC suggestion. A modified entry may be at other than a precise number of degrees relative to the runway. I recently heard an aircraft over the airport request and be approved for an overhead arrival. Ask and you may receive.

A typical call might be..."Podunk tower Cessna 1234X the dump at 2100   request right base 32 will report two-mile base with Alpha" Again, no punctuation should be used when writing or talking airplane.

The standard 45 entry has some dimensions that can be used to standardize a landing approach. The ideal towered runway is about 5000', close to a mile. Entering on a 45 and aiming at the runway threshold and turning downwind at mid field would place the aircraft a half-mile from the runway and a half-mile from abeam the numbers. Flying from the numbers to the 'key position would be another half-mile. Base would be a half-mile as would the final. This gives the aircraft a two-mile landing procedure with the first half-mile for pre-landing procedures, the downwind extension for slowing, trimming and configuring the aircraft, the base leg for descent and setting the length of the final approach.

The two-mile reports for the straight in and base arrivals can be segmented much as the standard arrival and used to organize your landing procedures.

Two-mile reports
(Some facilities do not use the two-mile report as a standard.)
The two mile report should be 'measured' from the runway threshold. the 'measuring can be done for the straight-in by using a known site directly in line with the runway or by using a call that says abeam (beside) a known site. The last recourse is to visualize the runway flipped toward you two times. If you use GPS, you should know the point on the airport used as its position and adjust your GPS reading and two-mile report accordingly.

The two-mile base reports can be done much the same as the straight in except for the use of the runway flips. Your entry line should be aimed at a point anywhere from a quarter to a half-mile before the threshold.

There is an instance where the 45 entry and two-mile reports can and do present pilots with illusions that can affect their airport arrivals and landings.  All 45 entries should be aimed at the landing runway numbers.  This entry provides best separation of 45-degree departures. A pilot using the 45 entry at a runway of 3000' or less should plan to turn downwind abeam the departure end. Flying to midfield before turning will reduce all the flight segments to 1/4 mile. The best way to see this effect is to compare the pattern of a 5" drawing and a 3 inch drawing of a 45 entry. The best advice I have for flying a pattern at a small or unfamiliar small airport is to keep the downwind twice as far as you think you should and you will be about right.

Where parallel runways exist, any requested departure may be restricted by ATC until they authorize a turn for reasons of conflicting traffic. At any airport, a particular departure may by limited because of terrain, noise abatements, or local considerations where turns are only allowed after reaching a particular point or altitude. Every airport will usually have a place where the preferred or prohibited flight procedures are explained and/or illustrated.

Intersecting runways make possible restricted clearances to land. The restriction most often requires the pilot to land and hold short of the intersecting runway. A pilot should not accept such a clearance unless able to comply.

Air Traffic Control
Control is force-backed illusion. The force of the FAA is politely applied by the controller and by pilots at non-towered airports. The pilot has an average of 75 hours to learn the control factors at airports. A controller takes two years to be turned loose. If taxiing is the last flight skill fully acquired by pilots, then radio procedures are the last talking skill awaiting mastery.

The proper use of the radio allows a pilot to prevent trouble from raising its ugly head and avoids trouble when it affects your flight path. Proper use of the radio requires both flight and ground awareness of airspace and ground-space. You can't see the airspace but need to acquire knowledge of it by reference to charts. You can see ground-space by knowing the signage and line color symbolism painted on the airport. One of the more recent changes is the solid/broken line used to show movement areas (required communications) and non-movements areas (no required communications).

In October 2003 an under-pavement sensor and remote radio using the Marker Beacon in the aircraft.  Marker Beacon volume must be up for the pilot to hear the message that gives the location of the aircraft on the airport.  Concord CA Buchannan Field is one of the first airports testing out this system for avoiding runway incursions.

As a proficient pilot you must be able to use the traffic pattern indicators at an airport to determine the landing runway indicators as well as the direction to make your turns. This information is available both on charts and by airport overflights. Correct interpretation of the available information is essential to safety. The system is supposed to allow aircraft to arrive at the airport and enter the pattern in such a way as to avoid conflict with other aircraft. A pilot by using the FAA preferred arrival and pattern system has no assurance that other pilots are doing the same and therein lies the problem. Not all pilots follow the suggested pattern and make many 'legal' variations including straight-in arrivals.

The 'legal' though not 'preferred' airport arrivals cause problems for those who fly both the legal and preferred arrival and pattern. Use of the radio is a preventive but not a 'cure' for such situations. Those who make non-standard arrivals and patterns are quite likely not to use the radio as well. It is rather contradictory that the FAA should fail to exercise its control authority over this focal point of aircraft accidents while asserting itself in less contentious places. The conformists can only be watchful and accept the probable existence of the non-conformists in aviation and at this airport.

You should never accept as gospel what a pilot says about where he is, what he doing and what he is going to do. Leave margins to allow for the unexpected. Standardize your own pattern and approach procedures to the point that you can adjust for the non-preferred activities of another aircraft.

A Pattern to Patterns
The greatest single flying feat that combines all the skills of flying is the airport pattern. Every action is part of a greater plan to avoid and minimize potential difficulties. When an FAA preferred pattern is flown with appropriate radio communication the probabilities of a conflict problem are reduced. The pilot is presumed to have the greatest visual spread toward avoidance of other aircraft as well as physical avoidance.

Unverified Method for Visual Estimation of Ground Distance
The ground visible just in front of the cowling is approximately the same number of miles in front of you as your altitude in thousands of feet. That is to say at 3,000 feet the ground that is jut disappearing under the nose is about 3 miles away.

Each pilot should use this several times over known objects and distances to develop parameters that work for the way you sit in the cockpit.

Airport Operations
Airport Types
--A pilot is expected to know how to perform as required for any of the four major types of airports.
--Each Airspace type has specific equipment minimums, radio requirements and pilot requirements.
--Some airspace classes will change according to the ATC operation in effect.
--By knowing the proper rules to follow, a pilot can go anywhere with the proper ratings and aircraft.

Air Space Classes
--Class A No airport reaches into this airspace.

--Class B This airspace is like an up-side- down wedding cake several pieces removed from separate layers. Every aircraft must be cleared into this airspace with an airspace specific clearance. VFR traffic is
allowed to fly with (three) mile flight visibility and clear of clouds. Aircraft are required to have an encoding transponder and ability to use and maintain radio communications. ATC provides radar advisories, separation and sequencing. Special VFR for fixed wing aircraft not usually allowed. The dimensions of Class B vary widely as to surface footprint and maximum altitude. Every area of the cake has a numerical specification at to the top and bottom altitude.

--Class C Distinction between this class and Class B is that minimum radio contact is required along with the VFR visibilities and cloud clearances. Special VFR clearances can be given. Aircraft are required to use a mode-C transponder under, over and when in Class C-airspace. Once radio communication has been established the pilot can reject radar advisories. (Not a good idea) Aircraft are required to have radio, transponder and VOR capability. Like Class B the dimensions vary widely. Every area of the cake has a numerical specification at to the top and bottom altitude.

--Class D This airspace has a variety of dimensions but are usually 4.1 miles in radius and 2500 feet AGL.  Some Class D airspace has radar screens, some are operational only part time and others will have seven to one active controllers at a time. Many Class D airspace airports will be NFCT. This means a non-federal control tower exists supported by the local government but with all the powers and authority of ATC.

Knowing the Runway (Opinion)
Here's something my instructor just showed me. It works well and you can do it without much of putting your head in the cockpit.
1. When you get an assigned runway, set the OBS indicator to that runway (if you get 30 set the VOR to 30).
2. When you get the pattern (say left circuit) move the OBS to indicate left of 30.
3. If you get right circuit move the OBS to indicate just right of 30.
4. If, on take off, you get maintain runway heading, leave the OBS indicator exactly on 30. You then only need glance at the OBS to determine what you are supposed to be doing (right, left or maintain runway heading.

The Long and Short of Runways
Why do sectional's use 8,069 feet as the number to use to distinguish "long" hard-surfaced runways (> 8,069 feet) from shorter ones (1,500 ft to 8,069 feet)? I mean, why not 8,000 feet? Or 8,100 feet?

I knew the answer to this on a checkride and my examiner was astonished. It's one of those useless bits of trivia, but the answer is simple: that is the maximum size the runway can be before its physical length exceeds the 'resolution' of the sectional. Or, put another way, the runways would be so 'long' that the chart symbol blobs (magenta or blue) would not be large enough to depict them without overrunning the edge of the circle. How they got the resolution down to the exact foot is a question I can't answer, however.
Second Opinion
I have a guess as to how they “got it to the exact foot.” The FAA rounds runway lengths using 70 as the rounding point. For example, an 8069 foot runway is charted as 8000 feet. An 8070 foot runway is charted as 8100 feet. So they did not “get it to the exact foot,” rather they got it to the closest 100 foot increment. Tyson

Review Of the Different ATC Services:
1. Flight Service. Open and close VFR flight plans. File flight plans in the air. Address them as "Dallas RADIO Cessna 45ST on 122.X". Get the frequency from above the box with the VOR info.

2. Flight Watch. ALWAYS 122.0. Get Weather and give PIREPS. Address them as "Dallas Flight Watch Cessna 45ST ". ALWAYS Tell Flight Watch your location as nearest VOR.

3. Approach and Departure. Get the frequency off Approach Plates, IFR en route chart, AF/D and sometimes off the Sectionals and of course from most aviation GPS database. Towers or FSS can give you frequencies. Their job is primarily handling IFR flights. But if you want traffic advisories from a class C or B area, this is who you want to talk to. Address them with "Dallas Approach Cessna 63ST, request.. When you get a response give all pertinent information regarding your flight such as type of aircraft, equipment suffix, location, altitude and destination.

4. When there is no Approach or Departure, which is the case when you are not near a large airport, you use Center. Their primary job is IFR flights, but if you want traffic advisories in their area, they are the ones you talk to. Address them as "Dallas Center and proceed as with approach/departure. Only major restriction out west will be the higher altitudes required to communicate.

5. Tower. Frequency is on the charts, AF/D, Approach Plates. If you are leaving B, C or D airspace they can usually give you the frequency for flight following, which will be approach for that area.

6. Ground. Freq is in the AF/D, Approach Plates. Ground clears you on the ground to the runway. At some B and C and D airports, ground may act as clearance delivery. This is for IFR flights and may be for VFR flights also. Local procedures vary. Listen to the ATIS or ask around.

7. Clearance Delivery. Busy airports don't want to clutter up their ground freq with clearances, so they have clearance delivery. Usually the freq is in the ATIS. This is where IFR flights get their clearance, and VFR flights are sometimes requested to use this also. Local procedures vary. But VFR this is where you will get your squawk code and any departure frequency. The departure frequency is, well, Departure as described above. Don't switch to departure until Tower tells you to.

Practices vary from airport to airport. If in doubt ask. Almost any of the services will know how to get you to the frequency you need if you tell them WHO you are, WHERE you are, and WHAT you want to do. If you get totally confused about which frequency to use, call Flight Watch. They are the most casual bunch and will look up the frequency you need. Word is they are mostly pilots who like to sit around, drink coffee, watch the weather and yack on the radio. I've found them fairly friendly.
Doug (with minor corrections by GW)

About Towered Airports
--A downwind arrival to a runway via a 45° entry is standard and should stated as what you will do at CCR.
--Straight-in and base arrivals must be requested and require that a two-mile report be made at CCR.
--A part-time towered airport becomes non-towered airport when the tower closed.
--Towered airports have ATC controllers and required radio use both for entering and leaving the airspace.
-- ATC can authorize operations by non-radio aircraft and there are provisions for radio failure as well.
--Tower controllers are very highly trained listeners. Do not 'punctuate' your radio communications with pauses.

--All movement in Class D airspace and ground space has either specified or implied clearances.
--An example of an implied clearance is taxi instructions where the word 'cleared' is not used.
--Once you have been stopped by ATC from crossing a runway a 'clearance' is required before you cross though it will not include the word cleared.
--A 'clearance' is a transfer of accountability. What you do is at your own risk.
--Seek clarification if any doubt exists as to what you are expected to do.
--An example of a specified clearance is when 'cleared' for takeoff or landing.
--Airport safety is dependent on pilot awareness based upon visual and radio information.
--In the air visual awareness is enhanced by ability to see and knowing where to look.
--The second enhancement to awareness is knowing aircraft locations by what is said on the radio.
--When using the radio with ATC it is wise to talk as though to other aircraft by giving your location and altitude.

--A pilot should become familiar with the airport lighting systems prior to arrival.
--Uncommon lights are green taxiway centerline lights, yellow clearance bar lights and flashing runway guard lights.
--Red lights across a taxiway called stop bar lights are never to be crossed when on regardless of clearance.
--The centerline of a taxiway is a single yellow line while the taxiway edge lines are double-yellow lines.
--Never stop on an active runway to request taxi assistance.
--At unfamiliar airports use taxiway charts and make a practice of requesting progressive taxi instructions.
-- When requesting progressive taxi instructions, have a pencil and pad ready. Don't hesitate to ask them to slowdown or repeat all after…
--Do not use strobes while on the ground to avoid blinding others in the vicinity.

--Do not change from tower frequency to ground when landing until across the hold bars of the taxiway even when told to change while still on the runway. At complex airports some taxiways are tower controlled.
--Do not exit on an intersecting runway without having approval of ATC.
--A yellow sign with a black horizontal 'ladder' is a warning that failure to pass well clear to assure ILS use required
--If you do not understand the signage ask ATC for clarification or instructions
--A red sign with a white circle and white - in the middle forbids entry to the area.

Runway Patterns
--The standard pattern is to the left because PICs sit on the left side of airplanes
(But why pilots sit on the left side is really, "The rest of the story.".
--Standard departure turns are usually made at a locally prescribed altitude and direction. ATC can adjust.
--Using the mile long runway as a unit of measure the 45-degree; arrival aimed at the landing threshold will turn downwind 1/2 mile from the runway, fly a half-mile to abeam the numbers, extend the downwind for 1/2-mile, fly a 1/2-mile base leg and turn for a 1/2 mile final.
--A shorter runway may require that the downwind turn be made at the departure end to give the standard 2-mile pattern used at many airports..
--The ATC expectation of you to call a 2-mile final or base arrival is predicated that you have a standard landing procedure based upon the 2-mile pattern.
--Airport restrictions on pattern altitude, size and direction are in compliance with local government regulations.
--Within some federal limits noise regulations are locally controlled.
--Signage on the airport is used to inform pilots of the local stipulations.
--As with most laws, ignorance of the FARs or local regulations or procedures is never an excuse.
--The 'experienced pilot' is the one most likely not to seek 'local' information

The Unusual
--ATC can tell aircraft to do many specific pattern maneuvers to facilitate the movement of aircraft.
--Request clarification whenever you are in doubt as to ATC's meaning.
--As PIC you can decline any ATC procedure that endangers the flight by declaring an emergency.
--You can request a change in any ATC instruction that you feel presents a hazard.
--The inexperienced pilot is least likely to admit unfamiliarity.
--Learn and have available a light gun chart. Under stress, memory is an unreliable resource.
--Always respond to or read back instructions.
--Aircraft recognition by pilots is a major consideration when told to follow, locate, or avoid other aircraft.
--Common ATC airport terminology includes but is not limited to
"hold short, cross and hold short, hold, extend downwind, will call your base, square your turn to…, widen to follow…, go-around, turn base, turn when able, follow, report, make short approach, change to…, rollout…,
cleared for the option, make r/l 360, make r/l 270, turn l/r to heading, advise when…, say altitude, say intentions,
squawk, report. cleared to…, expedite…, extend…, change to…, advise when…, maintain runway heading (no wind correction), traffic, turn, …

--ATIS, ASOS and AWOS usually have both phone and radio access.
--Distance limitation of all ATC G.A. frequencies are line of sight.
--The AF/D has both phone numbers and frequencies. Charts have only selected frequencies.
--Good flight planning includes getting and organizing both departure and arrival frequencies.
--Always pre-set radios ahead of time for what comes next.

A Better Method for Folding Charts
You might want to try the following link.

It shows the method described below.

First, unfold the chart and lay it flat. Now, fold the chart the long way. In other words, fold it so it is still 3+ feet long, but only 10 or so inches high. Still with me? Now, starting at the left side, fold the chart along the creases in alternating directions. So, make the first fold "over", the next fold "under", etc. If anyone is still with me, your should now be able to open your chart to any location the same as you would open a book. This is great for east/west flights. Like I said, it means you only get one side of the chart...but if you buy two copies of the chart, then you always have one ready to go for the side you are on. And it is SO much easier to keep track of in flight.  
Kevin Thorley
Open an old sectional out until one flat sheet.
Suggest you run a sample marker line diagonally across the entire chart
Fold it into half lengthwise. Crease
Start at the left end and accordion fold all the way to the right side.
You can now use the folds like pages of a book to follow the line.
You never need more than two of the folds open at a time.
At the halfway point you flip the book over.
Try it, you'll like it.

To do a complete sectional you will need two of them. One for each side.

How to Arrive at an Airport
Thank you for asking the question. I the past two weeks I have taken two pilots through my recommended procedure for making a 45 entry to a given runway. There are several variables that affect the ease for making the 45. One is the radio procedure; 2) type of airport; 3) local procedures and terrain; 4) aircraft equipment and 5)wind direction and velocity.. This is not a situation where one size fits all

I would suggest that you make a runway with chalk on pavement. Give it a runway number and practice using the information below as you walk and talk your way through the arrival procedures. Second time through I would suggest you talk as though on the radio. You can greatly improve your learning efficiency by using a tape recorder during all your ground and flight work. Once can be plugged into the intercom and record without any engine noise.

The AIM has as the standard departure from a runway as being a right/left 45 after passing the departure end of the runway at altitudes determined by local agencies. When entering you should aim at the arrival end of the runway. This gives the best arrival/departure separation and visibility of traffic.

Towered airports may not have 45 entries but ATC can pretty much do what it wants even ignoring local regulations if the situation warrants. Patterns with tower closed may be different. You can practice making a 45 at most Class D airports by over-flying above their airspace. Start about ten miles out and aim at the numbers. For left traffic the extended runway will be to your left, for right traffic to your right. Confirm that your heading indicator is properly set. If you have a heading-bug put it on the runway number. Your heading indicator has 45-degree markers. When you are entering of a 45-degree entry aimed at the landing numbers the runway number will be on the left/right 45-degree heading marker.

On downwind the runway number will be straight down. On base the runway number will be 90-degrees to your left or right depending on pattern direction. On final the runway number and the heading number will be the same. ATIS information, ATC instructions, traffic, and other conditions may affect the pattern you get.

Non-towered airports present a completely different set of variables. You, the pilot become the controller. You are expected to use the radio to give your identification, position, altitude and intentions. This information is given somewhat differently several times.

With or without AWOS or ASOS, with or without a UNICOM advisory, or getting information from local traffic can make a difference in what you say during initial call-up. In any event you start listening on the CTAF frequency. What you hear determines what you will do and what you will say.; The generic fail safe call-up would be the name of the airport, aircraft identification, location, altitude, and your intention to over-fly the airport at an altitude prior to landing. The selected altitude should be at least twice pattern altitude.

When you arrive over the airport you use the knowledge you have beforehand or circle the windsock to determine the wind favored runway. At this point you again give your identity, location and intention to depart outbound on a right/left 45 for landing on runway.

At this point I will forego any further radio work and go into the entry procedure for making a 45-degree entry to an airport runway.

In your flying toolkit you need several skills.
You must understand that there is a unique inter-relationship between all the numbers that are90-degrees and 45-degrees from each other. Since runway directions are always rounded to the nearer 10 degrees the runway number always drops the final zero. Also any 45-degree angle from a runway heading will always end in 5. With this knowledge you then put the fact that the sum of the digits are always equal and you can come up with the number you need If your runway is 25 (250=7) and you fly across the numbers at right angles. With the extended runway to your left you are heading 025=7 and with the extended runway to your right you are heading 205=7. For the right outbound 45 you add 45-degrees and get 295 = 7 You keep adding until you get a single digit. For the left outbound you subtract 45 and get 205. When you know you are going to an airport that may require a 45 entry, work it out before you get in the plane.

Next you must become skillful in the use of the course reversal.. A 180 is not a course reversal it is only a reversal of direction. The course reversal takes you back over the original track. The standard is a 90-degree turn in one direction with a 270-degree turn in the other. I suggest that you always verify your final direction by referring to the heading indicator before initiating the reversal. Your new 45-degree heading will be at the bottom of your heading indicator when outbound.. I generally like to initiate my 90-degree part of the reversal away from the airport. Doing this allows me more time to adjust for any adverse wind effects during the 270. I teach using the outbound 45 and the course reversals as a place and time to lose altitude so as to enter the inbound 45 at pattern altitude.

When and where you turn downwind from your entry can best be judged by the length of the runway. The AIM diagram must assume that you have a 5000’ runway because you appear to be flying a two-mile pattern. The first half-mile is from mid-field to abeam the numbers. If the runway length is closer to 3000’ you should turn downwind abeam the end of the runway to avoid a relatively small pattern. The downwind is where you do your pre-landing checklist. Reduce power at the numbers and maintain heading and altitude while trimming and adding flaps. Your momentum will carry you a half-mile downwind where you make your base turn. Base is where you can adjust your angle for being high or low due to wind effects. Adding flaps on base is determined by how you judge wind effect and the same applies to flaps on final.

The last major tool you need is precisely worded communications that are fully informative and a brief as Practical for traffic conditions.
--In the call up and every other communication is it important that the beginning and end of what you say has the name of the airport.

The full sequence might be:
--The Call-up alerts the field and pilots that you are coming.
--The call-up is initially directed to the CTAF base known as UNICOM.
--If UNICOM fails to reply essentially the same communication is directed to TRAFFIC.
–As before the call-up includes your identification, your location and altitude.
–-A location is much more precise than giving a direction.
--Giving your altitude and final descent altitude helps other aircraft.
--Respond to other aircraft as appropriate to confirm receipt and your intentions accordingly.
--The call-up should advise everyone of your intentions relative to arrival and pattern to be flown, or…
--If you intend to over fly the field say so along with the altitude you will maintain.
--Report over the field with your altitude, and intended descent and arrival procedure .
--Time your report so that you are crossing the numbers and turning outbound on the 45 at the same time.
--The arrival and outbound can also be two separate communications .
--Report on the inbound 45 along with your altitude if other than pattern altitude.
--Report on the right/left downwind along with the runway and any special landing planned.
--Report on base.
--Report final
--Report clear
–Make at least one full-stop taix-back landing
--Report any departure plans while clearing the airport airspace with a 360.turn.
--Always plan your departure so as to annoy as few neighbors as possible.

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