Airspace Lesson With Holley Gardel, Certified Flight Instructor

Jun 18, 2018


Airspace Lesson Holley Gardel Certified Flight Instructor

 Hello I'm Kenny Keller the creator of Helicopter Online Ground School. I recently had the opportunity to work with Holley Gardel from Zephyr Helicopter Company. Holley came to Indiana for an Enstrom Helicopter Transition and also her Helicopter Certified Flight Instructor rating.

     I was extremely impressed with Holley. I asked her several months in advance to please show up prepared for her training. Most people will tell you that their knowledge is good and all they really need to do is fly to prepare for their next rating. Normally within a few minutes of questioning I show them they are not as prepared as they thought they were!

     This was not the case with Holley. I asked her at the beginning of her two weeks of training to teach me a subject on the whiteboard so I could evaluate her knowledge! She picked one of the most diffifult subjects to teach. AIRSPACE!

     After she presented her lesson, I immediately asked her if she would be willing to let me film her presentation for our Helicopter Online Ground School Members. Also I wanted to highlight what it looks like when someone shows up prepared to work on a Certified Flight Instructor Rating. 

     It's about being a teacher. It's about flying to a commercial standard and talking at the same time. She did exactly that. I have decided to share her presentation with you. Airspace is hard for most all of us to learn. Also hard to keep it fresh as a rated pilot! This is great review no matter if you are just starting out or refreshing your knowledge!

Airspace Lesson Holley Gardel Certified Flight Instructor

Airspace can be kind of a daunting subject because there's so much information. You've got size and shape. You've got weather minimums, requirements. You have sectional depictions. I'm going to give a general overview of airspace today using this visual diagram that my good friend and fellow whirly girl, Ronnie Bogart, helped me put together. I would suggest maybe after watching the video one time, going back and watching it again and building your own diagram using something like this that you can use as a study guide. It's pretty nice. It's got, basically, a little bit of everything that you need to understand the airspace system.

The way this is laid out, airspace vertically and airspace when we're looking at ... Controlled airspace versus uncontrolled airspace. A, B, C, D and E are considered controlled airspace. Class G is uncontrolled. Class A airspace is from 18,000 MSL to 60,000 MSL, also known as flight level 180. Class A is going to be for large aircraft that are travelling pretty fast, think commercial airliners. Pilots have to be IFR rated. Aircraft have to be IFR rated. We as helicopter pilots are not really going to see that airspace from the point of view of the cockpit, usually. Then moving on, we've got ... Again, this is from 18,000 to 60,000. Above 60,000, it reverts back to class E, which we'll get to in just a little bit.

 Airspace Lesson Holley Gardel Certified Flight Instructor 

 Then Class B, Class Bravo, think about large airports. B stands for busy. These are airports that are going to be around major hubs, like Dallas-Fort Worth, DIA, large airports that you fly in and out of that you'd be familiar with. It's shaped kind of like an upside down wedding cake, where you've got, you know, a smaller core toward the ground. The reason for this is if you're transitioning from airport to airport, then you don't necessarily have to be in Class B airspace. You can be in whatever airspace is designated below the lower limits here. Class B is ... There's a 30 nautical mile Mode C veil, from the service to 10,000 feet. That's what this red line depicts. If you're traveling within that 30 nautical mile Mode C veil, you need to have, in your aircraft, a Mode C transponder. VFR weather minimums for Class Bravo, 3 statute miles visibility, clear of clouds.

As far as regulations and equipment go, you do need a two-way radio, a transponder with Mode C capability and you need to be a private pilot, or a student pilot with endorsement, as far as pilot requirements go. If you're requesting clearance to get into Class Bravo and you tell them who are and they acknowledge you, even by your tail number, but they say, "Standby," they have not granted you clearance to enter. You need to wait to hear, "Cleared to enter," before you're actually able to enter that airspace. If you're getting close, then you need to do something else and wait until you've been acknowledged and been cleared, before you can get into Class Bravo. The way Class B is depicted on the sectional, it's a solid blue line. Here we've got Chicago O'Hare. You can see the different blue lines are representing the wedding cake configuration I was talking about. When you look at it from the center, you've got surface to 10,000 feet. As you move out here, you've got 3,000 to 10,000, 3,600 to 10,000, 4,000 to 10,000. Your Class Bravo airspace does not start in these outer circles until this lower limit of airspace that is depicted on the chart. The red line on the outside, that's your 30 nautical mile Mode C veil.

Moving on to Class Charlie. Class C are considered medium airport, generally a 10 nautical mile radius at the top part of the airspace designee, tailored to the airport size. Often it's going to be a 5 nautical mile radius at the core here. 10 nautical mile radius at the top level of the airspace. There's not a lot of Class Charlie airports, actually, in the US. If you look in the AIM, under airspace and under controlled airspace, there's a table in here that lists all of the Class C airspace areas by state, which tells you that there's really not that many of them. VFR weather minimums here, 3 statue mile visibility. You need to be able to see 1,000 feet above, 500 feet below and 2,000 feet horizontal, in terms of cloud clearance. As far as regulations and equipment go, you need a two-way radio, Mode C transponder and you have to establish communications with ATC.

Airspace Lesson Holley Gardel Certified Flight Instructor

 In this situation, if you are making a radio call as you are approaching the airspace and you've told them who are and they reply, "Helicopter requesting to enter. Standby," but they haven't given your N number, you have not established communications. Once they do say your N number, communications have been established and you can proceed. Vertically the limits are typically up to 4,000 feet AGL and for this inner core, you know, that goes to 1,200 feet AGL. 1,200 to 4,000 in the upper section of the airspace. Again, tailored to the airport size. It's not always going to be like that, but it's kind of a general guideline. On the sectional, it's going to be depicted as solid magenta. If we go back to the same sectional, you can see Chicago Midway is right in here. This depiction here with the T over the surface means that that airspace starts at the surface and it terminates at the floor of the Class Bravo that is overlying that Class Charlie. Again, you've got a couple different sections. The outer section starts at 1,900 and then it terminates at the floor of the overlying Class B airspace.

Class D airports are usually smaller airports, approximately 4 nautical mile radius, but tailored to size, again, for the size of the airport. Vertical limitations are generally 2,500 feet AGL. D, one of the things I think about is it's a drum shape, usually, on the sectional. It's dashed blue. All of those kind of go with the D. Just quick memory aids there. VFR weather minimums here, again, 3 statute mile visibility. 1,000 feet above, 500 feet below, 2,000 feet horizontal for cloud clearance. You'll see this 3, 1, 5, 2 here and there for abbreviations for that. Just an interesting note, why do you have greater cloud clearance above the cloud than below the cloud? Well, one reason, I think, is because when you are coming up through ... If you're flying through a cloud, if it's an airplane that is ... Can fly pretty fast and you're flying up there through the clouds, they're going to want to get up through the clouds pretty quickly, right? If you're on the top side of that and you don't anticipate it, you don't have very long to react if you don't know that that's going to happen. 500 feet below the cloud. Typically if somebody's going to be descending through a cloud, they're not going to be doing it really fast. You don't really know if you're going to encounter terrain, what else is on the other side of that cloud.

 Airspace Lesson Holley Gardel Certified Flight Instructor 

They may be going a little bit more slowly to come through the cloud. You may not need as much cloud clearance when you're beneath it. Regulations and equipment, two-way radio and established communications with ATC. Again, your N number has got to be acknowledged in order to have your communications established. On the sectional, dash blue. Drum shaped and dash blue, D. Those are all good memory aids. If we come back to the same sectional, we actually, in the same area, have a Class Delta airspace near Gary, Indiana. It's drum shaped. It is dash blue. You can see right here, if you look closely, the vertical limit of that airspace. It's up to and including 3,100 feet. If you look at this one and it's got a little minus sign in front of the number 4, 2. That means, vertically, it's Class Delta up to, but not including, 4,200 feet, versus the one that we just looked at. If you go back to that, this airspace is up to and including 3,100 feet.

This is where things get a little bit complicated. Class E. If it's controlled airspace and it's not Class A, B, C or D, then it's Class E. E stands for everything else when it comes to controlled airspace. Class E can either start at the surface. It can start at 700 feet AGL, or it can start at 1,200 feet AGL, or Class E is also this space between 14,500 MSL and the floor of Class A. It also exists above the ceiling of Class A. Above 60,000 feet MSL, or flight level 600, that's also Class E. VFR weather minimums, if you are below 10,000 feet AGL, it's 3 statute mile visibility, 1,000 feet above, 500 feet below, 2,000 feet horizontal. If you're above 10,000 feet AGL, then you're looking at 5 statute mile visibility, 1,000 feet above, 1,000 feet below and 1 mile horizontal. The reason for this, you're in controlled airspace. You're going to have jets, airplanes that are traveling at higher speeds. They're going to be at higher elevations. You need a little bit more time to react in order to see and avoid. As far as regs and equipment go, there are none. It is still controlled airspace.

What you'll find it ... We're going to get into Class G here in a minute, but you've got Class G ... If your airspace doesn't start at the surface, if Class E does not start at the surface, it starts at either 700 or 1,200 AGL, it's going to be Class G below that. On the surface, on a sectional, it's going to be depicted by a dash to magenta line. If it starts at 700 feet AGL, it's going to be kind of a grated magenta line. If it starts at 1,200 feet AGL, it'll be a grated blue line. Let's take a look at that on the sectional. Here we've got Class E starting at 700 feet AGL. On the hard side of this line, you still have Class G, until 1,200 feet. On the inside of this line, you've got Class G beneath 700 feet. Starting at 700 feet, you have Class E airspace.

 There are instances where Class E starts at the surface. You can see Class E surrounding this airspace, starts at 700 out here. As you get closer to the airport, it starts at the surface. The reason for that is for instrument approach, that it is controlled airspace. If aircraft or an instrument approach, that's going to go all the way to the ground because you need to, you know. You don't want to get in anybody's way. There needs to be separation between aircraft in that kind of situation. The last Class E depiction is where it is represented by a grated blue line. You don't see this everywhere. You will see it on sectionals out west. You're not going to find it everywhere. Class G exists below 1,200 feet here. Class E is overlying that Class G airspace. Starting at 1,200 and then up to, but not including 18,000 feet. Class E, again, picks up at 14,500 MSL and up to, but not including, 18,000 feet. You got Class G, with Class E on top of that. Then Class A above that.

Finally we're at uncontrolled airspace, Class G, general airspace. It's where a lot of us, as helicopter pilots, fly. VFR weather minimums for helicopters, now, consider that there are different VFR weather minimums for airplanes. We're going to focus on what we're looking at for helicopters. Below 1,200 feet AGL and regardless of MSL, during the day, half statute mile visibility, clear of clouds. At night, 1 statute mile visibility, clear of clouds. Something to note here, this has recently changed. If you have been studying airspace previously and you really thought you had it, used to just be clear of clouds. They've added in a half mile. Bring in one other visual aid here. If you look at this VFR weather minimums ... If you're looking at the FARs and you're looking for VFR weather minimums, basic VFR weather minimums in 91, 155. For helicopters, day and night, you'll see ... I don't know if you can see this here. You'll see this little black mark. What that indicates is that's new, as of the 2016 FAR/AIM. Last year that wasn't in there. If you ever see something like that when you're looking through your FAR/AIM, you can know that that's a new rule and that's something you should pay attention to.

This is a new rule. Then above 1,200 feet AGL, but below 10,000 feet MSL. During the day 1 statute mile visibility. 1,000 feet above, 500 feet below, 2,000 feet horizontal from clouds. At night, that visibility increases to 3 miles. Again, because at night, you need a little bit more time to react to things. Sometimes it takes you a little while to figure out what you're seeing out there, if an aircraft is coming toward you, if it's moving away from you, you need little bit more time to react. At night, that bumps up some. Above 1,200 feet AGL and above 10,000 feet MSL, during the day, 3 statute miles visibility, 1,000 feet above, 500 feet below, 2,000 feet horizontal. At night, that bumps up to 5 statute miles, 1,000 feet above, 1,000 feet below and 1 mile horizontal. Class G is not depicted on a sectional. As far as what you're seeing on a sectional, if it doesn't have any of these other markings, it's Class G. If you're flying Class G, don't forget. There's very likely airspace above you. You might be flying in and out of a Class G airport as a helicopter pilot, or you might be, for instance, where I am in Colorado. There's a lot of Class G airspace. That doesn't mean that another type of airspace doesn't exist vertically. You do need to pay attention to that.

Again, this is a pretty basic overview of the airspace system. Good to commit this stuff to memory. Make your own, kind of, memory aids, charts, whatever you need to use to study. Whether you use all this type of airspace or not, you're expected to know it. You'll find it on your knowledge exam. You'll find it in your oral exams. This is only Class A through G. This is not ... There's special use airspace, as well, which is a completely different topic. You also need to know that. Within each of these, there's always exceptions. You can dig into it further. If you have questions, specific questions about a specific kind of airspace that you're seeing on a sectional, or where you live, ask your CFI. This is a general rule, but it doesn't apply to every situation.

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