INTRODUCTION TO VFR FLIGHT
VFR LEAVING THE ZONE
In this section we will go into more depth on VFR flying. We will look into the following areas;
• VFR charts,
• Leaving and rejoining the zone
In the previous document we ran through how to plan for and complete a VFR flight within the circuit. This is the basics of VFR flying so please make sure you have a read here.
Pen and paper
WHAT IS THE ZONE?
The Zone, or more formally the ATZ (Aerodrome Traffic Zone) is a cylinder of airspace with a radius of 2nm to 2.5nm and 2000ft high, it is the surrounding airspace of an airport that is the responsibility of the tower controller. When we flew the VFR circuits in the previous document, we were always within the ATZ.
For this flight, we will be leaving the ATZ and travelling further afield.
It is strongly advised to have a look at the SkyDemon website here. SkyDemon is a free online interactive VFR chart that is very useful for VFR pilots. Although this may seem very confusing at a first glance, it really is quite simple when you know what you are looking for.
Within SkyDemon, have a look for London Heathrow with the purple block of airspace. When your mouse is hovered over the purple area, information relating to Heathrow airspace is then displayed as demonstrated below.
Below is the information decoded;
London CTR: This stands for London Control Region
Vertical; surface – 2500ft: This is the dimension of the CTR from the ground up to 2500ft
CLASS A: This means it is class A airspace
Radio Heathrow Radar 125.625: This is the frequency of the controller covering the area.
WHAT IS CLASS A AIRSPACE?
UK airspace is divided in to classes, VFR flight is permitted in the majority but there are some exceptions;
CLASS A Controlled airspace. No VFR permitted
No class B airspace in the UK
Only FL195 to FL660 (19500ft-66000ft)
VFR permitted with ATC clearance
VFR permitted with ATC clearance
VFR permitted without ATC clearance
VFR permitted without ATC clearance
Because Heathrow is Class A airspace, we are unable to fly VFR operations there.
There are other differences between classes of airspace but for the purposes of basic flight training we wont go in to much detail.
For the purpose of this demonstration our flight will be departing from Edinburgh.
Hovering the mouse over the purple block of airspace, we again see more detailed information relating to the airfield. Edinburgh airspace consists of the following;
• Extends from ground level to 6000ft
• Class D
• Responsible controller is Edinburgh Approach on 121.200
To the North-east of the ATZ is the Edinburgh CTA as shown below;
CTA stands for Control Area. The Control Area consists of the following;
• Extends from 2500ft-6000ft
• Class D Airspace
• Controlled by Edinburgh Approach on 121.200
Below 2500ft is uncontrolled airspace that is not the responsibility of a controller.
Now we have looked into SkyDemon for information relating to the different aspects of the airspace, we shall start planning our flight out of the zone.
Our flight will be departing Edinburgh and head towards St Abbs VOR (SAB) which is directly east of the airfield. After reaching St Abbs, we plan to rejoin the zone and return to Edinburgh. VORs are identifiable in SkyDemon as shown in the diagram below;
These are called VRP's (Visual Reference Points) which are landmarks at ground level used for navigation.
LEAVING THE ZONE
All VFR departures require an exit point to leave the zone. VRP entry and exit points are the responsibility of the pilot to decide, different points can be used as required. Our flight will depart via the Musselburgh VRP, fly direct to St Abbs VOR before rejoining via the Penicuik VRP.
Our route in SkyDemon should be similar to the diagram below;
Plan G should be similar;
PLAN G AND SKYDEMON ADVANTAGES
Plan G is excellent software for navigation but the information is taken directly from your
FS and subsequently is displayed in the American system. In the diagram above, there is a significant amount of Class B Airspace which as we mentioned before is non existent in
SkyDemon is superb for flight planning and obtaining crucial information required for your flight. Although this cannot be directly fed to your FS, it is useful to have a copy either on your screen or printed off.
Once we have taken off, we will fly towards the Musselburgh VRP while ensuring we climb no higher than 6000ft to remain in Class D Airspace. As we approach the Musselburgh VRP, if we are between 2500ft-6000ft we will be entering the active CTA. Providing we are below 2500ft at this point and between 3500ft-6000ft after Musselburgh we will be outside of controlled airspace, this is our plan for the flight today. When we are to St Abbs VOR, all controlled airspace will be behind us and no longer a factor.
On our return we will be routing towards the Penicuik VRP. At the point we are 22nm from St Abbs VOR, we are entering the Class D CTA which is active between 3500-6000ft. Even when we are below 3500ft, we must contact the ATC prior to reaching the VRP to request clearance into controlled airspace.
CONFIGURING PLAN G
Load up your FS and connect Plan G, When its connected you should see an aircraft icon on the moving map representing your aircraft.
Prior to contacting ATC, make sure you have filed your flight plan correctly;
• Indicate 'V' for flight rules.
• Insert the route; VRP/Musselburgh SAB VRP/Penicuik
Your callsign can be shortened on transmissions that are not initial call-ups or clearances.
PILOT: Edinburgh Tower, GABCD request radio check 118.700. ATC: GABCD, Edinburgh Tower, readability is 5.
PILOT: Roger, readability is 5 also.
PILOT: GCD is a Cessna 172, information Delta on board at the GA Apron, request taxi to the active to leave the zone.
ATC: GCD taxi holding point C1 for runway 06 via U, runway 30, L and A, QNH 1003. PILOT: Taxi holding point C1 for runway 06 via U, runway 30, L and A, QNH 1003, GCD.
Clearance to leave the zone is then issued at the holding point for the active runway.
ATC: GABCD, cleared to leave the zone via the Musselburgh VRP not above attitude
2500ft, VFR, QNH 1003 and squawk 0437.
PILOT: Cleared to leave the zone via the Musselburgh VRP not above altitude 2500ft, VFR, QNH 1003 and squawk 0437 GABCD.
ATC: GCD, Readback correct, report fully ready for departure. PILOT: GCD fully ready for deparure.
ATC: GABCD, surface wind 020' at 13 knots runway 06 cleared takeoff with a right hand turn out.
PILOT: Cleared for take off with a right hand turn out GABCD.
THE CLEARANCE BROKEN DOWN
''Cleared to leave the zone'' Cleared to leave the ATZ
''VFR'' You will be flying under visual flight rules
''Via the Mussleburgh VRP'' This is your VFR routing
''Not above 2500ft'' This is your altitude restriction while in controlled airspace
''QNH 1003'' This is the altimeter setting
''Squawk 0437'' The squawk code assigned to your flight
Configure your aircraft for departing, remembering to set your squawk mode to charlie within your IvAp panel. As we did so on our circuit flight, maintain runway heading until you are at roughly 750ft and then make the turn towards the Musselburgh VRP.
The diagram above is a representation of how we should be looking on Plan G. At this point in the flight we will be handed over to Radar from Tower;
ATC: GCD, contact Edinburgh Radar on 121.200. PILOT: Edinburgh radar on 121.200, GCD.
Set your radio frequency to 121.200 and make contact; PILOT: Edinburgh radar, GABCD.
ATC: GABCD hello Edinburgh Radar pass your message.
PILOT: Edinburgh Radar GCD is a Cessna 172 leaving the zone vie Musselburgh VRP, not above altitude 2500ft, VFR.
ATC – GCD, thanks, report overhead Musselburgh VRP. PILOT – Wilco GCD.
Remember not to climb above 2500ft while routing towards your first VRP.
Here we are approaching VRP Musselburgh so we need to make a report;
PILOT: Overhead Musselburgh VRP, GCD
ATC: GCD, you are leaving controlled airspace, its a basic service remain clear of controlled airspace
PILOT: Basic service and wilco, GCD
THE BASIC SERVICE
A basic service is provided to VFR traffic outside of controlled airspace, we are no longer restricted in our flight and our next contact will be upon our return to Edinburgh.
THE NEXT FLIGHT PHRASE
Now we are routing to St Abbs, ensure you remain clear of Controlled Airspace and follow the coast while having a look around the area. Remember that VFR pilots are responsible for maintain visual contact with other traffic so keep an eye out!
We are now at 2000ft on our return to Penicuik VRP, because we are clear of CTA 4
Airspace it is not a concern to us.
In the image above we are getting close to the Penicuik VRP, 5 minutes flying time according to Plan G which is a suitable time to call up Edinburgh Radar and request joining instructions. For the call we need the following information;
• Our postion that we intend to entering CAS
• Our estimated time to enter CAS
PILOT: Edinburgh Radar, GABCD.
ATC: GABCD, Edinburgh Radar pass your message.
PILOT: GABCD is a Cessna 172 15 miles south east of Edinburgh, 2000ft VFR request to enter controlled airspace via the Penicuik VRP, estimating time 55.
ATC: GABCD cleared to enter controlled airspace via Penicuik VRP not above altitude
2000ft, QNH 1003 report approaching.
PILOT: Cleared to enter controlled airspace via VRP Penicuik not above altitude 2000ft
QNH 1003 and report approaching, GABCD.
We are now cleared to CAS routing towards Penicuik VRP while maintaining 2000ft or below.
We are now approaching Penicuik so another call is required.
PILOT: Approaching Penicuik, GCD.
ATC: GCD, you are entering controlled airspace, the airfield is at your 2 o’clock range 10 miles, route direct the field and report in sight.
PILOT: Route direct the field and report in sight, GABCD.
We are now flying towards the airfield which is directly ahead of our aircraft and will report when we can see the airport.
PILOT – GCD, airfield in sight.
ATC – GCD, roger contact Edinburgh Tower on 118.700. PILOT – Tower on 118.700, GCD.
We are now tuned to Edinburgh Tower and will request to join the circuit.
PILOT: Edinburgh Tower GABCD is a Cessna 172 8 miles south of the field, request joining instructions.
ATC: GABCD Edinburgh Tower, join right hand downwind runway 06 not above height
1000ft, VFR, QFE 991.
PILOT: Join right downwind runway 06 not above height 1000ft, VFR, QFE 991.
JOINING INSTRUCTIONS BROKEN DOWN
''Join right hand downwind'' this means we will be entering the right hand circuit on downwind.
''Not above height 1000ft'' this is our altitude restriction in the circuit
''QFE 991'' this is our altimeter setting
We now need to descend 1000ft to join the circuit.
We have now joined the downwind leg and will make a series of right hand turns in the standard circuit to get on final approach. As we are on downwind we also need to report our intentions.
PILOT: Downwind runway 06 to land, GCD. ATC: GCD, you are number one report on final. PILOT: number 1 report on final, GCD.
Unlike the left hand circuit we covered in the previous document, the runway is now at 5 o'clock position when we need to turn on base and 3 o'clock for final. Remember to report on final!
Land your aircraft and taxi back to the GA Apron. You have now completed your flight!
During our flight tutorial, we have covered the following;
• Identified airspace using a VFR chart
• Looked at the different classes of Airspace
• Planned a VFR flight that leaves the ATZ
• Left and rejoined Controlled Airspace
• Learned new terms and phraseology
• Sometimes the the phraseology ATC may be slightly different, if you don’t understand just ask.
• Check your charts, before you take-off make sure you’ve had a look at your charts and know the airspace around you.
• It's inevitable you will meet other traffic, in controlled airspace ATC will tell you where the traffic is
• Avoidance, if you see another aircraft and think you may collide TURN RIGHT, always maintain your altitude and turn right, if both aircraft do this you will avoid each other.
This is document 2 of 3 covering VFR flying, this is not a comprehensive guide but a quick start tutorial for pilots new to VFR on IVAO and must not be used for real world flight training.