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ArcticFlyer
Topic Author
Posts: 110
Joined: Tue Jun 06, 2017 5:10 am

VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Mon Nov 21, 2022 11:51 pm

I have a question about U.S. airspace/radio procedures that has been bugging me for years. Imagine the following scenario: I am flying along in a small airplane, VFR, and receiving flight following from the appropriate ATC unit. Let's say I'm at 2,000 feet and cannot climb higher due to cloud clearance requirements. A towered airport with active Class D airspace is directly ahead of me.

My question is, am I required to either avoid the airspace or request a frequency change with Center/TRACON, or is it ATC's responsibility to hand me off or coordinate my transition of the Class D? In a related scenario let's say I'm planning to land at that same towered airport, in which case I have the same question: Can I enter the Class D while in contact with Center/TRACON or must I remain outside until being handed off to the tower?

Any thoughts, particularly from controllers, would be greatly appreciated!
 
GalaxyFlyer
Posts: 10302
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:44 am

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 1:27 am

Landing at the Class C or D airport, you will handed off to tower and entry coordinated by ATC as long as the controller knows your plan. In the first case, I’d ask about the transition clearance, but they should coordinate with tower or hand you off, the tower controller requests.
 
ArcticFlyer
Topic Author
Posts: 110
Joined: Tue Jun 06, 2017 5:10 am

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 2:58 am

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Landing at the Class C or D airport, you will handed off to tower and entry coordinated by ATC as long as the controller knows your plan. In the first case, I’d ask about the transition clearance, but they should coordinate with tower or hand you off, the tower controller requests.

That is what I always assumed, but I have been chewed out more than once when arriving at a particular airport and either approach control did not hand me off to tower soon enough or once they did I was not able to get a word in before the boundary of the Class D (both frequencies get very busy). In all fairness it is a training tower...
 
LH707330
Posts: 2649
Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:27 pm

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 5:59 am

ArcticFlyer wrote:
I have a question about U.S. airspace/radio procedures that has been bugging me for years. Imagine the following scenario: I am flying along in a small airplane, VFR, and receiving flight following from the appropriate ATC unit. Let's say I'm at 2,000 feet and cannot climb higher due to cloud clearance requirements. A towered airport with active Class D airspace is directly ahead of me.

My question is, am I required to either avoid the airspace or request a frequency change with Center/TRACON, or is it ATC's responsibility to hand me off or coordinate my transition of the Class D? In a related scenario let's say I'm planning to land at that same towered airport, in which case I have the same question: Can I enter the Class D while in contact with Center/TRACON or must I remain outside until being handed off to the tower?

Any thoughts, particularly from controllers, would be greatly appreciated!

I ask the approach controller "you want us to contact tower or are you able to coordinate?" Usually they come back with something like "tower's good, you're cleared through, remain my frequency."

If I'm landing there VFR, approach usually passes us off outside the delta. IFR I've been right at the edge, sometimes they give you a slam-dunk visual and say "cleared visual, contact tower." By the time you switch, tower's asking "Hey 123, you up yet?"
 
N1120A
Posts: 27592
Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2003 5:40 pm

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 9:37 am

It often depends on a letter of agreement whether you'll need to get handed off or not. Most approach controls have agreements with their underlying towers to handle transitional aircraft in parts of their airspace. This is especially true when an approach to another airport goes through that tower's Delta. A tower should never be chewing you out for a late hand off though - that is the fault of approach, not your fault.
 
IAHFLYR
Posts: 4574
Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 12:56 am

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 3:07 pm

N1120A wrote:
It often depends on a letter of agreement whether you'll need to get handed off or not. Most approach controls have agreements with their underlying towers to handle transitional aircraft in parts of their airspace. This is especially true when an approach to another airport goes through that tower's Delta. A tower should never be chewing you out for a late hand off though - that is the fault of approach, not your fault.


100% correct. Letter of agreements take care of numerous things between, but most do not cover transitioning of tower airspace which is a real time issue pending traffic situations the tower may have at the time. If the plane is at an altitude that may impact the tower traffic pattern the most likely I'd put them on the tower frequency and once they pass the pattern the tower will put them back on my frequency.

As an approach controller I'd never tell the pilot to contact the tower until they report the airport in sight, no matter how often I've talked with the pilot or know the call sign. Should the plane be nearing the tower airspace I'll simply call the tower and tell them they don't have the airport in sight and will change them to your frequency when they do, but the tower controller should NOT chew out the pilot for that, chew me out if I did not coordinate with the tower.......simply what I did, not what all TRACON controllers do.
Last edited by IAHFLYR on Tue Nov 22, 2022 3:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 
GalaxyFlyer
Posts: 10302
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:44 am

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 3:08 pm

We had a crew told “possible pilot deviation” on a late hand-off to a very busy local controller. Remote airport inundated with bizjets due to rich men’s climate conference. Short inquiry settled it, but the contract tower did pass it to the FAA.
 
IAHFLYR
Posts: 4574
Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 12:56 am

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 3:13 pm

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
We had a crew told “possible pilot deviation” on a late hand-off to a very busy controller. Remote airport inundated with bizjets due to rich men’s climate conference. Short inquiry settled it, but the contract tower did pass it to the FAA.


And nothing else should have happened!! Sometimes you get switched in a timely manner and can't get an "edge in word wise" :biggrin: . Contract towers are just that, contract towers and some that I've dealt with think the are lord of the sky as do are some FAA controllers.
 
N1120A
Posts: 27592
Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2003 5:40 pm

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 3:19 pm

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
We had a crew told “possible pilot deviation” on a late hand-off to a very busy local controller. Remote airport inundated with bizjets due to rich men’s climate conference. Short inquiry settled it, but the contract tower did pass it to the FAA.


Was your crew VFR? Cause IFR, airspace is an issue between the controlling facility, not one for pilots.
 
GalaxyFlyer
Posts: 10302
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:44 am

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 3:58 pm

Nope, IFR with Salt Lake center handed off to Sun Valley.
 
N1120A
Posts: 27592
Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2003 5:40 pm

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 5:16 pm

GalaxyFlyer wrote:
Nope, IFR with Salt Lake center handed off to Sun Valley.


Then the controller who gave the phone number was an idiot.
 
IAHFLYR
Posts: 4574
Joined: Sat Jun 25, 2005 12:56 am

Re: VFR flight following and Class D airspace

Tue Nov 22, 2022 5:25 pm

N1120A wrote:
Then the controller who gave the phone number was an idiot.


A total idiot and beyond!

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