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Class Bravo Airspace

Introduction:

  • Class Bravo (Class B) is airspace surrounding the nation's "busiest" airports
  • Class B airspace supports both Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and Visual Flight Rules (VFR) operations within
  • No person may operate an aircraft within a Class B airspace area except in compliance with FAR 91.129 and
  • 91.131
    • The operator must receive an ATC clearance from the ATC facility having jurisdiction for that area before operating an aircraft in that area
    • Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, each person operating a large turbine engine-powered airplane to or from a primary airport for which a Class B airspace area is designated must operate at or above the designated floors of the Class B airspace area while within the lateral limits of that area
    • Any person conducting pilot training operations at an airport within a Class B airspace area must comply with any procedures established by ATC for such operations in that area
  • Departing out of Class Bravo airspace can be very intimidating, especially single-piloted
    • If IFR, you will almost definitely be given a published Standard Instrument Departure Procedure (SID) instead of radar vectors
    • If VFR, you can expect there are standard departure paths assigned
      • Local pilots, FBOs, or ATC can tell you in advance with a simple phone call
    • If departing under class Bravo, you do not need to comply with any of class Bravo restrictions, with the exception of having an altitude encoding transponder, unless exempt, as described below
      • If departing inside of class Bravo, you must follow the departure in accordance with tower and contact class Bravo as soon as instructed for further clearance
Airspace Dimensions
Figure 1: General Airspace Overview
Examples of Class Bravo Altitudes
Figure 2: Examples of Class Bravo Altitudes

Airspace Dimensions:

  • Simplification of the Class B airspace area configuration while reducing the number of sub-areas is a prime requisite
  • Its vertical and lateral limits are standardized to the maximum extent possible to contain all instrument procedures within
  • This airspace should be initially designed in a circular configuration centered on the primary airport. Describe the airspace area using NAVAIDs as references where available on the primary airport in the following order of preference: VORTAC, VOR/DME, etc.
  • Lateral Limits:
    • The outer limits of the airspace must not exceed a 30 NM radius from the primary airport
    • This 30 NM radius will generally be divided into three concentric circles: an inner 10 NM radius, a middle 20 NM radius, and an outer 30 NM radius
    • The inner 10 NM radius area may be subdivided based on operational needs, runway alignment, adjacent regulatory airspace, or adjacent airports
    • The areas between 10 to 20 NM and 20 to 30 NM may be vertically subdivided because of terrain or other regulatory airspace
  • Vertical Limits:
    • The upper limit of the airspace normally should not exceed 10,000 feet MSL. The inner 10 NM area must normally extend from the surface to the upper limits of the airspace. This segment may be adjusted to coincide with runway alignment, adjacent airports, other regulatory airspace, etc., but must encompass, as a minimum, all final approach fixes and minimum altitudes at the final approach fix. The floor of the area between 10 and 20 NM must be predicated on a 300−foot per NM gradient for 10 NM. This segment will normally have a floor between 2,800 feet and 3,000 feet above airport elevation. This floor must remain constant for that segment, but may be adjusted considering terrain and adjacent regulatory airspace. However, segmentation should be held to an absolute minimum. The floor of the area between 20 and 30 NM must be at an altitude consistent with approach control arrival and departure procedures. It is expected that this floor would normally be between 5,000 and 6,000 feet above airport elevation. In the segment between 20 and 30 NM, exclusions are permitted to accommodate adjacent regulatory airspace and/or terrain. d. Variations. Any variation from the standard configuration must be addressed in the staff study
  • Generally surface to 10,000' MSL with some exceptions (Atlanta) around the nation's busiest airports
  • Consists of a surface area and two or more layers (some Class B airspace areas resemble upside-down wedding cakes)
  • Individually tailored designated to contain all published instrument approaches
  • Mode C veil, 30 NM around airport to 10,000' MSL
  • An aircraft that was not originally certificated with an engine-driven electrical system or which has not subsequently been certified with a system installed may conduct operations within a Mode C veil, provided the aircraft remains outside of the airspace and below the ceiling of the airspace or 10,000', whichever is lower
  • Satellite Airports:
    • When establishing the airspace floor, consider the adverse effect on satellite airport operations as well as operations at the primary airport. When airspace directly over a satellite airport is not required, it should be excluded from the Class B airspace. Special published traffic patterns and/or procedures may be required for satellite airports

San Francisco (KSFO) Class Bravo Airspace
Figure 3: San Francisco (KSFO) Class Bravo Airspace

Airspace Depiction:

  • Class B airspace is charted on Sectional Charts, IFR En Route Low Altitude, and Terminal Area Charts

ATC Facility:


VFR Visibility Requirements:

  • 3 SM visibility, clear of clouds

Entry Requirements:

Qualifications:

  • No person may take off or land a civil aircraft at an airport within a Class B airspace area or operate a civil aircraft within a Class B airspace area unless:
    • The pilot in command holds at least a private pilot certificate;
    • The aircraft is operated by a student pilot or recreational pilot who seeks private pilot certification and has met the requirements of 14 CFR Section 61.95
    • The pilot in command holds a recreational pilot certificate and has met:
      • The requirements of 61.101(d) of this chapter; or
      • The requirements for a student pilot seeking a recreational pilot certificate in 61.94 of this chapter;
      • The pilot in command holds a sport pilot certificate and has met:
        • The requirements of 61.325 of this chapter; or
        • The requirements for a student pilot seeking a recreational pilot certificate in 61.94 of this chapter; or
    • The aircraft is operated by a student pilot who has met the requirements of 61.94 or FAR 61.95 of this chapter, as applicable
    • In addition, no person may take off or land a civil aircraft at those airports listed in section 4 of appendix D to this part unless the pilot in command holds at least a private pilot certificate
      • This is different from FAR 61.95 as recreational and sport pilots may operate within that list, however much of the list is similar
  • Large turbine engine-powered aircraft operations to or from a primary airport shall operate at or above the designated floors while within the limits of Class B airspace
    • A visual clearance to land is not an authorization for turbine-powered airplanes to operate below designated floors

Aircraft Separation:

  • All, not to relieve pilots of their responsibilities to see and avoid
    • This is the only airspace where VFR traffic is separated from other VFR traffic

Mode C Veil:

  • The Mode C Veil is that airspace within 30 nautical miles of an airport listed in Appendix D, Section 1 of 14 CFR Part 91 (generally primary airports within Class B airspace areas), from the surface upward to 10,000' MSL
  • Unless otherwise authorized by ATC, aircraft operating within this airspace must be equipped with automatic pressure altitude reporting equipment having Mode C capability
    • Aircraft that were not originally certificated with an engine-driven electrical system or which have not subsequently been certified with a system installed may conduct operations within a Mode C veil provided the aircraft remains outside Class A, B or C airspace; and below the altitude of the ceiling of a Class B or Class C airspace area designated for an airport or 10,000' MSL, whichever is lower

Flight Procedures

  • Aircraft within Class B airspace are required to operate in accordance with current IFR procedures
  • A clearance for a visual approach to a primary airport is not authorization for turbine-powered airplanes to operate below the designated floors of the Class B airspace
  • VFR Flights:

    • Arriving aircraft must obtain an ATC clearance prior to entering Class B airspace and must contact ATC on the appropriate frequency, and in relation to geographical fixes shown on local charts
      • Although a pilot may be operating beneath the floor of the Class B airspace on initial contact, communications with ATC should be established in relation to the points indicated for spacing and sequencing purposes
    • Departing aircraft require a clearance to depart Class B airspace and should advise the clearance delivery position of their intended altitude and route of flight
      • ATC will normally advise VFR aircraft when leaving the geographical limits of the Class B airspace
      • Radar service is not automatically terminated with this advisory unless specifically stated by the controller
    • Aircraft not landing or departing the primary airport may obtain an ATC clearance to transit the Class B airspace when traffic conditions permit and provided the requirements of 14 CFR Section 91.131 are met
      • Such VFR aircraft are encouraged, to the extent possible, to operate at altitudes above or below the Class B airspace or transit through established VFR corridors
      • Pilots operating in VFR corridors are urged to use frequency 122.750 MHz for the exchange of aircraft position information

ATC Clearances and Separation

  • An ATC clearance is required to enter and operate within Class B airspace
  • VFR pilots are provided sequencing and separation from other aircraft while operating within Class B airspace
    • Separation and sequencing of VFR aircraft will be suspended in the event of a radar outage as this service is dependent on radar. The pilot will be advised that the service is not available and issued wind, runway information and the time or place to contact the tower
    • Separation of VFR aircraft will be suspended during CENRAP operations. Traffic advisories and sequencing to the primary airport will be provided on a workload permitting basis. The pilot will be advised when center radar presentation (CENRAP) is in use
  • VFR aircraft are separated from all VFR/IFR aircraft which weigh 19,000 pounds or less by a minimum of:
    • Target resolution, or
    • 500' vertical separation, or
    • Visual separation
  • VFR aircraft are separated from all VFR/IFR aircraft which weigh more than 19,000 and turbojets by no less than:
    • 1 1/2 miles lateral separation, or
    • 500' vertical separation, or
    • Visual separation
  • This program is not to be interpreted as relieving pilots of their responsibilities to see and avoid other traffic operating in basic VFR weather conditions, to adjust their operations and flight path as necessary to preclude serious wake encounters, to maintain appropriate terrain and obstruction clearance or to remain in weather conditions equal to or better than the minimums required by 14 CFR Section 91.155. Approach control should be advised and a revised clearance or instruction obtained when compliance with an assigned route, heading and/or altitude is likely to compromise pilot responsibility with respect to terrain and obstruction clearance, vortex exposure, and weather minimums
  • ATC may assign altitudes to VFR aircraft that do not conform to 14 CFR Section 91.159
    • "Resume Appropriate VFR Altitudes" will be broadcast when the altitude assignment is no longer needed for separation or when leaving Class B airspace
    • Pilots must return to an altitude that conforms to 14 CFR Section 91.159

Proximity Operations:

  • VFR aircraft operating in proximity to Class B airspace are cautioned against operating too closely to the boundaries, especially where the floor of the Class B airspace is 3,000 feet or less above the surface or where VFR cruise altitudes are at or near the floor of higher levels. Observance of this precaution will reduce the potential for encountering an aircraft operating at the altitudes of Class B floors. Additionally, VFR aircraft are encouraged to utilize the VFR Planning Chart as a tool for planning flight in proximity to Class B airspace. Charted VFR Flyway Planning Charts are published on the back of the existing VFR Terminal Area Charts

Restrictions:

  • 250 knots inside of airspace
  • 200 knots under the airspace or in a corridor
  • No person may take off or land a civil aircraft at the following primary airports within Class B airspace unless the pilot-in-command holds at least a private pilot certificate:
    • Andrews Air Force Base, MD
    • Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, GA
    • Boston Logan Airport, MA
    • Chicago O'Hare Int'l. Airport, IL
    • Dallas/Fort Worth Int'l. Airport, TX
    • Los Angeles Int'l. Airport, CA
    • Miami Int'l. Airport, FL
    • Newark Int'l. Airport, NJ
    • New York Kennedy Airport, NY
    • New York La Guardia Airport, NY
    • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, DC
    • San Francisco Int'l. Airport, CA

Conclusion:

  • Aircraft not landing or departing the primary airport may obtain a clearance to transit the airspace when traffic conditions permit, provided FAR 91.131 is met
    • Encouraged to operate above or below the airspace or transit VFR corridors making position reports on 122.750 MHz
  • Balance shortening your callsign vs. clarity when there can easily be multiple people using the same "number" or however it abbreviates
    • Example: Southern California with all of the military traffic "01" "22" etc.
  • Regardless of weather, pilots should not request a clearance to operate within Class B airspace unless the requirements of 14 CFR Section 91.215 and 14 CFR Section 91.131 are met

References: