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5 Answers

Approaching to land at a Class D airport within Class C airspace

Asked by: 1012 views Airspace, Private Pilot

Imagine that I am flying VFR to KRAL (Riverside, California) and am flying in from the west.  My chosen route of flight would require me to transit and *possibly* descend through the Class C airspace of KONT (Ontario, California) to land at KRAL. It seems like there is no clean way to avoid the Class C since flying over the top of the airspace would put me too high when arriving at KRAL, and going all the way around the Class C seems like a waste of time and fuel. So, what is the best practice here?  How would you plan the flight to be the most efficient, but still be safe and legal? As a follow up, I know that to enter the Class C I must be in 2 way radio communication with ATC.  Does flight following count?  Or does the communication have to be with the Class C's tower?

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5 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Jan 01, 2016

    Flight following will take care of the Class C 2-way communications requirement. Even if you happen to go through the KONT or KCNO surface area on the way to KRAL, it is ATC’s obligation to coordinate the transit and, if they need you to speak directly to the Tower of either, to inform you.(That’s from the FAA’s ATC Handbook).

    Two notes to that statement, though. Even if you have established 2-way communication, it will be TRACON’s prerogative to route you away from the lanes of inbound and outbound traffic or even instruct you to remain clear of the Class C altogether.

    Second, in planning,given the interaction of the LA Class B and the Ontario Class C, I would plan to contact Approach for Flight Following as early as possible with my intentions. You haven’t told us whether your general route is from the northwest or southwest just west, but I would generally anticipate being able to pass through the Class C to the south of the runway complex but be ready for an alternate routing (for example, you can stay under the Class C to the south without too much difficulty).

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  2. Peter on Jan 02, 2016

    Thanks, Mark. Roger on the comms, that helps.

    As far as the route planning, I would be coming from the west from KVNY (Van Nuys). I was planning on skirting north of the Bravo which would put me in a direct line from KEMT and KPOC but puts me right into the KONT Charlie.

    How would you plan the approach to KRAL? What route and altitudes would you shoot for?

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  3. Best Answer


    Mark Kolber on Jan 02, 2016

    There’s a couple of possibilities that come to mind looking at the chart. And I am looking at it without the benefit of having practical knowledge of how things work in the LA basin. So, while I might expect something else, I am going to plan a worst case scenario route that will not require entry into the Bravo or the Ontario Class C, or for that matter the El Monte Class D. (You didn’t mention the Burbank Class C so I’ll assume you have taken care of that)

    As you propose, I’d I’d plan to stay to the the north of the Bravo. But after passing El Monte, I’d turn more to the southeast, remaining below the Class B shelf and even head enough south to remain clear of the KONT Class B (and the KCNO Class D), perhaps just south of Corona. Looks like a long way around but consider it only adds about 5 minutes to a flight in 172.

    Keep in mind that this is planning for the worst-case scenario. Given that the KONT runways are E-W (like most in the basin), I would hope that transit eastbound though the Ontario Class C well south of the runway complex would not be an issue unless things were incredibly busy.

    The key for me in dealing with airspace like this VFR, wherever it may be, is to expect good luck with clearances and transits but have a well thought out Plan B that doesn’t require them.

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  4. Mark Kolber on Jan 02, 2016

    Part B of the answer: This is where local knowledge can be a great assist. Speaking with a CFI or experience pilot who has done a similar route will go a long way to giving you an idea what to reasonably expect in terms of a direct route. But still be prepared for the mess direct one.

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  5. Jontayl on Mar 06, 2016

    Flight following emphatically counts as the two way communications needed for a class C transition. If I were you, I’d just call up SoCal approach and ask for flight following to Riverside, and that’ll get you through just about anything (except for KLAX Class B), including ONT class B. However, be careful that you don’t eclipse any other Class D surface areas along the way without explicitly requesting a transition from the Class D tower. SoCal might be able to give you a D transition, but I doubt it.

    All in all, flight following should work. If you need to transition through B, then, of course, you have to ask for explicit clearance, and if you need to transition through KCNO’s Class D airspace, inform the controller so he can make arrangements. For going through KONT’s C, however, there’ll be no problem.

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