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5 Answers

Talking in Class C and B Airspace

Asked by: 612 views Helicopter

Quick question about talking on the radios in C and B airspace:

I understand we can technically fly under the shelves without talking to anybody on the radio. Until of course we come to the core of the airspace which usually starts at the surface.

As helicopter pilots, do I have to talk to approach or can I just skip right to tower frequency prior to entering their airspace?

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5 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Mar 14, 2017

    Unfortunately I can’t speak to helicopter operations specifically and there may be special routes and considerations there I’m ignorant of. So this will be more general.

    “Technically,” you can go straight to Tower. An airport just east of KDEN used to be non-towered and folks heading west would sometimes call Denver’s Tower from the ground to try to get Class B clearance.

    But that’s an unusual situation and the better practice, practically speaking, is going to to be to contact Approach. The reason is simple. One of Approach’s main jobs is to sequence traffic for hand-off to the Tower. You call them, and they can put you in line. Call for the first time 6 miles from the inner surface area and you might be waiting for quite a while for a spot in traffic that has been in the queue for past 20-30 miles.

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  2. HeliStudent7 on Mar 14, 2017

    Thanks for the insight. Makes sense. Are you talking about KAKO east of KDEN?

    I thought even if you call 6 miles out from the inner core, they would probably tell you \”landing is at your own risk\” to probably the ramp or general parking. Isn\’t this to reduce their workload? So that way I\’m not waiting to get in queue for traffic going into the traffic pattern for the runway?

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  3. Russ Roslewski on Mar 15, 2017

    I imagine Mark’s talking about KFTG being right next to the B surface area of KDEN.

    But understand that sometimes, local procedures vary and you may or many not be able to find out about them beforehand. But it’s not really a problem.

    In general, yes, you may very well be just cleared to the ramp if you call tower. Certainly tower doesn’t want you in the conga line of airliners. But there may be other reasons they would prefer you contact approach first – departures heading in your direction, landing on crossing runways, other helicopter or light airplane traffic, many things.

    I have flown to Class D airports where they’re okay with calling the tower directly, and others where if you call the tower first, they just send you right back to Approach. And sometimes it depends not on location but on time of day or how busy they area.

    So what it boils down to is this – it may SOMETIMES be okay to contact the tower directly, but it will ALWAYS be okay to contact Approach first.

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  4. Mark Kolber on Mar 16, 2017

    Yes, Russ. KFTG.

    You put it well and succinctly.

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  5. Abner on Mar 19, 2017

    There is no requirement to talk with approach prior to calling the tower. If you’re low level most approach controllers don’t want anything to do with you as long as you’re not in their airspace.

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