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4 Answers

2nd XC with my PPL – DC to Chicago (KGAI -> KPWK)

Asked by: 478 views General Aviation

Hi - I'm a <100 hrs VFR pilot flying a Tobago T200 (SEL; ~10gal/hr at ~115kt cruise with 45gal useable; autopilot; Garmin 530; Scout ADS-B in for (delayed) weather in-flight; ipad with GPS and Foreflight.  I've only done one short x-country (72nm KGAI -> 2W2) since getting my license, and now I'm planning to fly KGAI -> 10G -> KPWK on the weekend before Halloween with my wife.  I expect this will all be a huge learning experience, and I wanted to get any advice possible beforehand.  Here are a few questions/thoughts ...

  1. Obviously weather is paramount.  I'll get a weather briefing early the day prior from a briefer, and then another the morning of in order to determine go or no go.  
  2. I'll pick up VFR flight following as soon as I'm clear of the DC SFRA.  Cruise altitude will depend on winds aloft, but I'd hope for 6500 or 8500.
  3. I plan to stop to top off the tanks and stretch our legs at 10G (Holmes Co in Ohio). After takeoff, pick up flight following again from Cleveland FSS on 122.6.
  4.  Even though it's safest to stay over land, I'd like to fly ~50nm over the southern tip of Lake Michigan because (A) it will keep me north of Ohare and Midway (but not out of their airspace), (B) is more direct to KPWK, and (C) seems like a beautiful way to view Chicago.  At the New Buffalo VFR checkpoint (just before starting across the water), I'll make a call to Chicago Approach on 120.55 (~30nm from Ohare's Mode C veil) to communicate who I am, where I am, that I have the KPWK ATIS and my intent to land there.  I expect that they'll clear me into bravo (I'll be waiting for the magic words "cleared into the bravo") and pass me to KPWK tower on 119.9. From there, I'll follow their instructions and get on the ground. 
  5. For the return trip 3 days later (hopefully!), I'll again do a weather briefing the day prior and day of.  I'll top off my tanks, get the ATIS, and talk to Chicago Clearance on 124.7 (or should I directly call KPWK Ground on 121.7?) to declare my intention for an east departure. Then I expect to be handed to KPWK Ground and then Tower.  Then I'll get flight following back the same route (KPWK -> 10G -> KGAI) flying at 5,500 or 7,500 (ceiling and winds aloft permitting).

While KPWK is a delta airport, this will be the first time I've flown into bravo airspace.  So I'd like to make sure my core procedures (radio and otherwise) are correct for the #4 above.  Of course, I need to be ready to divert or make changes on the fly, but I'm hoping other, more experienced folks will help me get as prepared as possible.  Thanks!



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4 Answers

  1. Kris Kortokrax on Oct 18, 2017

    You are correct that the safest way is to stay over land. Lake Michigan surface temperatures are about 60 degrees right now.

    A better way to view Chicago would be to fly along the lakeshore.

    Your route of flight will place you right in the area where planes are vectored to land when O’Hare is using west flow (which is most of the time). They have 5 E-W runways. Having flown in and out of O’Hare on the airlines, I can tell you that planes are lined up for landing well out over Lake Michigan in the area you propose to fly through. While you may be expecting Chicago approach to clear you to enter the Class B, I wouldn’t count on it. If you look at the Terminal Area Chart, 120.55 is a frequency to get traffic advisories or transition the B north of O’Hare and 133.5 is the frequency for advisories and transition south of O’Hare. If your cruising altitude is over 4,000, you would be entering the B about 35 miles due east of O’Hare, if you follow your New Buffalo-PWK route. If I were you, I would follow the shoreline. Take a look at the back side of the TAC. It shows the VFR flyways and altitudes.

    This is something you may want to discuss with your instructor.

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  2. jeffreyhayes on Oct 18, 2017

    Thanks Kris. I like the suggestion to fly along the shoreline. Makes sense.


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  3. Dave M on Oct 19, 2017

    I’ve never flow a private plane in or out of Chicago, but I have operated commercially out of O’Hare and Kris is right, on westbound operations, they might start the conga line miles offshore. However, ATC, generally, will have planes cross the shoreline @ 4000′. I can’t comment about Midway, but if you stay low, you should be fine. Bravo doesn’t start there until 3000′ anyway.

    Helicopters and banner towers, and other small planes, fly allong the beach all the time, so I’m sure it won’t be a problem.

    It’s been years since I’ve flown VFR but I would do as Kris suggest; Come in low along shore, then tuck in from the norh. It’s possible that with flight following, ATC clears you through the Bravo, but I doubt it. they’ll probably suggest you fly lower.

    just my 2c

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  4. jeffreyhayes on Oct 19, 2017

    I just downloaded the Chicago FLY and it matches up with what you both are saying. Stay at 2000-2500 along the lake (being aware of transitioning through Gary’s D airspace SFC to 3100).


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