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4 Answers

Flying over Class B

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Private Pilot

Are there any tips or comments or, most importantly, rules that I need to follow for flying *OVER* Class B airspace?  Specifically Philadelphia at 7500?  The ceiling for the Class B is 7000 and I'm planning to fly at 7,500.  I know I need my transponder on but do I need to be talking to PHL Approach? (although I plan to especially if I can get flight following).

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4 Answers

  1. John D. Collins on Mar 13, 2011

    At a minimum, I would recommend that you monitor the Class B frequencies as you pass overhead.  ATC may not be able to provide you with flight following if they are too busy, but it a good idea to use the service if it is available.  ATC is likely to provide you vectors to keep you clear of the traffic departure and arrival areas, which might defeat some of the short cut.  ATC is more likely to work with you if you are well above the Class B limits, say 9500 or 11500 feet for your flight direction.  Remember that the Class B is going to have high performance aircraft (jets) departing out of the top of the airspace to join the high altitude enroute structure, so you have to keep your eyes open at all times.  If you study the departure routes, you can avoid them if at all possible.  One strategy is to fly over the top of the primary airport at 90 degrees to the runway in use, as the approaching jet traffic is low when in the vicinity of the airport, either when taking off or landing.  Even though you are required to have your transponder on and squawking mode C inside the 30 NM Class B veil, if you are not talking to ATC, definitely make sure that you have it on and are squawking Mode C , that way both ATC will see you on its radar and the jets will be able to see you on their TCAS displays.


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  2. Kent Shook on Mar 14, 2011

    John is right on, as usual – But I would suggest you evaluate your plan. If you’re going to be up at 7,500 you’re probably either departing from a fair distance away, or needing to circle to make it up to 7,500 before going over the Bravo. In either case, you might be better suited by going around or under. The top of the Bravo is where all the jets that the Bravo is there to separate you from are going to be coming out. 
    I would definitely recommend traffic avoidance measures such as flight following in such a busy area, especially if you’re going over the top and mixing it up with the jets – But you should also be prepared to hear the controller say “Remain clear of the lateral limits of the class Bravo” or “turn right heading xxx, vectors for traffic” and route you all the way around the outside anyway. If you’re trying to make a shortcut by going over the Bravo, you may find that it ends up making your flight longer.
    I don’t have a ton of experience with Philly, but I do fly to Wings once a year and have also flown out of Northeast – And I’ve noticed that I tend to be routed to intersections and/or on airways when talking to Philly Approach. If you’re on a longer-distance flight, you’ll probably do better by just planning to go around. If you’re on a shorter flight, staying underneath might be the best bet. If you’re going to be passing through late at night on a weekend, maybe they’ll let you right on through. Good luck, and let us know what you decide and how it goes!

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  3. John D. Collins on Mar 14, 2011

    Some busy airports will publish a slow time chart that tells the pilot good times to use when arriving or departing to minimize delay.  It is a good idea to know these times and use them to plan when you overfly the airport.  If you can’t find one on the airport control tower website, call them and they can probably give you the information. The busy times are when there is an airline “push” going on.

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  4. Joseph Gruber on Mar 14, 2011

    John and Kent:
    Thanks for the great answers!  It definately gives me some things to think about.  
    To give some further details as well, my flight will actually be from KFME to KPNE (Northeast Philadelphia).  When I was planning this VFR trip I noticed that the V445 airway actually makes for a good visual route to get me to KPNE so I plan to follow it (using the GPS as an additional navigation option).  It side steps KPHL and also gets me around that dang Aberdeen restricted airspace.  But it does intersect the Class B where it goes to the surface.  I figure though to get to KPNE I’m going to either need a Class B clearance eventually to descend through or I’m going to have to go further North and circle back around.  I could always go west of the surface class B a bit and stay under the entire way though as well.

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