May 2019 Safety Corner

With summer soon upon us, I’ve noticed more and more club members getting into the planes and dusting off some rust. As I’ve flown with many of you to shake out the cobwebs, I’ve also noticed a real apprehension about entering controlled airspace, communicating to TRACON (Omaha Approach Control) and also to Eppley or Lincoln tower controllers. This is quite understandable. However, it’s also very impractical if you truly want to utilize and improve your flying skills and have the opportunity to fly to
many different locations. The prospect of accidentally deviating from altitude or heading assignments and being reprimanded by the FAA is very real and can easily happen due to today’s crowded airspace. There are many ways to bone up on excursions into controlled airspace to help alleviate your apprehension.

Here are a few tips that can help:

  1. Get with a flight instructor and go back and get some remedial work in basic heading and altitude changes – especially under the hood if you’re instrument rated. This will help get the feel of the airplane back in various configurations and help with your concentration and focus. Until you feel comfortable and sharp flying the plane, you won’t be focusing your attention to what controllers are telling you to do.
  2. Talk to your instructor about introducing a number of distracters while you’re doing this work as well. This could be traffic separation situations, responding to queries by controllers, or handling an emergency. Single pilot IFR flying is the toughest flying to do, not only because of level of concentration needed to fly and navigate (workload), but also because the amount of communication
    taking place with controllers – usually at the worst times!!
  3. Start out by going to a smaller tower or controlled airspace, like Lincoln, Grand Island, or Sioux City. They are very helpful and understand that instruction is part of getting better as a pilot. If you’re alone, don’t hesitate to let them know you are just getting some practice in controlled airspace and with the tower. They’ll know you’re not sharp in higher congested areas and will be happy to
    work with you. After you feel comfortable with those places, venture to Omaha (Eppley Airfield) or KC. The Class B & C airspace is more congested so you’ll receive a bigger challenge.
  4. After you’ve mastered going in and out of the Class C airspace, go ahead and plan a trip to Minneapolis, Kansas City or Denver to get Class B airspace experience. Since there are numerous arrivals and departures at large and small airports within Class B airspace, this type of flying also takes a special level of concentration. Maintaining headings and altitudes are critical.
  5. TIP: With the increased traffic in Class B and C airspace these days, let the controllers HELP you when it comes to separation. You are responsible for traffic separation in VFR so do a good job of scanning and avoid altitude and heading deviations that could result in bigger problems for the controllers. Just fly the plane first and foremost! Search for traffic in segments. If a controller says there’s traffic at your one o’clock, start at eleven or 12 and start scanning
    from left to right in segments. Go past to three o’clock and repeat.
  6. I also have a communication sheet that will help you with the correct phraseology when you are going in and out of Eppley Airfield.

    Kevin Broderick, ATP, CFII and Skyhawk Flying Club Safety Officer