Tips for avoiding infringements
1. NOTAM Checking
Check ‘NOTAM’s before flying (www.ais.org.uk). Learn to use an efficient method such as ‘narrow route brief’ and make best use of ‘saved briefings’, which can be re-run at later dates to cut down checking time. If using a commercial or graphical product, do not put the plotted graphic printed on a clubroom wall without the ‘not plottable’ list displayed just as prominently.
2. Restrictions of Flying
To look ahead, planned restrictions are issued as Air Information Circulars on www.ais.org.uk. For checking just prior to flight, the number 0500-354802 will give the very latest situation. If you are abroad, or you want the ‘landline’ number, you can get the same recorded information on +44 20 8750 3939
3. Transit Routes
During planning for any zone transit, think about your routing in relation to the active runway alignment. You are much more likely to get a crossing approved over the runway if your track is perpendicular to it than aligned with it. There are also useful airspace guides written by local ATC for most of the CTRs in the UK, giving tips, photos, and preferred routings – see the next tip!
4. Controlled Airspace Local VFR Guides
Check for a local Airspace Guide for your route. Did you know there are numerous ‘airspace guides’ written (usually) by controllers who are hobby pilots too in their spare time? They are incredibly useful to anyone visiting the local area or indeed, there’s plenty to learn for the pilot based in that particular region. They certainly contain local advice, charts, usually containing good aerial photos of local features to help you stay to the correct routing.
The list which started originally with the pictorial guide to the Manchester Low Level Route now contains around 10 regional guides, and can be found in the second subsection on the ‘Links’ page – see the linkstab above.
5. Plan B
When planning a route including a controlled airspace crossing, always have ‘plan B’ to avoid it too. If you wish to transit controlled airspace or a zone, think about what you need to say in advance and call the appropriate Air Traffic Control (ATC) unit at ten nautical miles or five minutes flying time from the airspace boundary to give notice. Make a decision checkpoint on where to take this avoidance route if a clearance is not possible. It’s much easier to get round a block of airspace from a few miles distant than it is to successfully divert around tight up to the boundary. Remember to plan time and fuel calculations using the longer route.
6. Radio Calls
Thinking before you transmit. Using the correct radio phraseology helps air traffic control to help you and sounds more professional! A handy free reminder kneeboard insert is available from the CAA or from the ‘Links’ tab (Look for the ‘Easy Digest’ subsection once there) or you can get it here: Radio ‘mask’ to aid calls for zone crossings It will help you form any request for a zone crossing by giving you (on its second page) a ‘template’ mask to slot your words into. The same main call shown is more or less the reply to ‘pass your message for things like asking for a Basic Service instead of a Zone Transit.
7. Specific Clearance
You need a formal specific clearance to enter or cross controlled airspace. The instruction ‘Standby’, or the provision of a transponder squawk, or even the provision of any type of service is not an ATC clearance. An instruction to ‘Remain Outside Controlled Airspace’ on the first reply from the controller does not mean your transit is already refused, it merely warns you not to enter until a formal clearance and routing is agreed.