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Testing Tuesday: Class C Airspace Requirements

FAA Airspace

It's Tuesday again, and that means another installment of Testing Tuesday at Smart Flight Training!

I hope these question and answer sessions are helpful for you, but I'll be honest: I'm doing these for myself, too. I needed to continue to work on my CFII (Certificated Flight Instructor - Instrument) knowledge, and this seems as good a place as any to make sure my knowledge is strong as I move closer to that goal that, I'll admit, I've already missed the deadline I set for myself.

With that said, let's get on to today's question:

What minimum aircraft equipment is required for operation within class C airspace?

  1. Two way communications and Mode C transponder
  2. Two way communications
  3. Transponder and DME




Click here to display the answer...

Well, hopefully this Testing Tuesday post was helpful. This was a question I myself missed when I was originally studying for my Instrument Rating knowledge test, so it was good to review this and make sure I don't miss it again and can teach it to my future instrument students accurately and well.

Please let us know what you think about our Testing Tuesdays, and let us know if you have a question you would like answered - maybe something you missed on your own knowledge tests along the way, or something you were asked during the oral portion of a checkride. Let's make this more social, more interactive, more interesting! Try to stump me, try to stump the rest of my readers! You shouldn't have much trouble stumping me, but my readers are smart, so that will not be an easy task!


Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, OH.

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Testing Tuesday – Class D Airspace

Each Tuesday, Smart Flight Training will post a sample question that a pilot could expect to see on an FAA Knowledge Test or hear during the oral portion of a checkride. A little known secret to saving money and time during your flight training is PREPARATION! Hopefully Testing Tuesday post will be one small step in helping you live up to your side of learning to fly by being prepared when you meet with your flight instructor, saving you money and time! Good luck on the below question – click the link at the bottom to see the answer and explanation!

(Refer to Figure 93.) What are the normal lateral limits for Class D airspace?

  1. 3 miles.
  2. 4 miles.
  3. 5 miles.

Figure 93




Click here to display the answer...


Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio. His short term memory is terrible. And so is his short term memory.

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Testing Tuesday: Special Use Airspace – MOAs

Each Tuesday, Smart Flight Training will post a sample question that a pilot could expect to see on an FAA Knowledge Test or hear during the oral portion of a checkride. A little known secret to saving money and time during your flight training is PREPARATION! Hopefully Testing Tuesday post will be one small step in helping you live up to your side of learning to fly by being prepared when you meet with your flight instructor, saving you money and time! Good luck on the below question - click the link at the bottom to see the answer and explanation!

What action should a pilot take when operating under VFR in a Military Operations Area (MOA)?

  1. Obtain a clearance from the controlling agency prior to entering the MOA.
  2. Operate only on the airways that transverse the MOA.
  3. Exercise extreme caution when military activity is being conducted.




Click here to display the answer...

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio. He scoffs at gravity.

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Airspace: Aircraft Speed Limits

Sky SignOne of the benefits (and excitements) of learning to fly is that you have the ability to GO REALLY FAST.  "There are no speed limit signs in the sky," you might say.

You're absolutely right that there are no speed limit signs in the sky.  But that doesn't mean that there are no aircraft speed limits.  Because, in fact, there are.

The main thing to remember is that, in general, "if you go high, you can fly!" - Above 10,000 feet MSL (mean sea level - this means "above sea level") there are no aircraft speed limits.  You can fly as fast as your little heart (and the planes little - or not so little - motor) desires.

But below 10,000' MSL, you have to maintain an indicated airspeed at or below 250 knots (KIAS).  And that's not all.

If an airplane is within class B airspace, regardless of altitude, it is limited to 250 knots indicated airspeed. If it is flying "under the shelf" of class B airspace, it is limited to 200 knots indicated airspeed.  There are also areas called "class B corridors" where aircraft can fly without clearance into class B airspace, and in these corridors, they are limited to 200 knots indicated airspeed as well.

Regulations also state that at or below 2500 AGL (above ground level - over the ground), when within 4 nautical miles from a class C or class D airport, you cannot fly any faster than 200 knots indicated airspeed. Air Traffic Control (ATC) may ask an aircraft to deviate from the 200 KIAS limit, but cannot ask an aircraft to go faster than the 250 KIAS limit (though they can always ask you to go slower).

Generally, these rules are in place so that aircraft with wildly different performance aren't flying at all different speeds when they are likely to be near one another.  Additionally, the lower you go, the more likely you are to be flying with birds, and if you are flying more slowly, if you happen to hit a bird (known as a bird strike), you are less likely to do significant damage to your airplane, such that you would not be able to control and land it.

For those of you who want to see the actual regulation, see 14 CFR 91.117. The above information applies to aircraft speed limits in the United States, under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Other countries may have different rules.


Have any more questions or comments about aircraft speed limits? Hurry up and tell us below!

Andrew Hartley is a Certificated Flight Instructor in Columbus, Ohio.

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Fundamentals: Airport Traffic Patterns

Highway Traffic ImageYou're in your car, getting ready to merge on to the freeway.  You accelerate, turn on your blinker, check your mirrors and blind spot, adjust your speed to fit in when someone makes a gap for you (if you're lucky), and merge.  Now on the freeway, you find yourself behind a slower-moving vehicle.  You merge left and pass on that side, and then back to the right lane when you are done.

Traffic patterns on the road are pretty predictable.  You might have one-way streets or two-way streets, probably speed limit signs and speed bumps, stop signs, stop lights, yield signs, construction barrels, lane markings, and on and on.  You know these rules because you studied them and have experience with them.

This is no different from the rules of flight, only there aren't lines painted in the sky (on the airport is a completely different story), nor are there speed limit signs or lights up there.

But there ARE rules to follow - and sometimes just "suggestions" (or what folks in the business world might call "best practices").

Let's discuss airport traffic patterns.  On the road, you know generally what to expect of other drivers - where they are apt to be, what speed they are probably going, and what they are most likely going to do next.  This is all good information to know, as you can base YOUR next move on what you know and expect others are doing.

The same thing applies in the air.

Did you know that most mid-air collisions occur in the vicinity of an airport?  It's true.  This is why it is critical to understand what is (or should be) happening around airports when you are arriving or departing from one.

Using the airport runway as a guide, there are six possible "legs" that planes might be flying around the runway.

"But wait!" you say, "How can there be six legs when a runway only has four sides?  Shouldn't there only be four legs around a runway?"  Correct you are; but part of a traffic pattern at an airport has to do with altitude (or at least how altitude is changing and what the pilot aims to do on that leg). Bear with me:

Chapter 4, section 3 of the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) discusses traffic patterns:

  • Upwind leg. A flight path parallel to the landing runway in the direction of landing.
  • Crosswind leg. A flight path at right angles to the landing runway off its takeoff end.
  • Downwind leg. A flight path parallel to the landing runway in the opposite direction of landing.
  • Base leg. A flight path at right angles to the landing runway off its approach end and extending from the downwind leg to the intersection of the extended runway centerline.
  • Final approach. A flight path in the direction of landing along the extended runway centerline from the base leg to the runway.
  • Departure leg. The flight path which begins after takeoff and continues straight ahead along the extended runway centerline. The departure climb continues until reaching a point at least 1/2 mile beyond the departure end of the runway and within 300 feet of the traffic pattern altitude.

Airport Traffic Pattern

In the image above, you can see a standard traffic pattern - which means the airplane is making left hand turns, and is landing (and taking off) from left to right as you see it here on the page.  The blue color lines mean the plane is at a constant altitude, green means the plane is climbing, and red means the plane is descending. The only exception to these color patterns would be if a plane went from upwind to crosswind (then all of the crosswind leg would be maintaining altitude), versus from departure to crosswind (in which case the aircraft would be climbing in crosswind).

You can see why upwind, downwind, and crosswind are named such, knowing that aircraft always take off and land into, or against, the wind (upwind).  I like to think that base leg is called "base" because it is really the foundation of your landing (the "base" of a house is its foundation - and if it isn't right, the whole house will never be right) - if the base leg isn't right, your whole landing will suffer for it.  Final approach is just that - final.  It's your last chance to get the approach together before you touch down.

If you use the same lines, but imagine the plane going the opposite direction, you can imagine a "right-hand" pattern.  This is technically "non-standard," but that does not mean that it happens less.  In fact, many airports use "right traffic" as their pattern (you might even see right traffic when taking off in one direction, and left traffic when taking off in the opposite direction) - so it pays to do your research before you go to a new airport!


Do you have anything to add to this discussion of airport traffic patterns? Take your turn in the comments!


Andrew Hartley is a Certificated Flight Instructor in Columbus, Ohio

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