August 11, 2014
By Dan Namowitz
It’s a pilot’s responsibility to obtain a complete preflight briefing, so don’t let an unasked question undermine your effort.
As you plan a cross-country route, be sure to examine it carefully for any special airspace characteristics or flight activities that could be a factor during your transit of the area. Then, to get a complete picture of the proposed flight, you may have to ask some specific, focused questions. Do you know what information to request?
If your route transits an area of special-use airspace (SUA), for example, information about the airspace is available from the briefer, but only "upon request" of the pilot. That means it will not automatically be provided in a briefing. Aeronautical Information Manual paragraph 7-1-4(b)8 explains that "for the purpose of this paragraph, SUA and related airspace includes the following types of airspace: alert area, military operations area (MOA), warning area, and air traffic control assigned airspace (ATCAA)." Military training route (MTR) data "includes the following types of airspace: IFR training routes (IR), VFR training routes (VR), and slow training routes (SR)." Pilots are encouraged to request updates from air traffic control facilities while in flight.
Wait a minute: Don’t VFR sectional charts provide information about times and altitudes of use of MOAs and other SUA?
Yes, but your preflight briefing will tell you whether a specific parcel of SUA will be active—"hot"—while you are airborne, and to what extent.
MTRs also are depicted on sectional charts. Note that a flight from Adirondack Regional Airport in Saranac Lake, New York, to Vermont’s Burlington International Airport crosses IR801, an IFR training route located in a mountainous sector of the route.
But that’s not the whole story of the MTR. A note on the Montreal Sectional Chart explains that only the route centerline and direction of flight are depicted. An MTR’s width and altitudes are not—making it crucial for a VFR pilot to obtain more information. Note also that MTRs are subject to change on a 56-day cycle; that could render the charted depiction obsolete.
Another item not included in your briefing unless you ask is information from the Notices to Airmen publication. These so-called published notams are available online—but if you want to review them at the time of your preflight briefing, be sure to make the request.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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