(Reprinted from AOPA Pilot, September 2005)
The first tool that every pilot flying in the L.A. Basin, or planning a flight through Basin airspace, must have is a current Los Angeles Terminal Area Chart (TAC). Unfold it and take a look at the back. An orderly thatch of blue lines crisscross the Basin - these mark suggested VFR flyways and altitudes. The sentence on the back of the chart says it all: "VFR flyways are designed to help VFR pilots avoid major controlled traffic flows." Further on it says these flyways are intended to provide routings that are alternatives to flight within Class B and Class C airspace. In other words, pilots utilizing flyway routings are not required to obtain ATC clearances for these routings - following the altitudes and flyways keeps pilots clear of airspace that requires a clearance. Of course, establishing contact with ATC for traffic advisories and flight following is always advisable, especially during periods of reduced visibility.
The flyway planning chart shows five-letter identifiers scattered throughout the Basin and at almost every turn on every flyway. These identifiers - such as VPLDL over Disneyland - identify VFR checkpoints and define flyway checkpoints. This is especially valuable when haze thickens, preventing the visual identification of landmarks. The Disneyland identifier enables pilots to steer clear of the temporary flight restriction (TFR) that has been in place over the park for years. Each five-letter identifier is a GPS waypoint. Combining VFR flyways with airport GPS identifiers simplifies flying to and finding destination airports during flights in low visibility.
As an example, a flight across the Basin from the northwest to Palm Springs is simple. Simply create a GPS flight plan by entering the waypoints that correspond to each turn in the flyway - in this case the sequence would be VPLMM (Magic Mountain); VPLTW (Tujunga Wash and Foothill); VPLRT (Santa Anita Race Track); VPLCC (Chaffey College); L12 (Redlands airport) to BNG (Banning airport), which is the eastern exit to the Basin. If these waypoints aren't in the GPS database, then it's time for an update.
Each VFR flyway is also marked with a preferred altitude. The preferred altitudes for the route vary from "above 5,000" to "above 4,500" in the vicinity of Ontario International airport to "above 5,500" east of that same airport. In this case, the pilot's magnetic course would dictate a cruising altitude of any odd thousand feet msl plus 500 feet for magnetic courses from zero to 179 degrees - 5,500, 7,500, or 9,500 feet msl are all options for this flight.
On the front side of the chart are shown five - a fifth called the Coliseum route has just been added - VFR transition routes across the western part of the L.A. Basin. The routes are varied enough that there is one to fit every airplane and every pilot's whims.
Let's look at the two low-altitude ones first. There's one called the Mini route that connects the Santa Monica airport and the Hawthorne airport and is now available 24 hours a day. When flying northwestbound (toward Santa Monica) pilots must stay clear of Class Bravo airspace (the floor is at the surface in the vicinity of Los Angeles International Airport [LAX]) until an ATC clearance is received. Clearances are obtained by speaking with Hawthorne Tower when northwestbound and Santa Monica Tower when southeastbound. When a clearance is required and those towers are closed, contact LAX Tower on 119.1. This route is flown at 2,500 feet msl. Update: Departing Santa Monica in a climbing left turn directly to Loyola College (LMU) for entry into the Mini route at 2,500 feet is marginal for the typical trainer. With takeoff clearance, an SMO tower local controller will normally request you fly to the shoreline and then make a right turn around to LMU to ensure you will be at 2,500 feet at LMU for crossing LAX.
The next transition route is the Los Angeles Special Flight Rules Area. This route is flown on the SMO 132-degree radial and crosses LAX at 3,500 feet when proceeding southeast and 4,500 feet when flying northeast. An ATC clearance is not required to fly this route - but all airplanes flying this route must switch their transponders to 1201 when they are within the LAX Class Bravo airspace. Pilots must provide their own traffic avoidance by maintaining the correct altitude and by making position announcements on 128.55. A typical announcement might sound like this: "Los Angeles special flight rules area traffic, Cessna 1234, over LAX at 4,500 feet."
The third transition route is the Shoreline route that is flown at an ATC-assigned altitude between 5,500 to 6,500 feet msl. This route requires ATC clearance to enter Class B airspace. Contact SoCal Approach on 134.2 in the vicinity of Van Nuys VOR for clearance when arriving from the north, and in the vicinity of the Seal Beach VOR on 127.2 when arriving from the south. This applies to all traffic except airplanes departing from Long Beach, Torrance, Hawthorne, or Santa Monica airports - they need to contact SoCal Tracon on 134.9 to use the Shoreline route. The route was recently changed to over fly the LAX VOR at 5,500 feet through 6,500 feet. The revision was required because of a change in the initial climb altitude to 5,000 feet for aircraft departing Los Angeles International and several instances of airliners passing too close to VFR traffic.
This procedure requires southbound users to enter the Class B airspace abeam the Sepulveda Pass on the LAX 323 radial, proceed to the LAX VOR and then fly south to the Vincent Thomas Bridge (VPLVT) on the LAX 123 radial. Northbound users reverse the process.
There are two transition routes through the LAX Class B airspace that are flown at ATC-assigned altitudes between 8,500 and 10,000 feet msl. The Coliseum route - the newest route that appears for the first time on the July 7, 2005, edition of the L.A. VFR terminal area chart - requires that users be established on V23 south of the Seal Beach VOR if flying northwestbound before contacting SoCal Approach on 124.1, or the 125-degree radial off of the Van Nuys VOR before contacting SoCal approach on 124.6 when flying southeastbound. After an ATC clearance and altitude is obtained, navigate via the Seal Beach 306 radial and Van Nuys 125 radial, depending on direction of flight, until clear of Class B airspace.
The last transition route - the Hollywood Park route - is very similar to the Coliseum route except that altitudes up to 10,000 feet may be assigned, and the route is defined by the 140-degree radial off of Van Nuys. The route goes directly over Hollywood Park racetrack - located approximately 3 miles off and directly in line with the long runways at LAX - before ending at the Queen Mary (VPLQM) in Long Beach. ATC will issue a clearance to enter Class B airspace and assign an altitude. Contact SoCal Approach on 134.9 for clearance at both ends of the Hollywood Park route.
Updated Monday, July 09, 2007 11:11:21 AM