The Joys of Class B Clearances -- SFO/OAK, LAX, SAN

What a day! Flew from Ocean Ridge in Northern California to San Diego yesterday. Took off in strong, gusting wind conditions from an airport notorious for wind shear and turbulence from the ridges. But climb rate was awe inspiring and after turning right-downwind, I was already at 3,000 feet! Set my sights on a direct flight to Van Nuys for the Hollywood Park route over LAX, since flying VFR you have to cross the Los Angeles Class B space according to “their” rules.

So, here I am, climbing high to 9,500 (accomplished in 26 nm, 11 minutes, and 5.4 gallons) aiming for the heart of the San Francisco/Oakland Class B – without a clearance. Oakland Center assures me that I can request my clearance from NorCal approach about Sausolito, which is probably 5 miles from the Class B border – and would involve a sharp left turn if denied. What the heck! I’m up high, screaming along at 210 knots with a heck of a tail wind, let’s see what happens, eh?

When switched over to NorCal, I request a clearance: “NorCal, Cirrus 858CD level 9,500 request VFR Class Bravo clearance direct Avenal, willing to accept vectors or higher” Without a pause, I get “Cirrus 858CD cleared through Class Bravo direct Avenal, maintain 9,500” Amazing!

Wish I had a video camera. The sky was clear, the sightseeing was fantastic. Flew right over Treasure Island in the middle of the Bay Bridge, had Alameda NAS on my left, SFO on my right (“Cirrus 8CD, traffic 10-o’clock, United 757 climbing below you”), OAK on my left, San Carlos on my right, San Mateo bridge underneath, Palo Alto on my right, Hayward on my left, San Jose on my right, Reid-Hillview on my left – it was a fantastic tour of the Bay Area from an eagle’s point-of-view.

Of course, the traffic was a bit unusual, but what a blast! I was so centered along the axis of the Bay, that Oakland arrivals were descending parallel on my left, SFO arrivals were descending parallel on my right (FMS Bridge Visual and Quiet Bridge Visual approaches), San Jose departures were climbing past me from behind and left to cross in front of me and return to SJC ahead and to my right for the LOOP Departure, then San Jose arrivals were descending parallel on my right again!

Then a boring stretch – so I worked on my notes from the Critical Decision Making semiar – until LA, which was covered in low stratus from the Tehachapi’s to the horizon. So much for the forecasted clearing for my VFR arrival! No big deal, SoCal cleared me through the Hollywood Park route at 9,500. Still screaming at 190 knots burning 12.8 gph. Second Class Bravo down, one more to go!

With the overcast instead of scattered layer, now I would need an IFR clearance to get through the cloud layer. So before Oceanside, I called up: “SoCal Approach, Cirrus 858CD VFR level 9,500 request IFR clearance into Montgomery” to which I got the usual expect-a-clearance-in-15-miles response and then a heading 120 essentially direct BAKEL. But I got switched to a totally unfamiliar frequency and given an odd heading of 100. Seemed likely to be Miramar MCAS, and sure enough, controller was talking a lot and I wasn’t hearing much in reply. Then I got a request to “Cirrus 858CD, slow to 150 for heavy traffic”, to which I queried did you mean 150 indicated or groundspeed? With the winds at 7,000 feet, I was doing 155 indicated and 190 groundspeed, so I wondered. She needed me to slow down to avoid the mountains at Julian was glad that I clarified it and requested that I maintain 125 knots. Yahoo!

Now, it was a different kind of sightseeing – nothing but cloud layer below but a string of military jets going into Miramar (not my favorite pastime) and an obvious heavy workload of IFR arrivals into Montgomery and Lindberg (amazing workload probably due to the unexpected IFR clearances needed by VFR arrivals). One of those times when you talk when spoken to: “Cirrus 858CD, if you are up, fly heading 190 maintain present speed until advised break United XXX fly heading 240 and join the localizer” Can you say “frequency congestion!” Got down below the clouds and found Montgomery Tower talking to my hangar neighbor flying VFR who had been diverted to Gillespie by ATC because an IFR clearance would take 20 minutes, so they landed and took off again VFR to get home!

Amazing day! Called for a pizza and beer and enjoyed the hot tub at home! Love flying my plane [H]

Cheers
Rick

Thanks for sharing!

Walt

Rick,

What an experience![:)] When I first saw the title of the post I thought you were being sarcastic. It is flights like the one you describe that make me really glad to be a pilot!

In reply to:


The sky was clear, the sightseeing was fantastic.


Definitely one of the things I miss about the Bay Area!

In reply to:


Then a boring stretch – so I worked on my notes from the Critical Decision Making semiar – until LA


I’m not trying to be critical of anything that has to do with the Critical Decision Making seminar, but surely you meant that you were just thinking about the CDM while keeping your eyes scanning outside the cockpit, considering what a clear VMC day it was, right? [:)]

Rick,

Quite a trip! Did you have to reroute at all due to http://www.buzzflash.com/anderson/04/06/and04025.htmlthe TFR around the Reagan Library, or did your normal route of flight take you clear of it?

Cheers,
Roger

Rick:
Thanks! Great story. When I flew a corporate gig in the early '80’s we used to come out of Concord or Santa Rosa very late in the evening sometimes and I occasionally got the “down the Bay” routing. Spectacular view at night as well.
Regarding the ATC going into Montgomery, there is one particular female controller, usually working 119.6 IIRC, who is amazing. She can work a ton of traffic and her neither her cadence nor her voice pitch betray any stress at all. A real pro. You probably know who I mean.

In reply to:


but surely you meant that you were just thinking about the CDM while keeping your eyes scanning outside the cockpit, considering what a clear VMC day it was, right?


Actually, no, I was incorporating my laptop into my scan! [:$]

Oddly, there was very, very little radio chatter and very few planes around Monday afternoon. After all the excitement in the Bay Area, there were very few planes in the Central Valley nor in the LA Basin. A couple of times, I almost checked with ATC to see if I missed the notice!

Cheers
Rick

In reply to:


Did you have to reroute at all due to the TFR around the Reagan Library, or did your normal route of flight take you clear of it?


Nope. Wasn’t active when I flew by. And at 9,500 feet, I was over the inner ring and following procedures for the outer ring.

Besides, do TFR’s count when they are covered in clouds?

Cheers
Rick