Lesson 11 Circuits et Controlled Airspace

Date: 10/12/2016
Purpose of Flight: Circuits VI and Controlled airspace
Aircraft: VH-TOI
Flight time (hrs): 1.4

Airport: Sunshine Coast Airport (YBSU)
Instructor: MM , Briefing time (hr): 0.5
Time to take off: 15:05 Runway: 18
Time to land: 16:30  Runway: 12          Total Engine time: 1.4 Approx. Fuel __ L
Wx at aerodrome: Wx at aerodrome: Temp __ Cloud __, Wind Direction __, Wind Strength __ , Dewpoint __, Rainfall __, Wind types __, Visibility __,  Humidity __%, QNH __, Changes in Wx Conditions, BOM daily wx obs: Temps Min (°C) 19.8, Max (°C) 27.2, Rain (mm) 1.0, Evap __, Sun __, [[Max daily wind gust: Dir E, Spd (km/h) 43, Time (local) 16:20]] [[9:00am record: Temp (°C) 24.5, RH (%) 63, Cloud 8, Dir SE, Spd (km/h) 26, MSLP (hPA) 1019.2]], [[3:00pm record: Temp (°C) 25, RH (%) 61, Cloud 7 , Dir ESE, Spd (km/h) 30, MSLP (hPa) 1018.8]]

TAF YBSU 102211Z 1100/1112
12016KT 9999 SCT035
FM111000 13010KT 9999 SCT030
T 25 25 24 23 Q 1020 1019 1018 1020

METAR YBSU 110330Z AUTO 11010KT 9999 // NCD 24/13 Q1020
RMK RF00.0/000.0


Super excited about learning to how to fly in controlled airspace. I’d spent about a month out of the cockpit and planned to drive up to the Sunshine Coast for the afternoon to have a lesson. The flight school (ADFA) is quite busy during the week teaching between 20-30 full time students, so I decided to opt for a time when the school (and air traffic) was less busy.

Today I was back in the Tobago (VH-TOI) since KEP was being flown around the Whitsundays. Like I said before, the Tobago has quite a bit more power, more spacious and comfortable to fly.
Knowing that this is the first time I’m flying in a controlled airspace, a short pre-flight briefing was arranged to discuss the protocol and the general overview of the flight. There are several protocols to undertake when taxiing, leaving controlled airspace, greeting the CTAF traffic in uncontrolled airspace, re-entering airspace and then joining the circuit.
Setting up the radios:
Transponder code for controlled airspace: 3000
ATIS frequency: 114.2 MHz

Listen out on the ATIS and jot down relevant Wx, Traffic in the area details and the ATIS signature … e.g. ‘delta’…

Change radio freuency to 121.4 MHz to communicate with tower ground.

Sunshine coast ground and air traffic control operate on two separate frequencies. When establishing communication with the tower on the ground say the following:
1. “Sunshine Coast Ground Tango Oscar India Flight Details” – to give the tower time to respond.
2. “Sunhine coast ground Tango Oscar India Tobago at ADFA for noosa area, dual received ATIS delta” – signifies where we are located on the ground, the nature of the flight and confirming the ATIS current data. The tower will respond with data pertaining to taxiing, hold and takeoff instructions.
3. Upon receiving instructions readback the relevant information… e.g. “Sunshine Coast Tower, taxi to runway 18 via delta, cross runway 18 and hold at alpha, not above 1000, cleared over water, northbound not above 1000 Tango Oscar India” –
4. When at hold point CHANGE RADIO FREQUENCY to 124.4 MHz Air Control “Sunshine Coast Tower, Tango Oscar India Ready”
Await instructions
5. Repeat instructions prior to take off and take off.

Leaving controlled airspace:
“Tango Oscar India Clear of the zone.”

Transitioning to uncontrolled airspace:
Change frequency to 126.7 MHz
Set transponder code for 1200
“Noosa Traffic Tobago, Tango Oscar India tracking for airwork in the Teewah area not above 3500 Noosa.”

Entering Controlled airspace
Change frequency to 124.4 MHz

“Sunshine Coast Tower Tobago Oscar India maintaining 1500 at Noosa Heads Inbound, received information echo”
Await clearance, enter airspace and change transponder to 3000.

The above radio routines were used during the flight, taking off runway 18. Strong crosswind experienced on take off. Nose wheel had significant jitter at speeds <40 kts. Turned left on crosswind and maintained 1000 ft on downwind above water tracking north. Stayed close to the shoreline past column and noosa heads and exited airspace. Generally poorer than usual visibility ~4-5 mi, and clouds at ~2000 ft made for interesting VFR conditions – the disorientation was quite noticeable. Turned towards Mt Cooroy and climbed to 1500 ft prior to heading towards Tewantin. Radio call to tower made upon reaching Noosa Heads.

Instructor made a request to join a circuit pattern for touch-and-go practice. Descended to 1000 ft and joined on base. Tower controlled circuits were fairly straight forward, one only had to confirmed intention (e.g. t&g vs full stop) to tower on downwind and await further instructions (e.g. being directed into a left or right circuit). As always, repeating the final instructions to ensure instructions were understood.

Touch and go circuits were being performed on Rwy 12. The runway was significantly shorter than I’ve been used to (650 m versus 2000 m at YHBA!!. The downwind leg was over in under a minute so I felt like I had to slow down a bit to keep ahead of the aircraft. Landings felt like they were improving despite being in a different aircraft than what I was used to. Something that took some getting used to was needing to set the flaps with a switch. This is because it took longer to retract or expand the flaps as necessary. I felt more pressured for time when hitting the airstrip and transitioning to take-off because it took a few seconds to get the flaps back to take-off position.

I practiced about 4-5 landings, each time improving the routine for a shorter airstrip. On the final circuit the instructor cleared me for a glide landing. Engine power was cut and a well executed turn to the runway was made – reaching ~75kts glide with feathered pitch (the effect was really noticeable). Flaps engaged, re-aligned to land at the numbers. To assist in reducing the speed on mid final, the pitch was set to fine (i.e. more vertical) to increase air resistance… again the effect was noticeable.

Upon landing call was made to request taxi clearance back to ADFA on ground frequency (121.10 MHz)



The following is a brief overview of the maps and nav-aids used for IFR and VFR…

The US publishes VFR charts known as Sectionals. These cover the entire country, including non-continental areas like Hawaii. IMHO these are excellent although in busy airspace, the 1:500,000 scale can become complex. So pilots learning to fly in the US usually become familiar with the sectional covering their base field, and then with that understanding, can look at sectionals for anywhere else in the US.

Printed sectionals can also be used for long range VFR flight planning as they can be laid out in sequence and routes plotted across adjoining chart boundaries. For online chart examination, SkyVector publishes all US sectionals online, which is a great resource.

Australia does not publish sectionals covering the whole country. It’s a good question as to why but essentially the centre of the country is a big desert where few people live. So from a historical perspective, the inner part of the country has been regarded as “remote” and thus less in need of highly detailed maps. In addition, the word ‘sectional’ isn’t even in Australian pilot lexicon, so use the word ‘chart’ instead.

Australia publishes Visual Terminal Charts (VTC) for each large metropolitan area which are a Mercator projection at 1:250,000. And there are Visual Navigational Charts (VNC) which mostly encapsulate the VTCs and are at 1:500,000 (same as sectionals). The image below is an example of the Brisbane VTC.


As VTC/VNCs cover only largely populated areas, for printed chart long VFR route planning, you will need to revert to the World Aeronautical Charts (WACs), pronounced ‘whacks’.


WACs started as an ICAO project after WW2 to transition from the existing US-based international wartime series and so all Allied nations were effectively asked to harmonize their maps with a US design. But in 2015, the FAA stopped WAC production and thus a recently US-trained VFR PPL would never have heard of them(!)

The US WAC coverage looked like this:

WACs are a Lambert projection at 1:1,000,000 and in Australia, printed chart VFR route planning would be done over sequential WAC’s, with likely a supplemental VNC chart for the populated areas to be crossed. WAC’s do not contain airspace (although supposedly an aeronautical chart!). They are essentially a topo map with features that are easy to spot from the air.

There are no free online sources for Australian government produced charts. SkyVector shows a very data sparse US Sectional-like view of Australia but I wouldn’t use it for anything other than simple distance/leg planning.

Cost and availability for printed maps – there are several places that sell and distribute these maps. You may wish to check out the following links to browse what’s catalogued… unfortunately nobody ever shows a preview!





Most maps cost ~$11 each for any area listed…

All of the previously mentioned chart types for Australia are now encapsulated and adjoined in a single app known as OzRunways.

OzRunways works on both iOS and Android and seems very widely used amongst Australian VFR pilots. For VFR use, they provide a so-called ‘Hybrid VFR Map’ which simply uses the most detailed chart available. Price at time of writing is about AUD $100 and chart-wise also has New Zealand and Papua New Guinea (Nb It should be noted that the $100 p.a. subscription fee does not including worthy add-ons).
But also of value to pilots flying in Australia, there is comprehensive airfield information available in the ERSA (EnRoute Supplement Australia), which is a free download. It lists technical aspects/refueling contacts/etc. for every sizeable airfield in Australia. In addition to this, AOPA also publish a pilot guide for various airfields. OzRunways contains the ERSA and for an extra amount, they also will bundle the pilot’s guide.