Pilot’s quick guide to avoiding an airspace infringement

The CAA's idealised vision of airspace structure perhaps inadvertently portrays the way GA is being

The CAA's idealised vision of airspace structure perhaps inadvertently portrays the way GA is being squashed under an ever-lower ceiling (Credit: CAA) - Credit: ILLUSTRATION: CAA

Pilot magazine editor, Philip Whiteman, provides a quick and easy guide on how to avoid an airspace infringement!

* First and foremost, do not infringe controlled airspace! You do have an up to date chart, don’t you? Better still, plan and record you flight on one of the fine and accurate GPS navigation apps available – it’ll both keep you out of trouble and provide evidence of innocence if you are falsely accused. (Note, however that while evidence from a nav app may be allowed regarding lateral infringements, it is apparently is not admissible in relation to vertical navigation errors.)

* Have a plan, even if going on a familiar local flight, and don’t forget; the iPad and similar equipment can fail or lose a satellite signal.

* Whenever possible obtain at least a Basic Service from a LARS unit, or if that is not possible listen out and display the adjacent airfield’s listening squawk.

* Ensure you are flying on the correct pressure setting, QNH (this is especially important when flying in the south-east as CAIT uses the London QNH). Using QFE airfields close to, or under CAS is fraught with danger when either carrying out an overhead join or when climbing out.

* Take every possible measure to minimise, or at least identify your aircraft’s altimeter and transponder errors. Don’t be afraid to ask a radar controller to verify your altitude readout to compare your altimeter against that displayed on the radar.

* The CAA encourages you to fly at least 2nm laterally and 200 feet vertically from the base, or top of CAS. Consider wider margins of error: some experienced instructors now suggest that you leave where possible five hundred feet between altimeter altitude and the base of controlled airspace. (NB This may be possible where base of CAS is high, 4500 feet for example, but is unsafe lower down. Over much of the south-east of England, and elsewhere in the country, bases vary from 1,500 to 2,500 feet. Once the pilot has added up terrain height, obstacles and complies with the congested area rules the minimum safe height is frequently above 2,000 feet.)

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* Listen out for, and follow ATC directions directly – especially those to keep you clear of controlled airspace.

* If you are later accused of busting controlled airspace do not automatically assume you are guilty.

* Ask to see the evidence upon which the CAA is acting.

* Be aware that any information you give the CAA may be used against you. You have the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. It is for the authority to prove that you are guilty – until then, the law says you are innocent!