I-8 Rating



Non-towered IFR departure then vectors for LOC RWY 27 approach at KSAN

Learning objectives

  • Focus on procedures for departing IFR from a non-towered airport
  • Stress the point that the most commonly used approach at KSAN is a non-precision approach
  • Locate and file the appropriate TEC route for KAVX to KSAN for the aircraft being used
  • Become aware that the pilot is responsible for terrain and obstacle separation during the departure until receiving the first vector (if any).
  • Become aware of the term, “Obstacle Departure Procedure” and when it is used (this is covered in much more depth in the I-11)

Flying the Rating

To successfully complete this rating you must accomplish the following tasks:

  • Inform ATC on initial contact at KAVX that you are performing the I-8 Rating
  • Copy and read back the IFR clearance to KSAN
  • Obtain IFR release while on the ground at KAVX, or you may depart under VFR and activate in the air to avoid a departure delay
  • Depart KAVX on runway heading until reaching 2300ft before turning on course towards the first fix in the cleared route
  • Conduct IFR flight from KAVX to KSAN, requesting vectors for the LOC RWY 27 approach
  • Fly the LOC RWY 27 approach profile correctly, descending as low as the procedure allows at each of the crossing fixes rather than staying at the ATC assigned altitude until the bitter end.

Rating Description

Pilot will fly IFR from KAVX (Catalina) to KSAN (San Diego International) to shoot the LOC RWY 27 approach with vectors to final. Utilizing the skills acquired in previous ratings, the pilot will use the TEC route system to file the appropriate route. The route will not be provided as part of the text.

While it is legal to pick up the IFR clearance in the air, for the purpose of the rating you must pick up the IFR clearance on the ground at KAVX. The pilot can either obtain an IFR release while on the ground, or they may depart VFR and activate in the air. The latter is a handy tool in cases where another aircraft is departing or arriving on an IFR flight plan at the same time which would preclude ATC for allowing the release of a second IFR aircraft.

The LOC RWY 27 approach into KSAN is a commonly misflown approach with many pilots remaining far higher than is needed until the last minute. Controllers can often be seen gathering around the scope and reaching for the popcorn to watch yet another dive bomber approach into the field.

Other than making a safe landing at San Diego, obtaining this rating will require that the pilot correctly fly the approach’s vertical profile.

IFR Non-Towered Operations

Try Not to Hit Anything

Up until now, we’ve had definitive guidance regarding what heading to fly during an IFR departure since we’ve been departing from towered airports. Well, there’s nobody at the helm here at Catalina since it’s a non-towered airport. It also turns out that Socal isn’t going to be able to vector us until we reach a little bit over 3200ft. Let’s assume the first fix in our filed (and cleared) route is SXC. Once we’re at SXC and at the Minimum Enroute Altitude (MEA) for the airway we join after that, terrain clearance is guaranteed. What about before that, though?

In lieu of an initial radar vector or a SID, we’re on our own for getting to the first fix. In flat land airports, that’s fine, but at airports with nearby terrain, that’s suboptimal. This will be covered in more detail in the I-11, but Obstacle Departure Procedures (ODP) exist for just such an occasion. They can be found in the Takeoff Minimums document (see the workshop in the related material section at the bottom of the rating). The ODP for KAVX says to climb on runway heading until reaching 2300ft before turning on course. Let’s plan on that for now, but if you want to drill down into the Takeoff Minimums document, go for it!

One in, One out

With nobody working a tower, who is going to sequence arrivals and departures at a non-towered airport, such as Catalina Airport (KAVX)? In VFR conditions, pilots normally sequence themselves, utilizing the advisory frequency (122.70 for PilotEdge, 122.80 on text for VATSIM) to self-announce their position and intentions. This works remarkably well in the real world, but is predicated on pilots being able to SEE and AVOID one another, the very foundation of VFR flying.

When the weather eases towards the dodgy end of the spectrum, ‘see and avoid’ simply doesn’t work. With nobody running the show, separation-wise, a mechanism DOES NOT EXIST to allow for more than one airplane to arrive and/or depart under IFR from a non-towered field.

ATC’s primary gig in life, other than falling to their knees and shouting “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??!!” is to separate IFR aircraft. The only way to ensure that two airplanes at a non-towered field are not spontaneously dismantled and distributed liberally about the airport is to make sure that only ONE airplane is operating under IFR in the local vicinity, hence the term ‘one in, one out’.

What does this mean for you, the pilot? It’s simple, if there is another airplane departing or arriving under IFR from a non-towered airport, you will not be able to depart or arrive from that airport under IFR until that airplane is either clear of the area, or cancels IFR. Does this mean that NOBODY can use the airport while the IFR arrival/departure occurs? No, VFR aircraft can still fly as they please (assuming the weather permits VFR flight). So, who is separating the IFR arrival/departure from the VFR guys? Outside of Class B and Class C airspace….nobody! That’s why it’s important for IFR pilots to maintain a constant vigil for other VFR aircraft at all times when the weather is VFR.

Assume it’s a relatively nice day, with one aircraft conducting an instrument approach into Catalina Airport. 10 miles out, the pilot spots the field. At the same time, he hears an aircraft calling for IFR departure from the same field. He hears the controller tell the pilot that he’ll need to hold for his IFR release as there is an inbound IFR aircraft. If the weather is VFR and the approaching pilot can see the field, it’s considered good practice to cancel IFR and proceed VFR to the field to ‘free up’ the airspace for another IFR aircraft. This will be covered in the next section.

Departing IFR

Pick up your IFR clearance from the overlying approach controller. Once the clearance is given, you will be ‘released for departure’. The controller is essentially closing down the airspace to any other IFR traffic, ensuring that you will be the only IFR aircraft arriving or departing the field. This should be good news to you as you enter the clouds shortly after takeoff, unable to see any other airplanes around you, and potentially before you reach an altitude at which ATC can pick you up on radar.

Clearly, the controller cannot close down the airspace indefinitely. For this reason, your IFR release will be valid only for a certain period of time. You will most likely hear a phrase along the lines of “released for departure, clearance void if not off by 35, time now 15, frequency change to advisory approved.” This means that the clearance is good for 20 minutes. If you are not in the air by 35 minutes after the hour, the clearance is no longer valid. There are other mechanisms for releasing aircraft, but the technique listed above is by far the most common on online networks. In the scenario above, you would swap to the published CTAF (122.70 for Catalina), and announce your intentions (remembering that there might be other VFR aircraft operating to/from the field). Once airborne and when you deem it is safe to do so, you would contact departure and check in with your altitude.

Now picture that it’s a sunny day at Catalina Airport, there are a few VFR aircraft in the pattern, and you decide to undertake an IFR flight to a nearby airport. You call for your clearance, are told to hold for release, and to expect a 20 minute delay as there are 2 other IFR departures ahead of you.

Do you have to wait? No, there is another option available to you. You can advise the controller that you will depart VFR and pick up the clearance in the air. Once airborne, you contact the controller, are issued a squawk code, and then proceed with your IFR flight. That is problematic, though, in the case where the IFR clearance is quite different than what you expected. A better option in complex airspace such as Socal is to obtain the IFR clearance on the ground, then depart VFR and activate the IFR in the air.

Flying the LOC RWY 27 Approach

The LOC RWY 27 approach chart is linked in the Required Materials at the bottom of this page. Open it up in another window or print it out, and let’s get started.

This is a non-precision approach. It provides lateral guidance, using a localizer as the primary navaid. Unlike the more commonly encountered ILS, there is NO glideslope component associated with this approach.

The full approach starts at the RYAHH intersection, proceeding to DOUGA at or above 5000, then to VYDDA at or above 4000. A right turn onto the localizer at VYDDA takes us to OKAIN, at or above 3600. Continuing on the localizer to CIJHI at or above 2400, then REEBO at or above 1800, we can then descend to the Minimum Descent Altitude for this approach. For runway 27, this would be 640 MSL. If we do not have the field in sight upon reaching the Missed Approach Point (MAP), we execute the missed approach procedure.

When approaching from the west, however, ATC will vectors to final approach course, having you join the localizer a few miles prior to OKAIN or VYDDA. For example, after one or vectors from MZB, you may hear “4 from OKAIN, fly hdg 240, maintain 3800 until established on the localizer, cleared localizer runway 27 approach.”

In this case, you should maintain the altitude assigned in the approach clearance (3800) until established on the localizer. It is at this point that many online pilots fly straight and level all the way to KSAN, never leaving the last assigned altitude. Once cleared for the approach, and established on a published segment of the approach (in this case, on the localizer just east of OKAIN), you can descend to cross OKAIN at or above 3600, then the rest of the fixes as described earlier. Do NOT expect to receive further descent instructions from ATC. Equally important, do NOT expect to see a glideslope indication on a localizer approach.

Flying the approach with GPS (/G or /F)

For GPS-equipped aircraft, you can use the GPS to identify the fixes listed above. As you cross each fix on the localizer, commence the descent to the next published altitude. The missed approach point, however, does not have a named fix. You must use the DME from the localizer to identify the missed approach point, or use the timing published on the chart (2min 33 sec for 120kt groundspeed, 2min 2sec for 150kts, etc). The timing is based on the Final Approach Fix (identified by the Maltese Cross), which is REEBO.

Flying the approach with DME (/A)

Each of the fixes along the localizer can be identified using DME. OKAIN is 12.3 DME, REEBO is 6.5, and the missed approach point is 1.3 DME.

Flying the approach without DME or GPS (/U)

It’s not for the faint of heart, or weak of bowel, but it can certainly be done. The VYDDA, OKAIN, CIJHI and REEBO intersections can be identified by the intersection of the localizer, and certain radials of the PGY VOR. VYDDA is on the PGY 018 radial, OKAIN is on the 351 radial, CIHJI is the 314 radial, and REEBO is on the 304 radial. Your NAV1 radio should be tuned to the localizer. Your NAV2 radio should be tuned to PGY. As you pass each fix, reset the OBS on the NAV2 radio to identify the next fix. Start a timer at REEBO so you can determine when you have reached the Missed Approach Point (see the GPS section above for more information).


And now for something a little bit different, this is a shared cockpit (2 crew operation) Mitsubishi MU-2 from KAVX to KSAN for the I-8 rating:


Tune into Socal Approach to pick up the clearance.

N132KT: Socal Departure, Meridian 132KT, IFR clearance to San Diego

Socal: Piper 2KT, Socal Departure, good morning, cleared to San Diego International as filed, maintain 7000, departure frequency 127.40, squawk 5314, hold for release.

N132KT: Piper 2KT cleared to San Diego as filed, maintain 7000, 127.40, squawk 5314 and hold for release.

Socal: Piper 2KT, readback correct. How long before you’re ready to go?

N132KT: 10 minutes for N2KT.

Socal: Piper 2KT, released for departure, time now 2140z, clearance void if not off by 2155z. If not off by 2155z, advise Socal Approach of intentions by no later than 2205z, frequency change approved."

N132KT: released now, void by 2155z otherwise the expensive search brigade comes for us at 2205, N2KT.

Socal: Hey, are you the buffoon who wrote the I-5 transcript?

N132KT: I am.

Socal: I thought so. Moron.

Ignoring the glowing praise from Socal, we fire up the airplane, set our nav instruments to prepare to fly the cleared route and we’re on our way.

Swap to 122.70, taxi to the runway of our choice at Catalina. Reaching the runway, we announce our intentions.

N132KT: Catalina traffic, Meridian taking off rwy 22, left downwind departure.

We takeoff, follow the published Obstacle Departure Procedure for KAVX (don’t worry, this is covered in the I-11). For now just know that if you climb straight out to 2300, then proceed on course to SXC, that should keep you safe. We depart and then contact SoCal once clear of the traffic pattern.

N132KT: SoCal, Piper 132KT 2500 climbing 7000.

LAX_DEP: Piper 2KT, Socal Departure, radar contact, altimeter 29.85.

N132KT: N2KT

In absence of any radar vectors, we fly our cleared route under our own navigation. We are quickly handed off to the next sector.

Socal: Piper 2KT, contact Socal Approach 128.10.

N132KT: 128.10, N2KT

Make the switch to 128.10.

N132KT: Socal Approach, Piper 132KT, level 7000.

Socal: Piper 2KT, Socal Approach, roger.

As we are approaching KSAN, we tune into the ATIS and pick up the weather. We are soon handed off to the next sector.

Socal: Piper 2KT, contact Socal Approach on 119.60

N132KT: 119.60, 2KT

Swap to 119.60.

N132KT: Socal Approach, Piper 132KT, 7000 with Charlie.

Socal: Piper 2KT, Socal Approach, expect LOC RWY 27 approach, cross MZB at and maintain 5000.

N132KT: leaving 7000 for 5000, expect LOC RWY 27 approach, 2KT.

Approaching MZB we hear…

Socal: Piper 2KT, depart MZB heading 090, vectors final approach course.

N132KT: After MZB, heading 090, 2KT

Departing MZB, we fly the assigned heading, and tune the localizer so we can fly the approach once vectored to the final approach course. About 15 east of MZB, we hear…

Socal: Piper 2KT, fly hdg 180, descend and maintain 4000.

N132KT: heading 180, down to 4000, 2KT

Shortly after, we hear…

Socal: Piper 2KT, 4 from OKAIN, fly heading 250, maintain 3800 until established on the localizer, cleared LOC RWY 27 approach.

N132KT: 250 and 3800, cleared approach, 2KT

We fly the approach, descending to 3800 until established, then 3600 to cross OKAIN, 2400 at CIJHI, and 1800 to cross REEBO. Crossing REEBO we hear…

Socal: Piper 2KT, contact Lindbergh Tower 118.30

N132KT: 118.30, N2KT

Swap to tower…

N132KT: Lindbergh Tower, Piper 132KT, 5 miles out, LOC 27.

Tower: Piper 132KT, Lindbergh Tower, wind 240 at 15, runway 27 cleared to land

N132KT: cleared to land, runway 27, N2KT

Tower: Piper 2KT, exit right when able, taxi to parking, remain this frequency.

N132KT: off to the right, to parking, 2KT

Required Materials

  • low enroute chart for KAVX to KSAN
  • KSAN LOC RWY 27 approach plate
  • KSAN Airport Diagram

Related Materials

PilotEdge Workshops: Departures Demystified
Workshops containing information about Obstacle Departure Procedures, useful for departing KAVX

PilotEdge Workshop: Instrument Approaches Part 2
Workshop describing non-precision approaches

ASF Presentation on Non-Towered Operations