CAT-01 Flight: Non-towered to non-towered
Conduct a flight from Oceano County Airport (L52) to New Cuyama Airport (L88) without any air traffic control services.
NOTE: as of Feb 2021, L88 is currently listed as closed to real world operations. A Facebook posts by the airport owners from Nov 2020 indicates that they hope to have it re-opened soon. For the purposes of this rating, the airport will considered to be open.
- Become familiar with radio communications at non-towered airports.
- Become familiar with operating requirements within Class G and Class E airspace.
- Demonstrate basic VFR navigation skills.
Flying the Rating
To successfully complete this rating you must accomplish the following tasks:
- Fly from L52 to L88. Note: the direct route depicted in the picture above simply points out the relative position of both airports. This is not a recommendation or instruction to fly direct between the two airports. Feel free to select your OWN route based on terrain avoidance best practices, such as L52-WYNNR-L88
- Report that you have completed the rating using the procedure below
Reporting the Rating
For most ratings you will be in touch with ATC and will therefore advise ATC that you are on a CAT rating. Since this flight consists entirely of CTAF calls without any ATC interaction, the rating is issued through the use a form.
To get credit for the CAT-1 rating please do the following:
1. Prior to departing from L52, file a VFR flight plan. Ensure your callsign matches the one you will fly with and that you include the departure airport (L52), the arrival airport (L88), and your aircraft type. All of the other information is optional. NOTE: It is INCORRECT to file KL52-KL88 as the origin/destination airports. The flight will NOT be captured be PEAware if you do this. The K prefix should NOT be included in ICAOs for non-towered airports.
2. After landing at L88 wait at least 2 minutes before disconnecting. This will ensure that your flight was properly tracked.
3. Go to peaware.pilotedge.net search for your callsign and verify that the flight status for the flight from L52 to L88 shows as arrived.
4. Enter your tail number into the the CAT-1 claim form to obtain instant credit for the flight.
Both L52 and L88 airports are located within Class G airspace. Class G airspace (also known as uncontrolled airspace) generally exists below 1200’ AGL except where controlled airspace exists. The FAA imposes no requirements prior to entering Class G airspace and there is no specific equipment required for aircraft operating within Class G airspace. This going to be pretty simple!
En-route between L52 and L88 you will generally be operating in Class E airspace. Class E airspace is the least restrictive category of controlled airspace and generally exists above 1200’ AGL in all areas except where another category of controlled airspace exists.
Controlled airspace is airspace where air traffic control services are provided to IFR and VFR flights.
There are no communication or equipment requirements prior to entering Class E airspace. The only practical distinction between Class E and Class G for VFR operations is that Class G has lower weather minimums under certain circumstances, but it’s often easier to stick with the Class E minimums (1000ft above, 500ft below or 2000ft horizontally from any clouds, and 3sm visibility) than it is deal with the contortions of the Class G weather minima.
Pilots are not required to use their radio while operating at non-towered airports. However, the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) recommends that pilots self announce their position when operating at non-towered airports. This is done on a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency or CTAF. CTAF frequencies are available on sectional charts or in the Airport Facility Directory. Look at the sectional chart provided above (or use this handy Skyvector link and notice the CTAF for L52 is 122.70 while the CTAF for L88 is 122.90.
Specifically, the AIM suggests that departing pilots report before taxiing, and prior to operating on the runway for departure.. For pilots arriving at a non-towered airport the AIM recommends that a position report is made when 10 miles away from the airport, when entering the downwind leg, base leg, on final, and vacating the runway after landing.
When making a position report the AIM recommends the following format for departing aircraft:
“(Airport Name) Traffic, (Callsign), departing (runway). Departing the pattern to the (direction of departure), climbing to (altitude), (airport name).”
For example: “Oceano Traffic, Cessna one two three alpha bravo, departing runway two niner. Departing the pattern to the east, climbing to seven thousand five hundred, Oceano.”
For arriving aircraft the AIM recommends the following format:
“(Airport Name) Traffic, (Callsign), (position), (altitude), entering (pattern leg), (runway), (full stop/touch and go), (airport name)”
For example: “New Cuyama Traffic, Cessna one two three alpha bravo, one zero miles west, seven thousand five hundred, entering left downwind runway two eight, full stop, New Cuyama.”
En-route between the airports we are not transiting any airspace that requires us to communicate. During this time at least 1 radio should be monitoring 121.500 to be in compliance with FAA regulations.
Prior to taxi-out from Oceano.
N123AB: “Oceano Traffic, Cessna 123AB at transient parking taxiing to runway 29.”
When ready for departure.
N123AB: “Oceano Traffic, Cessna 123AB departing runway 29, departing the pattern to the east, climbing to 7500, Oceano”
When 10 miles away from New Cuyama.
N123AB: “New Cuyama Traffic, Cessna 123AB 10 miles west at 7500 entering left downwind runway 28, full stop, New Cuyama.”
When entering the downwind
N123AB: “New Cuyama Traffic, Cessna 123AB left downwind runway 28, full stop, New Cuyama.”
When on base leg
N123AB: “New Cuyama Traffic, Cessna 123AB left base runway 28, full stop, New Cuyama.”
When on final leg
N123AB: “New Cuyama Traffic, Cessna 123AB, final runway 28, full stop, New Cuyama.”
When clear of the runway after landing
N123AB: “New Cuyama Traffic, Cessna 123AB clear of runway 28, taxiing to transient parking, New Cuyama.”
VFR Communications Manual (commercial product) provides detailed guidance on ATC communications for VFR flights.
Non-towered Airport Operations (External) ASF presentation on non-towered operations, covering closed traffic, departures, arrivals and radio calls. Highly recommended.
Skyvector.com Web site containing scrollable, zoomable VFR and IFR chartsVFR Cruising Altitudes
Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge – Navigation FAA publication on basic and advanced VFR navigation skills.
VFR Flight Planning and Navigation Workshop Youtube recording of a live workshop conducted by PilotEdge covering VFR flight planning and navigation methods.