CAT-07 Flight: Class D to Class D with Class C Transition



Conduct a flight from San Bernardino International Airport (KSBD) to El Monte Airport (KEMT) and transition the KONT Class C airspace en-route.

Learning objectives

  • Review radio communications when operating at Class D airports.
  • Review basic VFR navigation skills.
  • Learn how to transition Class C Airspace
  • Understand that flight following cannot always be provided from the ground at Class D airports due to tower equipment limitations

Flying the Rating

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

  • Fly from KSBD to KEMT and transition the KONT Class C airspace without coordinating flight following prior to departure.
  • Inform ATC on initial contact at KSBD that you are performing the CAT-7 Rating.
  • Meet the CAT Ratings Practical Test Standards

Note: You must enter the Class C airspace to pass the rating. While it’s quite possible to proceed underneath, over or around the airspace, the goal is actually enter the airspace for a portion of your flight

Tip: The ONT Class C airspace is comically close to the SBD Class D. See the Airspace Review → Special Considerations section below for a few suggestions on how to handle this.

Airspace Review

Class C Airspace is located around larger airports where arrival and departure sequencing is required.

Normally Class C airspace has two rings which are centered on the airport. The first ring goes from the airport out to 5 miles and goes from the surface to 4000’ above airport elevation. The second ring starts 5 miles from the airport and extends out to 10 miles, this ring exists from 1200’ above airport elevation to 4000’ above airport elevation. However, a specific class C area may be modified to fit in with other airports, terrain, or other airspace areas.

Class C airspace is depicted on VFR charts as a solid magenta line. Within the airspace the airspace altitudes are shown (in MSL) in hundreds of feet in the format (ceiling)/(floor). So for example 40/SFC indicates that Class C airspace starts at the surface and goes to 4000’ MSL.

To operate in Class C airspace you must have a working mode C transponder and establish two way radio communication.

The two way radio communication requirement is identical to the Class D requirement. You must contact ATC and ATC must reply with your callsign before you enter the airspace. The difference is that unlike a Class D airport where you would call a control tower for Class C airspace you would typically contact an approach control facility. Specific contact frequencies are available on VFR charts.

In addition to the charted class C airspace, a procedural area known as the Outer Area area also exists. In this area ATC provides services that are identical to those that are provided in Class C airspace. This procedural area is not depicted on charts but normally extends 20 miles from the airport. Pilots are not required to be in contact with ATC in the Outer Area.

Special considerations for this flight

The outer shelf of the Charlie lies starts at 2700ft immediately west of the SBD Class D airspace. This means we need to avoid the airspace laterally (turn north or south shortly after takeoff), vertically (remaining below 2700ft to stay under the outer shelf until establishing contact), or by establishing contact prior to reaching the shelf. Whatever the case, make sure you have a plan prior to takeoff. San Bernadino does not have the required equipment in the tower cab to conveniently permit the issuance of a squawk code prior to departure. This is why the rating requires you to coordinate the Charlie transition as a “cold call” to Socal approach while in the air.

Communications Review

In order to transition Class C airspace you must establish two way radio communication with the appropriate approach facility. Frequencies to contact approach are located on the sectional chart.

For example looking at our route of flight from KSBD to KEMT you would see that to transition the KONT Class C airspace from the North East you would contact SOCAL approach on 127.00.

Requesting a Class C transition is similar to requesting VFR flight following. On initial contact you provide your callsign, location, altitude, and request. For example:

SOCAL Approach, Cessna 123AB, 15 Miles East of Ontario, level 5500, request Ontario Class C Transition.”

If we are landing at an airport near the Class C airspace it is worth mentioning our destination so that ATC is aware of our intentions.

ATC will give us a squawk code, and eventually advise us when we are in radar contact. As strange as it might seem, we can enter the Charlie airspace even before they establish radar contact, so long as we have established two way communications. ATC may or may not provide us with an altitude to maintain, headings to fly, or restrictions on where we can or can’t fly. In all cases read back and comply with these instructions.

Once we are clear of Class C airspace ATC will either terminate radar services at the end of the procedural outer area or provide us flight following. In either case we can choose to terminate radar services once clear of the Class C airspace.

In the case where we are landing at an airport near Class C airspace ATC will hand us off to the tower when we are approaching the airport.


VFR Departures and Arrivals from Class D airports have been covered in previous ratings. Below is an example of the radio transmissions for a Class C transition.

Once clear of the San Bernadino airspace switch to SOCAL Approach on 127.00 to request the Class C transition. Make sure to remain clear of Class C airspace while calling approach.

N123AB: “SOCAL Approach, Cessna 123AB, 15 miles east of Ontario, level 4500, request Ontario class C transition, destination El Monte.”

SOCAL Approach: “Cessna 123AB, SOCAL Approach, squawk 7110.”

N123AB: “Squawk 7110, Cessna 123AB.”

SOCAL Approach: “Cessna 123AB, radar contact, Ontario altimeter 29.98. Remain north of Ontario runway 26R extended centerline.”

N123AB: “Remain north of 26R extended centerline, Cessna 123AB.”

When 10NM of KEMT, expect approach to hand you off to tower.

SOCAL Approach: “Cessna 123AB, contact El Monte tower 121.20.”

N123AB: “Contact tower 121.20, Cessna 123AB.”

Cockpit Video

Related Material

VFR Communications Manual (commercial product) provides detailed guidance on ATC communications for VFR flights.

Airport Traffic Patterns (Wikipedia)

How to Fly a Traffic Pattern Web site containing scrollable, zoomable VFR and IFR charts

VFR 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.