Well, it’s finally official. Throw out those old charts and update your GPS. Effective 3:01 MST on October 18, 2012 the Salt Lake City Class B Airspace changes will go into effect. It’s only taken a few years (see my original post on this topic dated December 23, 2010: http://axenty.com/blog/safety/salt-lake-class-b-airspace-redesign/), but after looking at all the changes I think the end result is going to be a very positive one for all pilots affected.
Going back let’s quickly review why the changes were made. Well, to accommodate turbine aircraft (primarily air carriers). A reminder that the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) states that “all IFR procedures used by large turbine-powered aircraft arriving and departing designated airports shall be fully contained in the Class B airspace” and that “arriving and departing large turbine-powered aircraft should enter/exit the Class B airspace through the ceiling.” To sum it up, the AIM suggests that “each Class B airspace should be configured to ensure the most efficient use of airspace.” (AIM 11-1-5) Currently there are procedures flown by turbine aircraft into the Salt Lake City International Airport (KSLC) where, at times, the aircraft may not even be contained within Class B airspace. Or, the aircraft temporarily leaves the Class B airspace and re-enters. Because of this changes had to be made.
The common GA pilot may initially think about how detrimental and inconveniencing these changes may be to him, but if he takes the time to really look at the changes he’ll see how, in fact, some concessions were made and operations may even be easier. Being that the GA pilot will be the one who these changes affect the most (most part 121 pilots I fly with had no idea any changes were even brewing) we’ll discuss each of them and how normal operations in the Salt Lake area will be affected.
disclaimer: these graphics are for reference purposes only and are not to be used for real-world navigation. Their original publication can be found here, courtesy of SLC ATCT/TRACON
The first graphic shown above is a sectional view of the new SLC Class B airspace overlayed on top of the old airspace. The numbers listed (e.g. 78, 110) represent the floor of the airspace in that particular sector. Note that the ceiling of the entire Class B airspace has now been raised from 10,000′ MSL to 12,000′ MSL. The following two graphics show the outlines of the old and new airspace, as well as them superimposed over each other. There are some sectors of Class B airspace that have been removed, as well as some that have been added. In addition the floors and boundaries of some existing sectors have been changed. Let’s explore them:
Area A. This is the primary surface area of Class B airspace that surrounds the Salt Lake Int’l Airport (KSLC). The major changes are:
- Northern boundary moves south
- Northeast boundary along the power lines north of Bountiful Skypark (BTF) moves west to be in-line with Redwood Road
- Surface area removed immediately east of South Valley Regional (U42)
These are great changes because, operationally speaking;
1. Pilots departing to the north off BTF will no longer have to immediately turn to the east, and they can continue straight out to the north remaining east of an imaginary line that runs in-line with Redwood Road;
2. Pilots will now be able to depart immediately to the east (remaining below 6000′ MSL) after taking off from U42 without having to worry about penetrating the Bravo surface area.
- Western boundary is moved slightly toward the east, with the defining limits now based off the Wasatch (TCH) VOR 20 DME, as opposed to the former 17 Localizer (I-BNT).
- Floor is lowered 100 feet from 7600′ MSL to 7500′ MSL.
Having the boundaries now defined off the TCH VOR is going to make situational awareness much easier for pilots. The majority of private pilots, and virtually all student pilots are not aware of what a localizer is, much less how to dial in a localizer frequency. Being able to reference a VOR, whether it be conventionally or on a GPS is going to make pilots of all experience levels much more aware of the location of the Bravo boundaries. GA pilots will now be restricted 100 feel lower, from 7600′ to 7500′ but, honestly, big deal.
Why the change? Well, to make accommodations for aircraft on the ILS to runway 17. ILS 17 SLC. When flying the procedure between IVOCY and PRYES (approximately 12-16 NM north of SLC) the minimum altitude is 7500′. An aircraft at that altitude will be below Bravo airspace, thus the change.
Area C. This is a newly created area that could pose some problems if pilots aren’t careful. Currently, it is common procedure for pilots transitioning westbound via the shore to fly to Lagoon (amusement park), then turn west out towards the practice area, for example. The floor of class B airspace immediately west of Lagoon was 7600′ MSL, but now a portion of it will be at 6000′ MSL. Pilots not aware of the changes who are transitioning via the shoreline westbound (or eastbound) at the typical altitude of 6000′ MSL or 6500′ MSL could find themselves penetrating the airspace. Now, pilots will have to fly slightly more to the north, or fly at 5500′ MSL. A good point of reference is the Francis Peak weather station. Once abeam Francis Peak going north, the pilot should clear the Bravo airspace after turning west.
- Class B surface area immediately east of the airport removed and replaced with an area having a floor of 6000′ MSL.
- Southern boundary moved south to contain 34L and 34R ILS traffic
Operationally speaking this is a great change for GA pilots operating in and out of U42. A pilot desiring to fly north, say to BTF out of U42 would previously have to either contact SLC on the ground (good luck) and obtain a Bravo clearance OR fly south of the airport past the Jordan River LDS temple before commencing a turn eastbound. This will now allow pilots to immediately depart the traffic pattern eastbound (remaining below 6000′ MSL).
- Boundaries and floors have been adjusted for areas G and G
- A new area of Bravo airspace, over the north end of Utah Lake has been added to contain traffic on arrival to runways 34R and 35
Operationally the biggest adjustment for GA pilots will be to get used to the added area around Lehi over Utah Lake. It should only pose a hazard for pilots who are used to operating at or above 10,000′ MSL. As a turbine aircraft operator, this is a welcome change. When arriving into SLC on, say the LEEHY RNAV arrival we often get calls of “unknown traffic” in the vicinity. This now provides more of a margin of safety for aircraft on arrival.
Area J. This is a new area extending from just north of Toelle Valley Airport (KTVY) to east of the Oquirrh Mountains. The main reason for the addition of this area is to contain departures from SLC. For example, on the EDETH RNAV departure off SLC traffic makes a climbing turn west off the 34′s, climbing out over the Toelle Valley before proceeding on course southbound. Likewise, on the WAATS RNAV arrival from the west turbine traffic enters a downwind at 11,000′ MSL from this area. Previously, there was no class Bravo airspace to contain the downwind. Being an area of heavy flight training and parachute activity this poses a hazard to all operators in the area, particularly at higher altitudes. Operationally speaking, pilots operating at these altitudes need to be aware of the fact that Bravo airspace now exists in an area where once it did not.
Also in the vicinity of South Valley Regional (U42) some minor changes have been made to the sector west of the airport. The floor immediately west of the airport remains at 6500′ MSL, however the boundary has been moved slightly east. This will allow for more easier transiting of VFR traffic along the bench of the Oquirrh Mountain range towards the Garfield Stack on the way to Toelle. This boundary will be defined by the Wasatch (TCH) VOR 12 DME. North of the Garfield Stack the floor has been raised from 6000′ MSL to 6500′ MSL. The sector has also been shifted slightly west in order to accommodate arrivals beginning the downwind leg to 16R/34L at 11,000′ MSL. Another noteworthy change in the vicinity of the Toelle Valley Airport (KTVY) is the raising of a floor north of TVY, between Stansbury and Antelope Islands, up to 8600′ MSL. This change can be both a pro and a con for pilots operating in the area. On the plus side it will allow some leeway for pilots who use the area for practicing of VFR maneuvers, etc. It can also be a benefit, and a possible “gotcha” for pilots conducting practice approaches into TVY. For example, to fully comply with the published altitudes of the ILS 17 TVY the pilot is to fly to WEGET (an initial approach fix) at a minimum altitude of 8100′ MSL. Under the old airspace ruling the pilot would have to either fly at a lower altitude, or obtain clearance into Bravo airspace from ATC. The new ruling puts WEGET intersection below the Bravo airspace, but immediately north of WEGET intersection (based off of the TCH 249 degree radial) the floor of Bravo airspace lowers back down to 7800′ MSL. To sum it up, if a pilot is conducting a practice ILS to runway 17 in TVY and NOT in communication with ATC, do not intercept the final approach course north of WEGET at the published altitude of 8100′. You’ll bust the airspace. And that’s never a good thing. Another bonus is the shifting of the Bravo boundary that runs along Stansbury Island eastward. This is good news for student pilots and instructors who frequently practice maneuvers at various altitudes in the area of the evaporation ponds just south of the island.
Pilots regularly operating in and out of Bountiful Skypark (KBTF) will now get a bit of relief, thanks to the changes in Class Bravo boundaries immediately surrounding the airport. Anyone who has transited the I-15 corridor between Skypark and Lagoon knows how congested the area can be. Currently, pilots are limited to a small geographic area between I-15 and the benches to fly north and south. The old Bravo surface boundaries near Skypark are defined by the large power lines that run diagonally from the departure end of runway 34 to the northeast, and Redwood Road to the west. As previously mentioned, with the new ruling the Bravo surface area has been shifted west in alignment with Redwood Road (that is, if Redwood Road continued farther north). While not shown in this graphic the new SLC Terminal Chart depicts a radar dome west of Lagoon that the surface boundary line extending north of BTF runs through. This is presumably to serve as a landmark so pilots can identify where the Bravo surface area begins. As previously mentioned, this graphic also shows the lowering of the floor of a sector from 7600′ MSL to 7500′ MSL. Another major change in this same area is the shifting of a Bravo boundary along the mountains east of Hill Air Force Base (HIF) and Bountiful Skypark (BTF). The current sector is a square sector spanning west and east of the mountain ridge with Bravo airspace beginning at 9000′ MSL and extending to 10,000′ MSL. The highest peaks in this sector extend upwards to about 9700′ MSL, so a safe ridge crossing in this area generally requires a Class Bravo clearance. Under the old ruling if approaching the ridges from the east it can be very difficult for pilots to discern exactly where the Bravo airspace begins. To simply things the boundary line has been shifted west to follow the ridge line, and the floor has been raised to 10,500′ MSL. In the simplest terms, if you are on the east side of the ridge you are clear of Bravo airspace, whereas if you are on the west side you need to be aware of where the Bravo airspace is. For pilots not wishing to communicate with ATC this will make for an easier transition when crossing the ridge, being that they can usually stay below 10,500′ without an issue.
Ogden-Hinckley Airport (KOGD). The airspace surrounding OGD can be quite confusing: two Class D airports (Ogden-Hinckley and Hill Air Force Base) bunched up against each other, and class B airspace over the top of them. As if this wasn’t confusing enough another sector of Bravo airspace has been added. This area is defined by the Wasatch (TCH) VOR 26 DME to the north, Mountain Road (Harrison Blvd.) to the east, and I-15 to the west. This new sector starts at 10,000′ MSL, so it’s addition shouldn’t be a major factor to pilots flying low altitudes over the Mountain Road north/southbound. Pilots could now get themselves into trouble flying between I-15 and the Mountain Road at higher altitudes as they transition the Salt Lake Valley though. This sector was added to contain arrivals such as the ILS 17 SLC. As an example, between TUKTE and UDUZU intersections, roughly 22-32 NM north of runway 17, aircraft fly at an altitude of 11,000′ MSL. This segment is immediately to the east of KOGD in the area previously not considered Bravo airspace.The graphic below shows the arrival tracks into SLC for runways 16R, 16L, and 17. Now arrivals to 17 can be contained in Bravo airspace further north.
Elimination of East Bench sector.
Now, here’s a section of Class B airspace in the Salt Lake area that never really made sense. A good portion of the Greater Salt Lake area east of I-15 from South Salt Lake down to Draper (also including the entrances to Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons) was designated as Bravo airspace from 9000′ MSL to 10,000′ MSL. Well, since turbine aircraft don’t even fly over this portion of the city, the FAA was kind enough to give it back to the GA pilots. Thanks, FAA! This will make it a bit more convenient for “those” pilots who wish to transit the whole Salt Lake Valley on the east side. Have at it guys!
Simple enough, right? Hopefully this post hasn’t been too confusing and some sense of these changes has been made. If you really want to be confused, just go ahead and read the final ruling that the FAA published on the matter. You can find it right here. It makes perfect sense. ;)
In the meantime, fly safe and fly smart (and don’t forget to update your charts and GPS databases).