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Oops… possible pilot deviation

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Oops… possible pilot deviation

Old 10-15-2021, 08:37 AM
  #1  
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Default Oops… possible pilot deviation

Asking for a friend:

Recently, I was on a cross country with a student back to our home airport, which is under the shelf of class C airspace. We were talking to approach and had a beacon code; however, while we were just outside of the class C shelf, approach told us to squawk VFR and frequency changed was approved. As we descended into the destination airport, we clipped the shelf by 300 feet and were in their airspace for approximately one mile. The tower at our destination airport was closed at the time and when we were on final, the jet center gave us a phone number to call. I called the number and sure enough it was approach stating we violated class C. She said the controller for the class C airspace found us squawking VFR flying through his airspace. I stated that we were talking with approach and had a squawk code, but were instructed to squawk vfr and frequency changed approved. The supervisor stated “in that case you’re fine,” and let us go. Now, I’m fearful that a report has already been filed and an investigation will be underway. I acknowledge that even if I didn’t break a regulation it was not a good decision to fly through a class C shelf while not talking to approach. I guess as I debrief this for myself I have a few questions:
  1. If approach tells me to squawk vfr and frequency change approved am I able to clip a class C airspace as I descend?
  2. Is it likely approach already made a report? Should I expect another phone call?
  3. Worst case scenario I get a pilot deviation, would this make it difficult to get an airline job at a regional and/or major? I already have two checkride failures (comm and CFI).

Last edited by MosquitoXEL; 10-15-2021 at 08:48 AM.
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Old 10-15-2021, 09:00 AM
  #2  
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Sounds to me like you're fine. I'd still file a NASA report...couldn't hurt. I'd also ask a mentor or someone more experienced locally if there's a more preferable way wrt getting back to your airport when the tower is closed.
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Old 10-15-2021, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by MosquitoXEL View Post
Asking for a friend:

Recently, I was on a cross country with a student back to our home airport, which is under the shelf of class C airspace. We were talking to approach and had a beacon code; however, while we were just outside of the class C shelf, approach told us to squawk VFR and frequency changed was approved. As we descended into the destination airport, we clipped the shelf by 300 feet and were in their airspace for approximately one mile. The tower at our destination airport was closed at the time and when we were on final, the jet center gave us a phone number to call. I called the number and sure enough it was approach stating we violated class C. She said the controller for the class C airspace found us squawking VFR flying through his airspace. I stated that we were talking with approach and had a squawk code, but were instructed to squawk vfr and frequency changed approved. The supervisor stated “in that case you’re fine,” and let us go. Now, I’m fearful that a report has already been filed and an investigation will be underway. I acknowledge that even if I didn’t break a regulation it was not a good decision to fly through a class C shelf while not talking to approach. I guess as I debrief this for myself I have a few questions:
  1. If approach tells me to squawk vfr and frequency change approved am I able to clip a class C airspace as I descend?
  2. Is it likely approach already made a report? Should I expect another phone call?
  3. Worst case scenario I get a pilot deviation, would this make it difficult to get an airline job at a regional and/or major? I already have two checkride failures (comm and CFI).
Sounds like it was the controller's mistake and you are fine. You could file an ASRS report to avoid a possible deviation but it probably wont go that far. This shouldnt prevent your career advancement imo.
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Old 10-15-2021, 10:38 AM
  #4  
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Simply file the NASA Report...over & done.
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Old 10-15-2021, 11:58 AM
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It's class C airspace. You do not need permission to enter. The only requirement is that you establish two-way communications, which you did. Two-way communications are considered established if you make an initial call, and get a response with your identification (n-number or callsign). At that point, you may enter class C airspace, as you have met the communication requirement. 14 CFR 91.130(c)(1) stipulates that you establish, and maintain two-way communication.

From a legal point of view, were communications terminated prior to your entry into class C, or were communications terminated by the controller within class C? if the controller terminated communications prior to your entry, then it was an error on the part of the controller, but still your responsibility to-re-establish two-way communications. It would be one thing if the controller simply acknowledged your call sign and didn't talk again, but here the controller clearly assigned a squawk code, and then formally stated that two-way communications were over, and also ended the use of the transponder discreet code. Whether that would constitute a violation is debatable.

Class C was formerly known as a terminal radar service area, whereas class B was formerly a terminal control area. The difference in the names denotes the difference in the nature of the airspace; one is a service, while the other is a matter of control. One requires talking, the other a clearance. If you'd been in class B, it would be a greater concern. Class C airspace, not as much. That said, it was enough of a concern that the supervisor of the facility wanted to talk to you, and given that level of attention, an ASRS report is warranted.

Violations aren't cut and dried in many cases; the intent and circumstances matter. If the controller believed you would reasonably remain clear and expected that you'd descend below the shelf and out of his airspace, it would be reasonable for him or her to terminate communications. If you felt you had established and maintained two way communications, and that the controller was satisfied with the extent of those communications, it might be argued that in good faith you continued on the path in the sincere belief that you were in compliance. Your incident has value with respect to the safety reporting system, and regardless of whether you file for protective reasons, or educational ones, you should file the ASRS report.

As with every ASRS report, remember that the body of the report is protected, but the title strip (which is returned to you, or cited electronically) is not protected. This means that you don't put anything in the title strip that constitutes an admission of guilt (eg, "violation of class C airspace," etc). Anything you say in the body of the report is protected so long as it didn't constitute a crime, and wasn't intentional.

You should also be aware that the phone call you had with the supervisor was almost certainly on a recorded line and that anything you say in such a call is subject to use against you in the enforcement process and subsequent appeal process. The FAA does not require evidence to initiate enforcement action, and in administrative law, you are guilty until proven innocent. The FAA professes an "attitude of compliance" as a mitigating factor. I've seen many cases where this was not true, and you should never assume that the FAA has a kind heart. File the ASRS report. Keep a copy. Place your time-stamped strip with it when it arrives, and most likely you won't hear anything. If you do hear anything more, it will be a letter of investigation, to which you'll have ten days to respond. At that point, take it very seriously. Until then, you've done due diligence, and shouldn't let it trouble you further.

As always, document, document, document.
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Old 10-15-2021, 12:08 PM
  #6  
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For future reference: Frequency changed approved and squawk VFR does not mean you need to do so immediately.
It sort of assumes you understand to do this when appropriate to do so.
Controller was a little early as he was watching your radar track to verify then turned to some other business.
File the report TODAY.
As far as the FAA is concerned….my view is even dimmer then JB’s.
Treat them like you’re at a Police interview.
Any phone calls or communications are intended to establish guilt.
Do you know what I’m calling about? No Sir/ Ma’am.

I really don’t buy the “just want to hear your side of the story”.
This is why especially as a CFI AOPA membership and “Legal Assistance” option is worth its price.
$148(?), not sure as I’ve got automatic renewal.
The story so far is short: you were in Class C, whether for a foot or for 10 miles.
Like JB said come up with some innocent title for your report.
I’ve filed like 10-12 over the last 20 years.

Last edited by TiredSoul; 10-15-2021 at 12:48 PM.
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Old 10-15-2021, 03:01 PM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by MosquitoXEL View Post
If approach tells me to squawk vfr and frequency change approved am I able to clip a class C airspace as I descend?
As John, said it's complicated. Entirely possible that the sup considered that you had made a good-faith attempt to comply and might not try to blame you.

Originally Posted by MosquitoXEL View Post
Is it likely approach already made a report? Should I expect another phone call
This one is complicated too. In the old days I'd say you're 100% good, just file an ASAP and you'll never hear about it again.

But busy TRACONs got some upgrades a few years back. One of them is precision radar and my understanding is that 300' off altitude is enough to trigger the alarm. Once the alarm is triggered, the sup HAS to do *something* about it (it gets recorded)... my understanding is that they may not be able to just call it good. Somebody has to get a deviation (pilot) or error (controller).

A good sup would of course lay the blame where it needed to go. But possible the controllers might circle wagons and give you the deviation since you switched freq and code.


Originally Posted by MosquitoXEL View Post
Worst case scenario I get a pilot deviation, would this make it difficult to get an airline job at a regional and/or major? I already have two checkride failures (comm and CFI)
You don't need an actual violation with two busts in hand, that's enough strikes to start moving your major apps down in the stack a good ways.

But with the FAA's new compliance philosophy, the worst you'd probably get is a talking to. Especially since a listen to the tapes would show you being setup for confusion. How well compliance philosophy might work in practice may depend on your FSDO's culture, ask around about that.

Alternatively you could shut up and lawyer up (if you get an LOI) and try to fight it. But my feel is that compliance philosophy has better odds of leaving no permanent mark on your record. Especially since you already explained it to the TRACON sup and got recorded, hard for a lawyer to rewind that anyhow.


Nothing to do now but send the ASAP (completely factual) and wait. My guess is you won't hear anything.
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Old 10-15-2021, 07:25 PM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by MosquitoXEL View Post
Asking for a friend:

Recently, I was on a cross country with a student back to our home airport, which is under the shelf of class C airspace. We were talking to approach and had a beacon code; however, while we were just outside of the class C shelf, approach told us to squawk VFR and frequency changed was approved. As we descended into the destination airport, we clipped the shelf by 300 feet and were in their airspace for approximately one mile. The tower at our destination airport was closed at the time and when we were on final, the jet center gave us a phone number to call. I called the number and sure enough it was approach stating we violated class C. She said the controller for the class C airspace found us squawking VFR flying through his airspace. I stated that we were talking with approach and had a squawk code, but were instructed to squawk vfr and frequency changed approved. The supervisor stated “in that case you’re fine,” and let us go. Now, I’m fearful that a report has already been filed and an investigation will be underway. I acknowledge that even if I didn’t break a regulation it was not a good decision to fly through a class C shelf while not talking to approach. I guess as I debrief this for myself I have a few questions:
  1. If approach tells me to squawk vfr and frequency change approved am I able to clip a class C airspace as I descend?
  2. Is it likely approach already made a report? Should I expect another phone call?
  3. Worst case scenario I get a pilot deviation, would this make it difficult to get an airline job at a regional and/or major? I already have two checkride failures (comm and CFI).

Lots of variables to the story. Not sure how recently this occurred, as the controller has 24 hours to file an ATSAP report from the time of the event/incident/accident occurrence. They may or may not have filed an ATSAP report. Unless your violation (if it actually is one) resulted in a loss of separation with another aircraft or airspace adjacent to the controller's airspace, then I see no reason why the controller would file an ATSAP report. Additionally, if the controller who terminated your radar was the one working the Class C airspace that you allegedly violated, then he/she obviously knew where you were flying to and that you were possibly going to infringe on their airspace. Thus, it doesn't make much sense for the controller to turn you in for an airspace violation.

How it turns out is also dependent on the type of approach airspace. If it's a busy one, most likely you won't hear about it again because they could really care less about small stuff like this. However, if it's at a slower approach control, then it's really a toss up if this eventually goes up the chain as far as the FSDO contacting you for more information. At that point you should really consider seeking advice from legal counsel.

To your last question, I had a friend of mine many years go violate a Class C airspace on a student solo cross-country flight (he was flying to HFD and violated the approach/arrival end of BDL Class C). He got into a lot of trouble with the Bradley FSDO but nothing really came of it. He now flies for DAL. Thus, IF you do get the violation on your record, just be able to explain it at an interview IF it does come up. Same goes for you checkride failures, just own up to them. Be honest by admitting your mistakes, and state how you learned from those mistakes/failures. GL
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Old 10-16-2021, 11:28 PM
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Originally Posted by rickair7777 View Post


This one is complicated too. In the old days I'd say you're 100% good, just file an ASAP and you'll never hear about it again.

But busy TRACONs got some upgrades a few years back. One of them is precision radar and my understanding is that 300' off altitude is enough to trigger the alarm. Once the alarm is triggered, the sup HAS to do *something* about it (it gets recorded)... my understanding is that they may not be able to just call it good. Somebody has to get a deviation (pilot) or error (controller).

A good sup would of course lay the blame where it needed to go. But possible the controllers might circle wagons and give you the deviation since you switched freq and code.



Airspace bust with no separation issues is not a MOR. Reference JO7210.632A.
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Old 10-17-2021, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by JohnBurke View Post
It's class C airspace. You do not need permission to enter. The only requirement is that you establish two-way communications, which you did. Two-way communications are considered established if you make an initial call, and get a response with your identification (n-number or callsign). At that point, you may enter class C airspace, as you have met the communication requirement. 14 CFR 91.130(c)(1) stipulates that you establish, and maintain two-way communication.

From a legal point of view, were communications terminated prior to your entry into class C, or were communications terminated by the controller within class C? if the controller terminated communications prior to your entry, then it was an error on the part of the controller, but still your responsibility to-re-establish two-way communications. It would be one thing if the controller simply acknowledged your call sign and didn't talk again, but here the controller clearly assigned a squawk code, and then formally stated that two-way communications were over, and also ended the use of the transponder discreet code. Whether that would constitute a violation is debatable.

Class C was formerly known as a terminal radar service area, whereas class B was formerly a terminal control area. The difference in the names denotes the difference in the nature of the airspace; one is a service, while the other is a matter of control. One requires talking, the other a clearance. If you'd been in class B, it would be a greater concern. Class C airspace, not as much. That said, it was enough of a concern that the supervisor of the facility wanted to talk to you, and given that level of attention, an ASRS report is warranted.

Violations aren't cut and dried in many cases; the intent and circumstances matter. If the controller believed you would reasonably remain clear and expected that you'd descend below the shelf and out of his airspace, it would be reasonable for him or her to terminate communications. If you felt you had established and maintained two way communications, and that the controller was satisfied with the extent of those communications, it might be argued that in good faith you continued on the path in the sincere belief that you were in compliance. Your incident has value with respect to the safety reporting system, and regardless of whether you file for protective reasons, or educational ones, you should file the ASRS report.

As with every ASRS report, remember that the body of the report is protected, but the title strip (which is returned to you, or cited electronically) is not protected. This means that you don't put anything in the title strip that constitutes an admission of guilt (eg, "violation of class C airspace," etc). Anything you say in the body of the report is protected so long as it didn't constitute a crime, and wasn't intentional.

You should also be aware that the phone call you had with the supervisor was almost certainly on a recorded line and that anything you say in such a call is subject to use against you in the enforcement process and subsequent appeal process. The FAA does not require evidence to initiate enforcement action, and in administrative law, you are guilty until proven innocent. The FAA professes an "attitude of compliance" as a mitigating factor. I've seen many cases where this was not true, and you should never assume that the FAA has a kind heart. File the ASRS report. Keep a copy. Place your time-stamped strip with it when it arrives, and most likely you won't hear anything. If you do hear anything more, it will be a letter of investigation, to which you'll have ten days to respond. At that point, take it very seriously. Until then, you've done due diligence, and shouldn't let it trouble you further.

As always, document, document, document.
Thank you for this!

Originally Posted by TiredSoul View Post
For future reference: Frequency changed approved and squawk VFR does not mean you need to do so immediately.
It sort of assumes you understand to do this when appropriate to do so.
Controller was a little early as he was watching your radar track to verify then turned to some other business.
File the report TODAY.
As far as the FAA is concerned….my view is even dimmer then JB’s.
Treat them like you’re at a Police interview.
Any phone calls or communications are intended to establish guilt.
Do you know what I’m calling about? No Sir/ Ma’am.

I really don’t buy the “just want to hear your side of the story”.
This is why especially as a CFI AOPA membership and “Legal Assistance” option is worth its price.
$148(?), not sure as I’ve got automatic renewal.
The story so far is short: you were in Class C, whether for a foot or for 10 miles.
Like JB said come up with some innocent title for your report.
I’ve filed like 10-12 over the last 20 years.
Thanks! I filed.. err "someone I know" a report.

Originally Posted by rickair7777 View Post
As John, said it's complicated. Entirely possible that the sup considered that you had made a good-faith attempt to comply and might not try to blame you.



This one is complicated too. In the old days I'd say you're 100% good, just file an ASAP and you'll never hear about it again.

But busy TRACONs got some upgrades a few years back. One of them is precision radar and my understanding is that 300' off altitude is enough to trigger the alarm. Once the alarm is triggered, the sup HAS to do *something* about it (it gets recorded)... my understanding is that they may not be able to just call it good. Somebody has to get a deviation (pilot) or error (controller).

A good sup would of course lay the blame where it needed to go. But possible the controllers might circle wagons and give you the deviation since you switched freq and code.




You don't need an actual violation with two busts in hand, that's enough strikes to start moving your major apps down in the stack a good ways.

But with the FAA's new compliance philosophy, the worst you'd probably get is a talking to. Especially since a listen to the tapes would show you being setup for confusion. How well compliance philosophy might work in practice may depend on your FSDO's culture, ask around about that.

Alternatively you could shut up and lawyer up (if you get an LOI) and try to fight it. But my feel is that compliance philosophy has better odds of leaving no permanent mark on your record. Especially since you already explained it to the TRACON sup and got recorded, hard for a lawyer to rewind that anyhow.


Nothing to do now but send the ASAP (completely factual) and wait. My guess is you won't hear anything.
Thank you!
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