A Guide to

Class B and C Operations

Class B and C airspaces have not only a tower, but also approach and departure control. Different controllers are responsible for sectors around the airport. They control and give clearances to the aircraft within their sectors, and hand them off to other controllers, including to the tower control, as the aircraft move. Sometimes there is just one approach/departure frequency, but often there are many. Departure and approach control are the same things, the same people, just called differently depending on whether the concerned aircraft is coming or going.


Entering Class B and C airspace

Entering Class B airspace requires a mode C transponder and clearance to enter (meaning that ATC says the words, "Cleared to enter the Class Bravo"). Approach control frequencies are listed in a table inside the cover of the sectional chart, and in the A/FD.


A table on the flap of the sectional chart gives approach control frequencies.

Entering Class C airspace requires a mode C transponder, and two-way communications (meaning that ATC says your tail number).

To transition through or land at a Class C airspace, make the request within 20 miles. Approach control frequencies are given in the A/FD, and on sectional charts in magenta-bordered white boxes. As always, the communications call goes you-me-where-what.

Approach Control frequencies are given in magenta boxes on the sectional chart.

A controller may be working on several frequencies simultaneously. Therefore, it's not bad to start your communications with just your tail number and wait for a response.

Pilot: "Manchester Approach, Cirrus 867CD."
Manchester Approach: "Cirrus 867CD, Manchester Approach."
Pilot: "Cirrus 867CD is 18 miles southwest request to transition through your airspace at 3500."
Manchester Approach: "Cirrus 867CD, Manchester approach, transition approved as requested. Squawk 1244. Manchester altimeter 2997."

Landing at a Class B or C airport

1. On the sectional chart, look up the ATIS frequency and get the ATIS.

2. Get the approach frequency from the sectional or A/FD. Also look up the tower frequency and have that jotted down or, better, ready to go on standby or the second radio.

3. Contact approach.
Pilot: "Providence approach, Cessna 92747 15 miles northeast, landing with Foxtrot."

4. Approach control will give you a squawk code and radar identify you. They may also give you vectors to fly. Follow their instructions.

5. Keep listening attentively, because one approach controller could hand you off to another:
ATC: "Cessna 92747, contact Providence approach on 119.45."
Pilot: "Going to 119.45, Cessna 92747."

6. At some point, usually after you've been given a sequence, approach control will hand you off to the tower.
ATC: "Cessna 92747, contact Providence tower."
Pilot: "Changing to tower frequency, Cessna 747."
Pilot: "Providence Tower, Cessna 92747 on final for runway 34."

7. Tower will give you sequencing, landing clearances, etc., as usual.

8. After you land and turn off the runway, you will be told to contact ground control.



Departing from a Class B or C airport

1. While still in a non-movement area (e.g. at your parking space, on the ramp, in a non-movement runup area), get the ATIS.

2. Look in the A/FD (or other publications e.g. instrument approach plates, AOPA guide, JeppGuide, Flight Guide, current GPS info) for the frequency for clearance delivery.

3. Write down:


This stands for:

Frequency (of departure control)

4. Request a clearance: Give tail number, VFR or IFR, where you're going, at what altitude, and the ATIS code.
Pilot: "Providence Clearance, Cessna 92747 request VFR to Block Island at 5500 with Foxtrot."

5. As the Clearance controller gives you the information, you can write it beside the letters.

After the controller gives you the clearance, read the information back to him/her.

Providence Clearance: "Cessna 92727 cleared to depart south. Maintain 2000 until clear of the Class C. Departure frequency is 128.7. Squawk 3125."
Pilot: "Cleared south. Maintain 2000. 128 point 7. 3125 for Cessna 92747"
Providence Clearance: "Cessna 92747, readback correct."

If you don't understand some part of your clearance, ask for clarification.

(Note: sometimes, specific departure procedures are designed and published. They can be found in instrument terminal procedures (Jeppesen or FAA). These procedures have names which may be given in the departure clearance: for example, "Cleared via the Redhill 6 departure." In order to comply with such a procedure, you must have at least a written description of it. If you don't, you may ask for the details, which clearance will give to you. Example: Pilot: "Cessna 92747 does not have that procedure, request the details." ATC: "Redhill 6: climb on runway heading to 1500, expect vectors.")

6. Put the given code into the transponder.

7. Contact ground control for your taxi clearance. (As always, you-me-where-what. Example: "Providence Ground, Cessna 92747 on the northwest ramp for taxi to 34." Note that you don't need to say that you have the ATIS, because you already did this to get the departure clearance.)

8. At the runway entrance, you will change to tower frequency.

9. After takeoff (often very shortly after takeoff, when you're only 300-400 feet off the ground), tower will hand you off to departure control.
ATC: "Cessna 92747, contact departure."
Pilot: "Switching to departure, 747."

10. Change frequency, to the one that was given to you in the departure clearance (in this example, 128.70). When you contact them, say the altitude that you're currently at, and the level-off altitude.
Pilot: "Providence Departure, Cessna 92747 at 600 for 2000."
ATC: "Roger, Cessna 747. Radar contact."

11. Listen attentively for vectoring instructions, traffic reports, and for being handed off to another departure controller on another frequency.

12. If handed off to another controller, make first contact by giving your altitude.
Providence Departure: "Cessna 92747, contact departure on 135.4"
Pilot: "Going to 135.4" (switch) "Providence Departure, Cessna 92747 at 2000."