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Flying Height

Old 4th Dec 2017, 13:37
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Flying Height

When taking off and landing from an RAF airbase I was told to keep below 500ft until instructed to increase height, when I finely got clearance to increase height it was around 7 nm from the airbase, on return I was instructed to below 500ft at 9 miles out, as this particular airfield is 200ft above AMSL, on the QFE he was giving me I was well under the 500ft, so I had to skirt around any buildings/vessels and so on to keep legal.
What are the legalities of this flight and for them to give these instructions?
James.

Last edited by ajojets; 4th Dec 2017 at 14:13.
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 13:42
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I've had a similar experience at Culdrose - at the time it was unproblematic for me, and the reasons were reasonably obvious, so I just did it. I think that they'd sort of decided I was a helicopter (I wasn't, but was flying something similarly slow and ugly).

Legalities? They were basically asking you to do something for their convenience, in VFR ops (as you certainly can't be IFR that low unless on an instrument procedure). If you were unable to do this safely and legally, then you had a duty as captain to state "unable" and ask for alternative clearances. If you breached the ANO, it's your licence, not theirs.

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Old 4th Dec 2017, 13:48
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RAF airfields work on QFE and Regional Pressure Setting, not QNH, so I'd have flown 500 feet agl, or higher if I decided I would be in breach of the low flying regs. At 7nm you're outside their MATZ in any case so they cannot actually direct you to fly so low.
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 13:53
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He can't instruct you to fly below MSA unless he's guaranteeing your safety by radar. Nor can he instruct you to break the law by flying less than 500' from person , vehicle, vessel or structure unless for the purposes of taking off and landing. You might struggle to convince CAA Enforcements that you were operating at those levels for taking off or landing when you were 7 and 9 nm from the airfield.

What the RAF does with its' own aeroplanes is up to the RAF, but civilian aircraft operate to civilian rules and I often notice a lack of knowledge in those rules from RAF controllers involved in controlling civilian traffic.

Tin hat on, awaiting incoming from the light blue.

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Old 4th Dec 2017, 14:20
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Height? Most of us fly at altitudes.
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 14:30
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Most of us fly at altitudes. .... Cos flying at ground level is called taxiing.
.
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 14:33
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Originally Posted by ajojets View Post
I was instructed to below 500ft at 9 miles out, as this particular airfield is 200ft above AMSL, on the QFE he was giving me I was well under the 500ft, so I had to skirt around any.... vessels and so on to keep legal.


Is it just me struggling to make sense of that?
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 15:02
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Clunk, if he was flying on QFE he was flying a height, not altitude...
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 15:32
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Is it just me struggling to make sense of that?
No, but I think he means he was asked to be below 700' AMSL (500' AGL, 200 FE) at 9 miles.

Firstly there is only one military airfield that has its own CTR - all others have MATZ and as ShyTorque states at 9 miles you'd be outside (laterally) or under the stub.

The word "Unable" is seldom used by PPL for fear of being denied a clearance (in this instance no clearance is necessary anyway). Remember, the MATZ is not controlled airspace and therefore you can be 'firmer' with your response and state that you will be maintaining X altitude or Y height and whilst we all want to be helpful THEY CANNOT INSIST you obey their instructions. You must, however, respect the ATZ which is usually 2.5miles away from the centre of the longest runway. Perhaps a sharper controller would have vectored you away from the main runway/circuit to enable more 'vertical distance' between you and the ground.

Without wishing to be disrespectful, I find some controllers issue instructions so they don't have to do as much/any controlling.

Last edited by Duchess_Driver; 4th Dec 2017 at 15:49.
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 15:48
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Yes! Trying to control me when I'm outside of controlled airspace is one of the reasons I tend to make a listening watch rather than contact a unit, and if I hear them telling someone about me I'll chirp up with details...

Perhaps if more people didn't waste a controllers time by requesting their comfort blanket basic service, then they'd give us the time of day more often when actually requesting something useful like a zone transit. I'm sure some will disagree with me... It won't be the first time!
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 16:25
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Originally Posted by Cirrussy View Post
Yes! Trying to control me when I'm outside of controlled airspace is one of the reasons I tend to make a listening watch rather than contact a unit, and if I hear them telling someone about me I'll chirp up with details...

Perhaps if more people didn't waste a controllers time by requesting their comfort blanket basic service, then they'd give us the time of day more often when actually requesting something useful like a zone transit. I'm sure some will disagree with me... It won't be the first time!
Well I for one agree with you. That's exactly what I do.
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 16:59
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The word "Unable" is seldom used by PPL for fear of being denied a clearance (in this instance no clearance is necessary anyway). Remember, the MATZ is not controlled airspace and therefore you can be 'firmer' with your response and state that you will be maintaining X altitude or Y height and whilst we all want to be helpful THEY CANNOT INSIST you obey their instructions. You must, however, respect the ATZ which is usually 2.5miles away from the centre of the longest runway. Perhaps a sharper controller would have vectored you away from the main runway/circuit to enable more 'vertical distance' between you and the ground.
Very well put.

Low hours, if it never came up too much in training, it is understandable for PPLs to be shy and not firm enough.

Unable, and state a minimum height/altitude you are able to maintain, if they are unable to accommodate your transit then route around, hold, or if you're feeling particularly brash then continue as you don't technically need clearance to do so (but be prepared for a heated phone call once on the ground).
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 17:55
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As an ex RAF pilot, it's obvious to me that some RAF controllers do routinely "over stretch" their actual authority to control. On one route I take, I sometimes contact ATC (or get handed over) to transit the MATZ at a certain well known Lincolnshire base but normally get given a "clearance" to fly at an altitude that puts me above the MATZ, rather than through it. It's very obvious that more often than not there are no other aircraft to affect my transit through. By putting you outside it absolves them of any actual controlling.

This time of year, it may put aircraft into icing conditions... beware!
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 18:08
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Thanks, Heston... That could be a first!!
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 19:11
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Originally Posted by ajojets View Post
When taking off and landing from an RAF airbase I was told to keep below 500ft until instructed to increase height, when I finely got clearance to increase height it was around 7 nm from the airbase, on return I was instructed to below 500ft at 9 miles out, as this particular airfield is 200ft above AMSL, on the QFE he was giving me I was well under the 500ft, so I had to skirt around any buildings/vessels and so on to keep legal.
What are the legalities of this flight and for them to give these instructions?
James.
I would welcome some clarification.

Which country did this take place in?

Fixed Wing or Rotary?

Did the controller use the expression, not above 500 feet on the QFE?
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 19:54
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As for the "which country", we have been told is was during "taking off and landing at an RAF base" - that leaves the UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, Cyprus, UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, Malvinas, UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, Gibraltar, UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, .... Did I mention Malta, perhaps, Ascension, and of course the UK?

I agree "500 feet" needs qualification - but why would the title of this thread be what it is? In fact, the opening post mentions "height" several times but never an "altitude".
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 20:01
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Originally Posted by Jan Olieslagers View Post
As for the "which country", we have been told is was during "taking off and landing at an RAF base" - that leaves the UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, Cyprus, UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, Falklands, UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, Gibraltar, UK, UK, UK, UK, UK, .... Did I mention Malta, perhaps, and the UK?

I agree "500 feet" needs qualification - but why would the title of this thread be what it is? In fact, the opening post mentions "height" several times but never an "altitude".
The expression "RAF Airbase" as well as a lower circuit height for helicopters, is what made me ask for clarification.
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 21:15
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Flying from Sleap usually involves speaking to Shawbury and in general terms they're very good and helpful. However, their habit of saying "MATZ penetration approved" when you're transiting at 4000ft or more (and have said so beforehand) seems a trifle peculiar.
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Old 4th Dec 2017, 21:58
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Originally Posted by ACW599 View Post
Flying from Sleap usually involves speaking to Shawbury and in general terms they're very good and helpful. However, their habit of saying "MATZ penetration approved" when you're transiting at 4000ft or more (and have said so beforehand) seems a trifle peculiar.
Not that peculiar, I'm sure I've heard it elsewhere ...
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