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How Do I Fly This Departure?
How Do I Fly This Departure?

A guide to flying some of the most common departure procedures out of Los Angeles Airport


So you’ve probably been cleared to an airport via one of Los Angeles’s numerous standard instrument departures, or SIDs. You punch in the SID into your FMC, takeoff, set LNAV/VNAV, and you’re confused as to why the controller is telling you that you’re flying the departure incorrectly. Hopefully this article can provide some answers.


Airspace

The Los Angeles International Airport deals with a number of arrival streams in close proximity to the airport itself. Most notably is the SADDE stream, which deals mostly with arrivals from the San Francisco Bay Area -- from SFO alone is the second-busiest route in the United States, handling over 50 aircraft daily and just under four million passengers annually. On the network, SFO-LAX is the busiest citypair worldwide. The SIDs leaving Los Angeles are thus designed to avoid conflicting with this stream, and it is more important than ever to fly these departure procedures correctly.


The VTU6 Departure (VTU6)

Despite being one of the simplest departure procedures from KLAX, this is the most common mis-flown departure procedure that we see on the network.





Common Mistakes

  • Flying directly to VTU or RZS upon departure
  • Busting through the assigned top altitude
  • Claiming that the departure procedure is unflyable because it’s not in the FMC

How To Fly This Departure

When filing this departure, you’ll probably get this clearance from Los Angeles Clearance:


LAX_DEL: “UAL511, cleared to the San Francisco Airport, Ventura Six Departure, San Marcus Transition, then as filed, climb via SID, except maintain 5,000, departure frequency 124.500, squawk 7102”


The controller has cleared you via the Ventura Six Departure, so make sure you have the chart on-hand (it’s also posted in this article). Note that the departure doesn’t say anything about turning direct VTU. Indeed, the route description just tells you to fly runway heading:


TAKEOFF RUNWAYS 24L/R, 25L/R: Climb on heading 251° for RADAR vectors to VTU VOR/DME, cross SMO R-154 at or below 3000, thence. . . .

. . . .on (assigned transition) or (assigned route). Expect further clearance to filed flight level three minutes after departure.


All you should be doing when flying this departure is flying runway heading (251, or 071 when departing 6L/R or 7L/R) and following the altitude restrictions up to 5,000. Do not turn direct VTU on your own. Turn direct to VTU or RZS only when the controller tells you to. Don’t worry, he hasn’t forgotten about you; when you’re cleared direct VTU or RZS, it’ll sound something like this:


LAX_DEP: “UAL511, cleared direct Ventura, resume Ventura Six Departure”


Set your FMC to proceed direct Ventura (VTU). It will be your responsibility to continue flying via your transition (if applicable), and then your route. The RZS transition takes you from VTU direct to RZS, and the DINTY transition takes you to SUDDO, then DINTY. Once you’ve flown the transition, you’re set! You’ve flown the VTU6 departure flawlessly.


The LOOP8 Departure

Although more complicated than the VTU6 departure, it’s essential that pilots fly this departure correctly.






Common Mistakes

  • Turning Direct LAX immediately upon departure
  • Flying the wrong initial heading
  • Turning right direct LAX
  • Claiming that the departure procedure is unflyable because it’s not in the FMC

How To Fly This Departure

When filing this departure, you’ll probably get this clearance from Los Angeles Delivery:


LAX_DEL: “N484TR, cleared to the San Francisco Airport, LOOP Eight Departure, Daggett Transition, then as filed, climb via SID, except maintain 5,000, departure frequency 124.500, squawk 7050”


This is another departure in which most pilots will blame their FMCs for making them fly the departure incorrectly. Trust us, we’ve heard it hundreds of times before. Given that this is another radar vector departure, you shouldn’t be using your FMC much immediately upon departure anyway. Let’s take a look at the chart.


Notice that the initial headings from runways 24L/R and 25L/R are different -- 250 and 235, respectively. The controller doesn’t have to issue these headings -- if you’re cleared via a departure, you’re responsible for flying it correctly. Set your heading selector to the appropriate heading, and maintain that heading upon departure. Do not engage LNAV/VNAV, or turn direct LAX on your own.


In a few miles, the controller will issue an instruction like this:


LAX_DEP: “N484TR, turn left direct Los Angeles, resume LOOP8 Departure”


Notice that the controller specifically gives you a left turn. This is by design -- turning right on departure causes collisions with the LAX north complex and the SADDE stream -- don’t do it!


After turning direct LAX, it is your responsibility to fly the rest of the departure, complying with altitude restrictions along the way. In other words, you will navigate from LAX (at or above 10,000 feet) to KEGGS (at or above 13,000), and COOPP (at or above 15,000). Once you get to DAG, you’re done! You’ve flown the LOOP8 departure correctly.



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