July 28th, 2021
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Let's assume you're at Torrance field (KTOA). You start out at the ramp in your Piper Warrior, N132KT,
a General Aviation single engine low wing plane. Your first call will be to the Ground controller.
On VATSIM, look for the ground controller. If he's not there, move up the list..looking for TOA_TWR, an approach controller, or a center controller.
General Aviation aircraft in the US begin with an 'N' in their callsign. This prefix is DROPPED from radio communications. When making your call, include the type of aircraft, and the callsign.
The controller may respond with a SHORTENED version of the callsign, including only the type of aircraft and LAST THREE letters/numbers of callsign. Once he/she has done this, you MAY respond with your shortened callsign. Prior to this, you MUST call with your full callsign.
N132KT: Torrance Tower, Piper 132KT is at the south ramp, request taxi to the active for pattern work, we have the weather
TOA_TWR: Piper 2KT, Torrance Tower, taxi to rwy 29L
N132KT: Taxi to rwy 29L, Piper 3KT
After pulling up to the runway, we make our call...
N132KT: Tower, Piper 2KT ready for closed traffic, rwy 29L
TOA_TWR: Piper 2KT, left closed traffic approved, rwy 29L, cleared for takeoff
We then fly our traffic pattern, as normal. Unless the controller asks you to report 'midfield downwind', or 'turning base', then don't say anything. He knows you're there and will give you your landing clearance when it's apporpriate.
TOA_TWR: Piper 2KT, traffic on a 1 mile base for 29L is a Cessna 172, report in sight
N132KT: in sight, Piper 2KT
TOA_TWR: Piper 2KT,number 2 behind the Cessna, rwy 29L, cleared for the option
N132KT: cleared for the option behind the Cessna, Piper 2KT
The 'option' means we can do a low approach, touch and go, stop and go, or full stop landing. We turn base, then land and choose to come to a stop. We clear the runway and hold our position.
N132KT: Piper 2KT clear of rwy 29L, request taxi back to 29L
TOA_TWR: Piper 2KT, taxi to rwy 29L
N132KT: back to 29L we go, Piper 2KT
Which leads us to....
N132KT: Tower, Piper 2KT, holding short of 29L, request a right crosswind departure
TOA_TWR: Piper 2KT, right crosswind departure is approved, rwy 29L cleared for takeoff
We takeoff, fly on rwy hdg until approx 700ft (300ft below traffic pattern altitude), then make our right turn. Our destination is Long Beach (KLGB). We pull up the weather for Long Beach, and adjust our altitmeter accordingly. Shortly after, we hear...
TOA_TWR: Piper 2KT, freq change approved.
N132KT: see ya, Piper 2KT
Torrance tower doesn't know or care that we're going to Long Beach. VFR is a carefree world, indeed. We see LGB_TWR is online, let's call him before we cross that VNY R-140 radial...
N132KT: Long Beach tower, Piper 132KT 7 west, inbound for landing with the weather.
LGB_TWR: Piper 2KT, Long Beach tower, enter left downwind rwy 30, report midfield downwind
N132KT: enter left downwind for 30, we'll call you midfield
No squawk codes? No radar contact? No! This tower controller hasn't got a radar. This is a slight simplification, but a reasonable one for VATSIM purposes. The procedures themselves are accurate. We proceed to the field and enter a LEFT DOWNWIND for rwy 30. This means we'll be making LEFT turns in the pattern, it's that simple.
N132KT: Piper 2KT, midfield downwind
LGB_TWR: Piper 2KT, rwy 30, cleared to land
N132KT: cleared to land rwy 30, Piper 2KT
We land, pull off the rwy and hear the following..
LGB_TWR: Piper 2KT, contact ground point six, good day.
Ground frequencies typically start with '121'. Controllers often drop the '121'. We tune our radio to 121.60 and make the call..
N132KT: "Ground, Piper 132KT clear rwy 30 to the left, taxi to GA parking"
LGB_GND: "Piper 2KT, Long Beach Ground, taxi to parking
N132KT: to parking, Piper 2KT
Wasn't so bad, was it? Let's go to the ramp, pick up some gas, and go somewhere further away...
Why did the controller at Long Beach ask us to report midfield downwind whereas the controller at Torrance didn't? That would be because at Torrance, we started out on the runway, the tower controller could 'see' us the whole time, we remained within visual range of the field. When we arrived at Long Beach, we were arriving from the west, beyond visual range. He'd have no idea to know when/where to look for us...hence the request to report midfield downwind.
LGB_TWR: Piper 2KT, frequency change approved
N132KT: Thanks, Piper 2KT
Studying the LAX Class B map, we see that we will remain clear of the Bravo for now as long as we remain below 5000ft. The Shoreline Transition will take us into the surface based Bravo, so we'll need to call for clearance before we cross that line. Let's do that now. We set our radio to the frequency for LAX_APP...
N132KT: Socal Approach, Piper 132KT is type Piper Warrior, 5 south of LAX at 3000, request Shoreline Route and flight following to Oxnard
LAX_APP: Piper 2KT, Socal Approach, reset transponder, squawk 1011 and ident, LAX altimeter 30.05
N132KT: squawking 1011, 2KT
LAX_APP: Piper 2KT, radar contact 4 south of LAX at 3000. Cleared into Bravo airspace via the Shoreline Route. Maintain VFR at 3000 while in the Bravo.
N132KT: cleared into Bravo, shoreline route, maintain VFR at 3000, 2KT
Recall that the Shoreline Route calls for us to enter the Bravo at the refinery. Your scenery may not have that level of detail, in which case, head west to the shoreline well before LAX. Follow the shoreline unti you can see LAX. Turn left, head out to sea a mile or so, then follow the route as published. As you approach SMO, you'll clear the Bravo airspace. You've flown the Shoreline Route! Ordinarily, the controller would dump us like a hot potato, but since we requested flight following, hopefully he'll let us stay with him...
LAX_APP: Piper 2KT, clear of the Bravo airspace, maintain appropriate VFR altitudes, resume own navigation, remain clear of Bravo airspace, Oxnard altimeter 30.05
N132KT: we'll remain clear of the Bravo, 2KT
Excellent, he didn't kick us off the frequency, or terminate our radar service. That means he's got time to provide flight following to Oxnard. Speaking of...how are we going to get there?
You can use the GPS if you want, but where's the fun? Looking at the sectional chart above, Oxnard is along the coast, 10 miles west northwest of the CMA VOR. Let's just follow the coastline until we hit the CMA VOR, then track the CMA 280 radial outbound for 5 mins at 120kts (2 miles per minute). That should have us right over the airport.
Another advantage to having flight following is that we're already talking to the approach controller if we need some help finding the field. The controller can suggest headings for us to fly to help us locate the field
The phrase "resume appropriate VFR altitudes" cancels any previous altitude restriction. This isn't strictly necessary since the original restriction included the phrase 'while in Bravo airspace', but he's just spelling it out for us. If you're above 3000ft AGL, westbound (mag course 181-360), you should be at an even number thousand feet, plus 500ft, ie. 4500ft, 6500ft, etc. If you're eastbound, it should be an odd number of thousand feet, plus 500ft. This reduces the chance of having an unplanned meeting with oncoming VFR trafic. Since we're crusing at 3000ft today, this doesn't apply.
Prior to reaching the CMA vor, approach calls us...
LAX_APP: Piper 132KT, contact Mugu Approach on 124.70, good day
N132KT: over to Mr Mugu, good day, 2KT
N132KT: Mugu Approach, Piper 132KT, 3000, with the weather for Oxnard
NTD_APP: Piper 2KT, Mugu Approach, thank you
We were given a new frequency because we left the airspace controlled by one approach controller and entered another. Notice our call to the 2nd approach controller was very different to our intial call to LAX_APP. We didn't need to give our position, since there had been no lapse in radar coverage, our position is well understood by the controller. We didn't need to say where we were going. We stated that we had the weather so that the controller wouldn't have to give it to us.
As we overfly the CMA VOR and join the 280 radial outbound, we spot the field....
N132KT: Approach, Piper 2KT, cancel flight following
NTD_APP: Piper 2KT, radar service terminated, squawk VFR, frequency change approved.
N132KT: squawking VFR, Piper 2KT, good day
We set our transponder back to 1200, and give Oxnard tower a call
N132KT: Oxnard tower, Piper 132KT over CMA VOR, landing with the weather
OXR_TWR: Piper 2KT, Oxnard Tower, make straight in approach rwy xx, report 3 mile final
N132KT: We'll call you on a 3 mile final
Notice our initial call to OXR_TWR included a position report. This guy had no idea we were coming, so we give him a fighting chance by telling him where we are. Many pilots will simply report in with a perky "with you", and that's about it. This is rarely appropriate, and certainly insufficient in this case. We continue inbound, set ourselves up for landing and make the call...
N132KT: Piper 2KT, 3 mile final
OXR_TWR: Piper 2KT, cleared to land
N132KT: cleared to land, 2KT
Touchdown...welcome to Oxnard...once clear of the rwy...
OXR_TWR: Piper 2KT, taxi to parking, this frequency
We complete the post-landing checklist, flaps up, fuel pump off, ldg light off, transponder stdby. Taxi to the ramp and shut her down. Fun, no?