Saturday, August 24, 2013

Flying My First Flight into a Class C Airport/Airspace (Richmond International Airport, Virginia KRIC) - Video Included

So how do you fly into a Class C Airport/Airspace? A few days ago, I had the awesome opportunity for my first flight into a Class C Airport/Airspace, Richmond International Airport KRIC. Richmond is the airport I’ve grown up flying into and out of commercially since I was only 2 weeks old. I was excited and nervous about being on the same frequency with pilots from Delta, US Airways, United, etc. Before this flight, I had only been into controlled airspace one time, at Charlottesville Regional Airport (Class D). Even then, I had only spoken with the tower, I never talked with approach.

I made my own video to help other student pilots see what flying into Class C for the first time might be like. I know that this video is something which I would loved to have see before my flight! More videos like this can be found on my youtube channel, MartinsAviation1. The title of the video below is "First Flight into a Class C Airport/Airspace (RIC) - How to Fly into Class C "

Flying into Class C Airspace for the first time as a student pilot coming from an uncontrolled field can be a little nerve wracking. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous! The night and morning before our flight, I made sure to watch some youtube videos on entering and exiting Class C Airspace/Airports. This helped me get an overall feel for the speed at which Class C communications happen. In the photo below, you'll see the airport I departed from, Hanover KOFP, and see how close the outer rings of Richmond Airspace are: 

Before our flight, I had some time to do ground work with my instructor. We went over, In detail, the calls we were going to make, when we were going to make them, etc. I made sure to have a sheet I used on my trifold pad, on which I wrote the frequencies we were going to be using as well as the major radio calls. My instructor told me that I would be doing all of the transmissions unless I needed a little help with one or two. 

Taking off from Hanover KOFP, we circled the field 500 feet above traffic pattern altitude (at 1,500 feet) to give us time to obtain the KRIC ATIS Information. The ATIS was unusually long from Richmond because of lots of airport repairs. RIC’s runway 16/34, the long 9,000 foot long runway, has been shortened by 2,000 feet to allow for some restorations that are taking place.

After obtaining the ATIS (which happened to be Hotel at the time), we listened in on approach’s frequency to see what kind of workload the ATC guys were up against. Sadly for them and us, there was a ton of traffic in Richmond. You could tell that they were trying to keep up with it all! In addition, the approach controller was in training, as one could tell when another person had to come on and give alternate instructions.

The Richmond, Virginia Sectional Chart Section-Note KOFP NW of KRIC

One thing I really learned from my instructor was the importance of “knocking on the door.” When calling up busy ATC, it’s much more respectful and courteous to them if you make a call saying similar to the following: “Potomac Approach, 16 Hotel Victor.” You don’t barge into someone’s house and demand what’s for dinner; you knock first, and let them come to the door. This lets them know that you’re there, waiting for a good moment to communicate. When we made this call, it took them a few minutes to respond. After establishing communication, we requested a touch and go at Richmond. (you can see the exact radio call at 28 seconds in the video) – this request for a touch and go should be noted, as it was important later on for us.

On short final for Runway 16, Richmond KRIC

We were directed to fly on course to Richmond KRIC runway 16 (essentially a straight-in approach flying from Hanover KOFP). On the horizon, we could see other traffic, jets landing and taking off on the same runway… it was time to use what I learned about wake-turbulence! One CRJ-200 (Endeavor Air 3906 from Richmond to Cincinnati CVG) took off right as we were coming in on final.

Flying into RIC and being surrounded by much larger aircraft was pretty cool too. I wouldn't doubt that we were the smallest, lightest traffic of the day. Our 2 seat, 730 pound Tecnam P92 Eaglet (N16HV) doesn't exactly match up with the 180 seat, 255,000 pound Delta 757-200 which was parked at the terminal.

It was awesome to be flying into a truly international airport for the first time. The farthest West any commercial flights out of Richmond fly is Dallas, North is Boston, and South is the Bahamas (via Vision Airlines). In addition, there have been flights on Air Canada to Toronto (I flew on a Dash 8 to Toronto to connect to Paris). Below is a route map of KRIC (only national flights):

When we switched over to the tower, we were cleared early on the approach into KRIC for runway 16 by the controller who asked us to follow the traffic (a Cessna Caravan) that we had in sight. This is a shortcut that controllers can use to clear someone into the airport (“follow traffic into…”), so that they can focus on other people.  The call the controller relayed to us was “16 Hotel Victor, Richmond Tower, you’re number 2, runway 16, cleared to land.”

The new KRIC Tower

It was so cool to be lining up with runway 16 in Richmond, looking around at 757’s and Gulfstream’s which were holding short for us, a tiny 2 seat Tecnam Eaglet! On short final, we let the tower know we were in for a touch and go back to Hanover KOFP. The controller asked if we had let approach know about the touch and go. My instructor got on the radio and said that they didn’t ask. That was true, they hadn’t asked, but we had told them (at second 28 in the video) that we were doing a touch and go. Somehow, that piece of info was never relayed to the tower. Oh well, it wasn’t that big a deal. They cleared us to touch and go right before we passed the threshold!

Since we were trying to enter and exit quickly, we kept our speed up on final and put in 1 notch of flaps, so that we could make a quick departure with takeoff flaps. The second we touched down, we powered right back up and went into a maximum performance climb to get up and away from the wake turbulence from the previous CRJ.

See the second part of this article series to see information about departing Class C for the first time.

Thanks for reading and watching!
-Swayne Martin
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1


  1. Nice article. I am an Air Traffic Controller and private pilot and I work Class C airspace. Your instructor is correct about initial call-up. Establish communication before making a request. Though a pilot may enter Class C with just established communications, I would highly recommend remaining clear of Class C airspace until one has received specific instructions. I have seen too may serious situations because of heavy workload and pilots entering Class C without specific instructions. Just my thoughts. Gordon. @ICUFLYN

    1. Thanks for the great comment Gordon! Glad to hear that our "knock on the door" policy works well for you guys, it's all about safety!

      Thanks again for the comment,

  2. Congratulations in flying into Class C airspace. I had the opposite experience than you since I started off in a Class C airport; my first time in uncontrolled airport made me nervous when I came to the realization that I have too keep an eye out for other aircraft in my own. Relative to where I learned, I'd say this was a good introduction. When I started soloing, I had a few occasions when I inadvertently responded to calls that I thought was for me because of how far SoCal controllers talked some call signs would sound--at least to me--similar to mine.

    One thing I learned flying out of KSNA is never expect approach to relay info that would go in the comment box (I believe that's what it's called) of your flight strip. If you requested touch-and-go with approach, let tower know again when you contact them. I believe tower wouldn't have made a fuzz about it if they knew at initial contact your intentions. In my experience, there were occasions when aircraft that only intended to do touch-and-go were instructed to do a full stop landing and directed to the run-up area to get a new clearance altogether. This could be a situation unique within the LAX mode C veil given the unique airspace; I suggest you discuss it with your CFI.


Thanks for your comment; I really appreciate it! Glad you are here with me on the blog. If your comment does not appear right away, it will after verification.

Many Thanks, Happy Flying,
Swayne Martin