For quite some time now Tim has been helping me in making a decision to buy a good pair of headsets. My school provides a basic pair, which are really basic and although they work, they don’t drown out the sound of the airplane. Soon after my first lesson Tim asked me if I wanted to fly to St. Paul where there’s an Aviation store that allows you to borrow a set before purchasing them. For one reason or another, we never got around to going there. Well today was the day.
After the preflight check, Tim showed me on the map as to how we would be going there. But before that, he showed me on the map where Fleming was in relation to Crystal and asked me, “Now show me how you will get there?” I thought about the Navigation class we had with Mr. Whipple from Anoka City to Brainerd and how we drew a line between the two airports, found the check points at every15-20 miles or so etc. So I said, we would draw a line between the two airports, find check points, use a plotter to…..” but before I could finish, Tim interrupted me and said, “Oh no, you couldn’t do that in this case because with it being a major International airport, they wouldn’t let a small private plane fly through their airspace to reach Fleming”. So then I suggested, “Well we can go around this way…..” pointing out the route on the map. “Yes but you would be entering Class Bravo and like I said they won’t allow you to do that. So what you can do is fly below those levels of the “wedding cake” (explained below) and once you get close to Fleming, you can call St. Paul Down Town Holman airport and request a transition to fly through their airspace to reach Fleming. Holman airport is another smaller airport not far from MPLS-St. Paul International Airport and Fleming. It too falls under the Class B airspace but it’s in the second level of the wedding cake and further out from the International Airport.
This was the first time I was going to fly through Class B (Bravo) airspace which is very much like an upside down-wedding cake. Well technically I didn’t actually fly through Class B airspace, I flew below it to get to my destination. The various levels of the wedding cake that form Class B airspace extend upward and outward by a particular height and radius. The innermost level of the airspace (“cake”) rises from the surface to 10,000 ft (shown as 100/SFC) and extends outward with a radius of 6 nautical miles, the next level rises from 2300 ft to 10,000 feet (shown as 100/23) and extends outward with a radius of 8.5 nautical miles, and the next from 3000 ft to 10,000 feet (shown as 100/30) with a radius of 12 nautical miles etc. These measurements will vary around different airports (and may change every 6 months and this is why it’s extremely important to always use the latest maps and directories), I’m just referring to those on the map of the Twin Cities around Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and the other smaller airports that fall into it. Class B airspace is often around major and busy airports and there are certain conditions to fly through it. For instance, one of the conditions is that you have to be either a qualified private pilot to fly through it, or, you have to be a student pilot that as an endorsement from your instructor that you’re qualified enough to fly through it. I was with my instructor so I was qualified in that sense. Before we left, we found our check points on the map. One of them was Interstate 694, the Shoreview Antennas (of which there were 3), lakes, Minnesota River etc. One thing I must mention here is that, we enter a given airspace, or avoid it, by referring to the Sectional and finding reference/check points and seeing if they fall in the airspace circle. Otherwise there’s no way to tell where the invsible wedding cake exists. Before we flew we also checked the Airport Facility Directory (A/FD) to find out what the runway at Fleming looked like and which one we would want to land on depending up on the wind.
So we flew out of Crystal airport eastward (turned left after reaching a height of 1400 feet) and then continued rising to about 2,700 ft. The outermost level of the wedding cake extends from 3,000 ft to 10,000 ft. 2,700 ft was a good height to be at as it was high enough to be flying over congested areas and yet clearly low enough below Class B airspace. After a few moments Tim pointed out 694 and said, “Just follow it until we get to the Shoreview Antennas”. I continued and before long we could see the flashing lights of the Shoreview Antennas through the foggy Minnesota morning. It was actually a nice day, very calm, no sun, but very cold at 15 F. When we reached the Antennas, we gradually turned south towards St. Paul Downtown Holman airport and we entered the next level of Class B airspace which was now down to 2,300 feet, but we were flying at 2,700 ft, so we reduced our height below 2,300 so as not to enter the next level of Class B airspace. A few moments later Tim called on the Control Tower frequency to Holman to request transition through their airspace, D Airspace shown by a segmented blue circle on the Sectional. We received an immediate response allowing us to fly through. Once we were through the Holman airspace we could see Fleming airport which is yet another uncontrolled (i.e. unmanned) airport and Tim announced on the Fleming CTAF frequency to everyone in the area that we were about to land on Fleming airport. He basically said who we were (the plane number) where we were (just outside of Holmon Airport) and what we were going to do (land at Fleming on runway 16).
Once we landed we taxied the plane to the parking area and disembarked. We entered the airport building which was very similar to the Buffalo airport building but it was bigger and there were more people. Since Tim surprised me with this flight, I did not have my camera with me to show you the pictures of the airport, but will have it next week as we’ll be returning. It was a very nice little airport, very clean and had lots of model airplanes hanging from the ceiling. Once we were finished looking around the airport, we walked through the other side and went to the Aviation store next door called, Lake & Air. “I really like this shop” said Tim, “They have so many things from headsets to GPS systems for pilots”. There was a lady behind the counter, Tim greeted her and then asked, “Do you still allow people to borrow headsets before purchasing them?”, “Yes we do” she replied and continued, “We’ll just need a photocopy of a credit card and a driver’s license”. Tim showed me the one he had and it was $900.00! I thought if I spent another $100 dollars I could get a BOSE head set which is top of the line. But I didn’t want to spend that much, not right now anyway. So I looked at another head set that was $600. I thought that this was still quite exorbitant for a head set but any head set with noise reduction capabilities, blue tooth etc was around this price range. Tim said, “The one’s you’re using now from Thunderbird have no noise reducing capability and you can see the difference, here try these on”. I did, and Tim pressed the button for noise reduction and there was clearly a difference. So I made a decision to borrow these and Tim said, “No pressure, I’m just showing you these so you have an idea and the good thing about it is that you can try them out before you buy. If you don’t like them you can return them. Remember, you’ll be using these for a long time, so why not buy a good pair now, instead of some cheap ones and then you’ll actually end up spending more later”. What he said made very good sense, but I was waiting to buy after my FAA written knowledge test was over. This would give me an idea of where I was in my flying course and the confidence that I can finish this course successfully. Recently I’ve been feeling a little unsure of myself in both my practical and written. But when Tim said, “You’ll be using these for a long time……” it indicated to me that at least he thinks I’m going to qualify, one day! 😀 So I took the head phones to try out and we left for Crystal.