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During my Private Pilot's Licence days out in San Francisco, we often flew a "Bay Tour": a sightseeing flight northbound from San Jose through SFO's Class B , over the city and Golden Gate Bridge, then east to Oakland and south to return to SJC. Local approach controllers were familiar with this route, and a pilot could file a flight plan for a Bay Tour with everyone knowing what he was talking about. In addition, the tower at SFO would often go out of their way to give aircraft on a Bay Tour a better view of A380's and 787's out of SFO. However, I can't find any official information on it. Is it a published procedure, or just something that everyone out there has come to know about? Do similar flight plans exist for other cities and if so, where can I find information on them?

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There certainly are similar routes - the Niagara Scenic Falls route, given in FAR 93.71 comes to mind. (FAR 93 has plenty of these, by the way.)

Comply with the following procedures when conducting flight over the area described in paragraph (a) of this section:

(1) Fly a clockwise pattern;

(2) Do not proceed north of the Rainbow Bridge;

(3) Prior to joining the pattern, broadcast flight intentions on frequency 122.05 Mhz, giving altitude and position, and monitor the frequency while in the pattern;

(4) Use the Niagara Falls airport altimeter setting. Contact Niagara Falls Airport Traffic Control Tower to obtain the current altimeter setting, to facilitate the exchange of traffic advisories/restrictions, and to reduce the risk of midair collisions between aircraft operating in the vicinity of the Falls. If the Control Tower is closed, use the appropriate Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) Frequency;

(5) Do not exceed 130 knots;

(6) Anticipate heavy congestion of VFR traffic at or above 3,500 feet MSL; and

(7) Use caution to avoid high-speed civil and military aircraft transiting the area to or from Niagara Falls Airport.

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There is not one official "Bay Tour" flight route. However, there are general guidelines to follow. This local flight instructor's site explains this and offers suggestions of where you can get a map. Here is a flight briefing for one possible route.

In general, there are VFR Flyway Planning Charts that you can use in certain areas of the country. San Francisco has one of these.

Flyway Planning Charts depict flight paths and altitudes recommended for use to by-pass areas heavily traversed by large turbine-powered aircraft. Ground references on these charts provide a guide for visual orientation. VFR Flyway Planning charts are designed for use in conjunction with TACs and are not to be used for navigation.

Example section of a VFR Flyway Chart:

Portion of a VFR Flyway Chart

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As a Bay Area pilot, I've wondered this too. It appears to be an unofficial but widely-understood local custom, similar to the not-always-charted VFR reporting points commonly in use at many local airports.

Moreover, it seems there isn't just one "Bay Tour". Instead, I think that phrase generally tells the controllers that you're on a sightseeing flight rather than simply trying to get from point A to point B.

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