There's a good explanation of procedures for Class B, all of which makes sense since pilots need specific clearance to enter Class B: How do I "sightsee" in a class Bravo airspace??

However, I wonder how much this changes for C and D. While a pilot does not need specific clearance to enter the Charlie and Delta, the local ATC can still direct the pilot to stay clear. This in effect means that ATC has the same control over Charlie and Delta airspace as in a Bravo. However, what isn't captured in the FARs is what kind of rationale ATC needs to refuse a pilot request, and if that changes based on the airspace.

In short, can ATC (reasonably) refuse sightseeing flights in Charlie and Delta?

  • $\begingroup$ You do need clearance to enter class C and D airspace. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jun 21 at 16:12
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @GdB No, you only need to establish and maintain two-way radio communication. $\endgroup$
    – TypeIA
    Jun 21 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD- once you establish com with ATC (e.g., twr for D airspace, Tracon for C airspace) unless you're told to remain clear of the airspace you can enter. Of course following any instructions you are given. $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Jun 21 at 16:54
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @KennSebesta - As a former radar controller at 2 busy facilities I can tell you that providing VFR traffic advisory service on a "workload permitting basis" is a decision made by the controller based on his/her judgement considering the complexity of the current traffic situation. Many factors invisible to the pilot are involved in the ultimate decision whether or not to accept responsibility for another aircraft and provide advisories. Controllers have to manage current priorities and avoid task saturation. Capriciousness does not play a role in this. Respectfully, just my two cents. $\endgroup$
    – 757toga
    Jun 21 at 22:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @StephenS aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/87887/… $\endgroup$ Jun 21 at 23:16

The answer is the same in theory: you just tell ATC what you want to do, and they either approve it (possibly with some modifications) or deny it. Since all VFR services are on a “workload permitting” basis, which answer you get may depend on when you ask.

The only difference in practice is that class B airspace tends to be a lot busier than class C, which in turn tends to be busier than class D, so that gives you an initial indication of the odds they’ll be too busy to work you.

Your radio skills also play a part; a busy controller may still be willing to take on a pilot that sounds easy to work while rejecting those that sound clueless.

All that said, if you call ahead (on the phone) and explain what you want, they can often tell you when is the best time and how to word your request (or modify it) to improve your odds of a positive response.

  • $\begingroup$ Double +1 for the suggestion to call ahead. $\endgroup$ Jun 21 at 22:24

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