Instrument traffic flying in class G airspace

Several airfields with ATZs in class G use instrument approach procedures (IAPs), which are designed to improve approach safety in poor weather, at night, etc.

However, these IAPs are frequently utilised during fine weather in daylight by commercial pilot training organisations as well as by commercial business jet operators. The airfields benefit commercially from the service they provide. There are several points to note:

– All operators utilising class G are required to maintain effective lookout.

-The view from most twin training aircraft and business jet cockpits is limited.

-It is likely that at least one pilot in an aircraft using the IAP will not be following the UKAB recommendation of at least 80% lookout, 20% instrument scan.

-The aircraft using the IAP will fly what appears to the average recreational GA pilot be a relatively flat and long approach, i.e. typically at 3 degrees and around 10 miles.

-The pilot of the aircraft using the IAP may be using commercially available moving map data that does not include gliding sites. If non-UK based, the pilot may be unaware of the class of airspace being flown in or be unfamiliar with the type of air traffic service being provided.

-GA pilots including glider pilots use moving map data that other than ‘feathers’ indicating an instrument approach, does not include IAP data.

-The controller involved with the IAP is likely to be attempting to vector the aircraft around what she or he deems to be potential threats in accordance with separation rules or local procedures ATC follow when handling this type of traffic.

As a result, there are occurrences in any year where an aeroplane flying an IAP in class G encounters another aircraft operating perfectly legitimately in the same airspace maintaining lookout as required in class G. Although glider pilots are used to seeing other aircraft in close proximity, many aeroplane pilots will not be.

Guidance for all glider pilots

Where an airfield utilises an IAP, the VFR chart normally includes a ‘feathers’ symbol that radiates up the approach path. In most cases, the associated procedures that help the pilot join the approach path are not obviously apparent from using a 1/2 mil VFR chart. Procedure details can be found in the AIP here under ‘Part 3 AD2 aerodromes’. Several airfields with an IAP use rebroadcast FLARM information for situational awareness. Those with radar can use transponder emissions.

THE IMPORTANT POINT. Just because the law allows a pilot to do something or fly in a particular piece of sky, that does not necessarily mean it is good practice to do so. To help to maintain safe airspace, if you cannot avoid and need to cross an instrument approach in class G, or fly overhead or close to an ATZ, please plan to talk to the controller in good time providing details including your position and intention. That will help you and any traffic that may be using an instrument approach procedure to avoid a potential conflict.

By operating knowledgeably, safely and responsibly with all airspace stakeholders limitations in mind, we can all contribute to maintaining safe use of class G airspace.