Busting the Bravo


It was a good day for flying, and I had agreed to fly a fellow pilot/neighbor and his wife an hour or so away so he could conduct some personal business. The destination airport was a non-towered facility southwest of and outside a nearby piece of Class B airspace. Our flight down was uneventful and my neighbor was able to conclude his business.

The route back to home plate I put into my GPS navigator was to an outlying airport to the east, so I could top off with some cheap gas. As a result, the route was oriented slightly more to the north than had been the inbound flight. 

After an uneventful run-up and takeoff, we soon were climbing to cruising altitude and I engaged the autopilot in navigation mode to head toward the gas stop. As I normally do on such flights, I brought up the local Tracon’s frequency and requested flight following. After I was identified, the controller informed me I had entered his Class B airspace without a clearance.

Initially, I protested that he had me confused with another airplane, of which there were several nearby. But he was adamant and, after glancing at my GPS navigator’s moving map, I saw the active leg had indeed sliced a small arc off the Bravo airspace. As luck would have it, our climbout coincided with the Class B’s upper tier. The controller was right; I had busted his Bravo.

I immediately apologized. He was cool with it, though, and basically said not to worry. Later, when he handed me off to the next sector, I thanked him profusely. He wished me a good day and never shared a phone number I should call later. I breathed a sigh of relief. Once back on the ground safe and sound, I filed a report with NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), just in case someone changed their mind.

I consider myself a safe, conscientious pilot, and I had never before exposed myself to an airspace violation like that. Looking back, the episode resulted from my failure to adequately plan the return flight, which wasn’t the same as the inbound portion, even though I knew the Class B airspace was nearby. If I had looked more closely at my new route, I would have remained clear of the Bravo.

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  1. I did something similar, and I was a Part 135 pilot at the time, so definitely should have been conscientious about the route. In my defense the San Francisco Class B had recently changed, but that was no excuse. I climbed through the lower tier in the San Carlos area, thinking I was close enough to San Carlos that I was okay. Unfortunately I didn’t actually look, but rather assumed. A classic case of a lack of situational awareness.

    In my case, I *was* given a phone number, before I even got a transponder code. After landing I had a chat with a supervisor who said she understood the circumstances, but she still had to send it to my local FSDO. But nothing ever came of it after that. If I’d made the jet above me on final to SFO divert, it probably would have been a different story. I also filed an ASRS report.

  2. 100% of general aviation accidents reveal through Root Cause Analysis(RCA) a lack of preflight planning. Once you are in the air your mental resources are involved in flying the aircraft. With all the new digital technology it is easy to look at airspace, weather, obstacles alternate airports enroute and a myriad of threats that may befall the unwary. Don’t be a stump. Its all on you…the PIC. Just do it.


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