Sunday, November 29, 2009

Convincing Congress

"An investigation is pending" is the sort of thing heard in news reports of things like the Hudson River midair crash of August, 2009. Well believe it or not, sometimes those investigations actually do occur!

Proof lies in these images.

I was asked to illustrate two examples of Class B (bravo) airspace. One was to be a standard Class B airspace, like that above Cleveland (above), while the other was to be the maze of Class B airspace that blankets the New York City area (below).

The purpose of the images was to present members of the U.S. Congress with a visual representation of what pilots must "see" and navigate in those areas. The issue at hand was whether further restrictions proposed for the New York area might possibly further aggravate an already confusing and difficult situation.

Upon getting the assignment, I wrestled with different ways to present the airspace. Airspace being a "3D" sort of thing, you'd think 3D graphics would be the perfect way to represent it. But in fact, showing an airspace in 3D does little more than reaffirm what pilots-in-training know well: Airspace navigation can be complex! If you think it looks confusing in these images, imagine trying to navigate it when it's entirely invisible in the sky around you, and represented on navigational charts only in two dimensions.

The green arrows in the images depict paths that are free for general aviation (GA) pilots to use at any altitude without permission. Orange arrows show areas that are free at certain altitudes only. Red indicates where GA pilots may not go without ATC clearance. (For the record, GA pilots can (and do) reverse Class B airspace (the "blue" areas) all the time--we just need ATC clearance to do so.)

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