Aviation In Canada

Sunday, May 01, 2005

SIDs at Uncontrolled Airports

This is a continuation of yesterday's post, sparked by the first response. The reader mentioned the use of SIDs at the example aerodrome, CYFC. CYFC, like many others, is uncontrolled. This means, simply, there is no control tower in operation. There is still a control zone which provides controlled airspace from the surface up, meeting the transition areas and the control area extension around the airport, but there is no airport control service provided.

Our experience in the Moncton FIR with SIDs at such airports is dismal, at best. Every operator, at one time or another, has busted a SID. Many private operators will only go there once, and you can almost count on them busting the SID. It's at the point where most controllers will not use a SID in a clearance where separation may be an issue. For example, the SID altitude is 5,000, and they won't use a SID if the departure aircraft is flight planned above 5,000 if there is an overflight at 6,000. Even Air Canada and Jazz, the prime proponents of SID use at these smaller airports, has busted them. The difference is, when an Air Canada pilot makes a mistake, their training division can bring it to the attention of other pilots in their organization to prevent a recurrence. Last year, an Air Canada RJ departing CYSJ assigned a SID took off, then turned left on course. On initial contact, he checked in, climbing only to the SID altitude of 5,000, though. When querried, he confirmed that he had been issued a SID, but, "saw no traffic so we decided to turn on course." A regional airline in our area departed CYFC on a SID, turned on course, and responded, "What's the difference? It's all uncontrolled airspace below 5,000 anyway." As I described above, that's not the case.

Whatever the reason for the SID busts (pilot error, ignorance (not meant in the rude sense), or whatever), the SIDs do get busted at our uncontrolled airports. This is one of the reasons we're reluctant to use them. They very rarely get busted where we have towers in operation. So what's the difference? The clearances are worded the same. The airspace is still Class D or E airspace, where IFR pilots need a clearance. But something just isn't right about SID use at these airports.