Where the Heavies Fly
Section II Spreading
Your Wings, Chapter 9: Airspace
To a paramotor, everything is heavy. But this
article concentrates on where you can expect airplane traffic including
airliners, to fly relative to airports.
We know to stay out of the
airspace around large airports but must also be vigilant when simply nearby.
The gist is that the closer you get to an airport with airplanes, the lower
you'll find airplane traffic. If you climb up high, you can be quite far
from the airport and still find traffic.
Early on in my paramotoring life I was flying near my house which is 20
miles west of Chicago's Midway airport. That's well outside their outer ring
of class C airspace and below the 3600 foot floor of O'hare's B airspace.
While cruising fat, dumb and happy at about 3200 feet, I saw a 737 off to
the east coming at me. Then it dawned on me: I've flown 737's through
this area near my current altitude. I quickly spiraled down to 2600' and the
jet wound up passing well above and north of me but it sure did get my
attention. Then, flying the 737 on westerly departures from Midway at 3000',
I marveled at knowing how close I was to the same airspace I occupied with
the PPG. Scary.
Airplane traffic can be found
anywhere, especially around busy airports, but it gets concentrated
around predictable arrival and departure paths, both vertically and
horizontally. On average, jets depart steeply and arrive fairly
shallow—about 300 feet high per nautical mile away from the airport.
That’s also about 3 miles away per 1000 feet high.
Piston aircraft follow a shallower
departure and arrival path.
So at 10 miles away from the airport
you can expect jets to be about 3000’ (10 * 300’). If you’re flying at
10,000’ MSL, expect jets to be about 30 nm away from their landing
airport. Fast aircraft spend more time at 10,000’ MSL than most other
altitudes because they must slow down before going lower. Beware that
controllers sometimes descend airplanes earlier or later than these
figures. This is just a guide.
Now that you know where the "heavies"
are most likely, it will be easier to avoid them. Good luck, we're all
counting on you!