Left Coast Pilot: Airways, Waypoints, Trees… and a Very Cold Start

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Two flights over the final two months of 2013 illustrate issues that have been bothering me for some time. First, a disconnect between the thinking of ATC and pilots; second, a problem with trees encroaching into airspace that I thought was only a local issue here in Modesto (KMOD) but may turn out to be more widespread… and just to top things off, one seriously cold start!

In November, my wife and I flew down to Fullerton (KFUL) in Southern California for a nonprofit board meeting. Since this would involve flying in the Los Angeles Class B airspace in potentially marginal weather, I planned and filed IFR.

I carefully worked out a route on my iPad using ForeFlight Mobile’s route check feature, which shows you what clearances have been issued to other pilots filing for the same departure and destination.

On our last couple of trips down south, I’d been assigned an altitude of 11,000 feet, which I prefer to avoid as I long ago decided to use Air Force rules, which require oxygen any time I’m above 10,000 feet. This time I filed KMOD-CZQ-EHF-AMONT-LHS-SLI-KFUL, which put us on airways with MEAs no higher than 9,000 MSL... and I got exactly that clearance.

Nonetheless, as we approached EHF, ATC announced an “amendment to your route,” and asked if I wanted a re-route or to climb to 11,000. I asked why, since my route was already on airways with a 9,000-foot MEA. The answer? “We don’t show your route on an airway.” Wonderful.

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