De-mystifying a crowded Terminal Area

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n4jri

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I'm looking at having some off-time this weekend in Norfolk, VA and am looking for ways to get more familiar with how an area like this juggles 4 controlled military airbases, 2 controlled airports, and myriad other smaller things.

I'm not sure I need any freqs. I have a Washington Sectional, Low Altitude enroute chart, etc. all on my iPad and am also looking at IAP's. I post in the overall forum for advice on working the puzzle itself, and my big question is this:

I have a years-old diagram of the Norfolk ARSA, and am going to make some copies to scribble on. In a situation where there's all this STUFF, would it be productive to peruse the IAP's for common routes of approach or departure for the different airports and plot them? The IAP's generally have approach/departure freqs paired for civilian & military, and I'm hoping that something like this would systematic enough that I can get an accurate picture of what comes from where, and where it should be talking.

The impression I that I get from looking at the diagram is that with Norfolk IAP, NAS Oceana, and Langley AFB each seeming to 'own' adjacent airspace, each must also 'own' routes of approach in order to keep from getting overly tangled up with each other. Perhaps they all meet in Norfolk's outer area, I don't know. Since I don't live there, it can't observe but so much.

Not being a pilot, and therefore never having flown in that environment, does it make sense to work the puzzle in this way in advance of my visit?

One other question...I still get a little dizzy interpreting the Low Alt. Enroute charts. Could I be missing stuff on those, that could enlighten my exploration of the IAP's?

Any advice appreciated.

73/Allen (N4JRI)
 

AirScan

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In addition to the IAP procedures look at the Standard Terminal Arrival Routes (STAR) and Standard Instrument Departure (SID) routes. The TRACON airspace will be sectorized based around routes, traffic density, geographic areas (laterally and vertically).

Ideally a copy of a Norfolk TRACON sector chart would help greatly, but they are hard to find. I can't find any on the web. This would show the individual sector boundaries of the TRACON.

As far as IFR traffic goes, keep notes on what you are hearing on each frequency, noting altitudes and standard route clearances, handoff frequencies etc. If you listen long enough you will start to see patterns and be able to figure out the standard routes and altitudes covered by each sector/frequency. Using Flightaware or Flightradar24 will also give you good route info. and help pin down the area covered. Keep in mind that sectors can be combined and split depending on traffic volume.

I'm not familiar with the area so can't provide any specific info.

AS
 
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n4jri

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Thanks, Guys. Have never played around with FlightAware or LiveATC, but it's pretty interesting stuff. LiveATC did help give me a clue what UHF freqs might go along with Norfolk's 'outer' freqs of 127.9 & 126.05. BIG help.

I did include STARS and departure procedures, and mapped them out. Not sure my diagram's to scale because it probably came out of some operations binder. Even so, plotting the routes was very revealing about how 2 commercial airports, 4 military airbases, and 2 puddle-jumper airports manage to share this area with a minimum of criss-crossing. It also shows me how mistaken I've been in picking certain plane-watching sites.

It definitely helps to inform my monitoring and the search for what freq does what.

73/Allen (N4JRI)
 
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ericcarlson

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Reading the approach/departure procedures will reveal the common traffic patterns. In my experience they also have revealed many additional TRACON frequencies that are not published on the TAC charts. By looking at the routes you can match up frequencies with approximate geographical sectors pretty easily. The TAC charts in my experience tend to have a simplified subset of frequencies.

At least for the larger TRACONs they're usually setup with the "4 corner posts" configuration with arrivals funneled to the NW/NE/SW/SE points and departures via N/S/E/W routes. This is usually centered on the largest airport in the TRACON. There are exceptions though as this does not express all of the complexities.
 

n4jri

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You can get some good info from airnav.com


For sure. The problem is that it's sometimes a pain to match VHF/UHF freqs accurately and to be certain of exactly what freq owns a piece of airspace under what circumstances.

I downloaded all the IAP type stuff from AirNav and had a load of fun plotting it on the diagram. And it proved very helpful

73/Allen (N4JRI)


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